STORY OF GANGADHAR TILAK – FOUNDER OF SHRAMDAN
Roads can undoubtedly be called as the nervous system of any prosperous nation. They not only create a stable geographical link, but also conjoin a spectrum of religious and cultural diversity. But in a nation like ours, what comes as saddening is the deterioration of these roads. The potholes, the battered condition, and the dirt tracks have severed these important links. The condition has become so worse that potholes and speed breakers claimed more than 11,000 deaths in 2014. We as individuals have always been troubled by potholes, but one man took it upon himself to change this plague on our roads.
Gangadhara Tilak Katnam, a 67 year old retired senior Railway employee once witnessed a serious accident where the biker, trying to avoid a pothole crashed into an oncoming car and lost both his limbs. A few days later, he saw another man getting crushed under a bus when he lost his balance due to a pothole. He tried to explain the authorities on the accident spot, how that the potholes were responsible for the deaths, but his requests echoed with no response. Completely shocked, he decided to act on his own. Utilizing some old tools and unused tar lumps found at the side of the road, he filled the pothole which tool the life of the young man.. This action gave him contentment but also raised numerous questions in his mind. He thought,” This man who lost life might be the only earning member of his life. Can we dilute the pain of his parents and wife? Can we bring him back to life?” These questions haunted him. He thought maybe we can’t bring him back, but we can make sure that no one else dies due to these potholes.
From that day on, Gangadhara Tilak started keeping some spare gunny bags and tools in his car and filled every potholes he found on the roads using the tar lumps available on footpaths. Working as a Software Design consultant after his retirement, he started filling potholes every weekend. But sometimes he even skipped lunch to go and fill them. But the frequency of accidents due to potholes kept on increasing. So, Gangadhara decided to quit his job and work every day to fill as many as potholes and save as many lives as possible. Initially he was alone. But this never deterred his conviction towards the cause. Every day, irrespective of the heat, cold or rain, he used to go out with his shovel and broom and filled as many potholes as possible. Amidst all this, without a job, his financial condition worsened. His son, who works in USA, came down to stop his father. But instead he was so impressed and motivated by his father’s work that he volunteered to join in and even supported the cause financially.
But it was in 2012, nearly after 2 years since Gangadhara Tilak had started his work that a big help came his way. After discussing the matter with the then GHMC commissioner, Mr. Krishna Babu, he offered to help Gangadhara’s cause by supplying raw materials whenever he requires it. From that day on, Gangadhara’s vision of road travel got new wings. A post by his son on Facebook attracted innumerable volunteers for the cause. Now the volunteers range in hundreds.
He channelized his work by registering it as an NGO “Shramadaan” in 2013. A befitting name for the cause Gangadhara does not accept any monetary donation. Instead he his using his savings and pension. He says why involve money when everything can be done by your toil and the sweat of your brow. Until now he has filled more than 1500 potholes with the number of lives saved being countless. His work has brought nationwide attention with even some CEO’s and police officers volunteering for Shramadaan.
But Gangadhara says all this is no miracle. It is just pure old fashioned hardwork. According to him this model can be recreated in any city or village. It requires minimal amount of raw material and a little bit of awareness. Just by preventing leakage of water on to roads, from our houses, buildings, car wash sheds, restaurants and huts, construction sites of crores of Rupees of public money can be saved every year and can be utilized for various other causes.
The work of Gangadhara has left a momentous mark on countless lives with its impact and simplicity. This just goes on to prove that how the hard work of a single man can save countless lives and motivate so many and FILL the defects to create a safe nation.
STORY BY : TUHIN SEN
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