The Mountain Man

dashrath-manjhi.bmpWhere there is a will, there is a way. This saying has been proved right by Dashrath Manjhi, a native of Gehlour(near Gaya, Bihar) who singlehandedly and using only a hammer and a chisel carved out a 360-ft long, 25-ft high and 30-ft wide road from a mountain. This took him no less than 22 years. His feat reduced the distance between Atri and Wazirganj blocks of Gaya district from 75 km to just ten km, bringing him international acclaim. Dashrath Manjhi died on August 17,2007 . He was suffering from cancer of the gall bladder.

Before Manjhi’s road, the hill kept the villages of the region in isolation, forcing the villagers to make an arduous and dangerous trek just to reach the nearest market town, or even their own fields. In 1959, this resulted in a tragedy in Manjhi’s household on the treacherous slope. His wife, Faguni Devi, was seriously injured while crossing the hill to bring him water. That was the day he decided to carve out a proper road through this hill. The mission he had set himself meant that he had to drop his wage-earning daily work — his family suffered and he himself often went without food. His love for his wife was the initial spark that ignited in him the desire to carve out a road. But what kept him going without fear or worry for 22 years was the desire to see thousands of villagers crossing the hill with ease whenever they wanted. He is now popularly known as ‘mountain man’..

Dashrath Manjhi belonged to Bihar’s Musahar community, regarded as the lowest among the state’s Scheduled Castes. While other Dalits in Bihar had at least some land rights under the erstwhile zamindari system, the Musahars never enjoyed any such. Nearly 98 percent of the state’s 1.3 million Musahars are landless today. Not even one percent of them are literate, which makes them the community with the country’s lowest literacy rate. For many of them, the day’s main meal still comprises roots, snails or rats, from which the community’s name is derived. After Manjhi completed his road, he worked tirelessly for the betterment of his community.

The state government had allotted a five-acre plot to Manjhi in Karjani village, which he donated for construction of a hospital. The government had recently announced to name the hospital after Manjhi. The mountain man’s only son and daughter in-law are handicapped and the family lives in abject poverty. For his own family, Manjhi could do nothing more than procuring an Indira Awaas Yojna unit.

In Manjhi’s own words, “What I did is there for everyone to see. When God is with you, nothing can stop you,” “I will keep working for the development of the villages here so long I am alive. I am neither afraid of any punishment from any government department for my work nor am I interested in any honour from the government “.