Wither metalled road? Dashrath Manjhi’s dream lies unfulfilled

June 11th, 2009 - 2:23 pm ICT by IANS  

By Imran Khan
Patna, June 11 (IANS) For 21 years Dashrath Manjhi cut away at a mountain in Bihar to carve a road. After his death the state promised to finish the job and build a metalled road. That promise still remains unfulfilled.

Manjhi, who died two years ago at the age of 80, dreamt of constructing a metalled road linking his native village Gahlaur with Amethi in Gaya district of Bihar, some 100 km from here.

Manjhi single-handedly carved out a 360-foot by 30-foot wide passage by cutting through a hill near Gahlaur. The hill stood between the Attari and Wazirgunj blocks in Gaya. Due to Manjhi’s efforts, the blocks came closer than ever before.

“The dream of Baba (as Manjhi was popularly known) is yet to be fulfilled. We fail to understand the official inaction to construct the road despite the announcement by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar,” villager Ganesh Manjhi told IANS.

Shankar, another villager, said: “Till date the promise has proven to be only a promise.”

While successive state governments failed to make any headway during Dashrath Manjhi’s lifetime, most people expected Nitish Kumar to fulfil his dream.

In 2007, the Nitish Kumar government cleared the decks for building a three-kilometre-long metalled road from Gahlaur to Amethi. But the project has remained only on paper.

Early last year the foundation-stone-laying programme as announced by Nitish Kumar was postponed at the last minute. After that no move has been initiated for the construction of the road.

Sources in the Gaya district administration said the forest department had cleared the proposal last year.

“A ’samadhi’ (memorial to Manjhi) has not been constructed till date. The work on the memorial was stopped four months ago. It is a result of utter neglect of the government,” Shankar alleged.

“If the government failed to build his memorial, how can one expect the road?” Shankar asked.

Local block development officer Kumar Ravindra admitted that the construction of the memorial had been halted. “We will inquire into it and action will be taken against the contractors for the delay.”

Arun Singh, the journalist who first discovered Manjhi’s efforts in the 1990s, told IANS: “It is a sad story. A state that spends millions of rupees for useless functions and propaganda, failed to fulfil his dream of building a metalled road through the mountain.”

“Manjhi died a frustrated man. His work was neither recognised nor awarded. But people will remember him and his story will inspire many,” Singh added.

Manjhi started his extraordinary task in 1967 when his wife was injured and he had to go around the mountain to reach the nearest hospital. He finished his project in 1988 and met officials of the state administration with a request to construct a metalled road through the mountain.

The Bihar government proposed Manjhi’s name for the Padma Shri award for social service. But Manjhi did not get the award.

(Imran Khan can be contacted at imran.k@ians.in)

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