For years, Saja Pahad village in Chhattisgarh’s Koriya district faced water shortage. Villagers found it difficult to quench the thirst of their cattle, but they did not know what to do. And the government, too, did nothing.
Then one day 15-year-old Shyam Lal decided to take his spade and dig a pond. Fellow villagers laughed at him. But the tribal teenager was determined.
Lal identified a spot in the forest in and kept digging — for 27 years, according to villagers.
The result is nothing less than that of Bihar’s mountain man, Dashrath Manjhi — a one-acre 15-feet deep pond, which is filled with the elixir of life.
“No one helped me in my work, neither the administration nor the villagers,” the 42-year-old beams proudly, adding that he did it for the welfare of the people and the cattle of his village.
Villagers hail him as a role model and saviour. Ramsaran Bargar (70), a local who witnessed Shyam toil through the years, says, “The pond is now used by everyone and we are all thankful to him.”
Sources said Saja Pahad, which lies near a hillock under Chirimiri, still does not have electricity or proper road connectivity. The only source of water for the villagers is a couple of wells.
On Friday, MLA Shyam Bihari Jaiswal, who represents Mahendargarh constituency, under which Saja Pahad falls, visited the village and presented Shyam with Rs 10,000 for his efforts.
District collector of Koriya, Narendra Duggal has also promised his support to Lal.
“I came to know about Shyam recently. His effort for his village is commendable and I will go to his village to provide him with all possible help,” he said.
Lal’s efforts match those of Dashrath Manjhi, who carved a path 110m long, 9m wide through a hillock using only a hammer and chisel over 22 years (1960–1983), reducing the distance between Atri and Wazirganj blocks of Gaya town in Bihar from 55 km to 15 km.
Lal’s work comes as a relief at a time Chhattisgarh is suffering from drought-like situation this year. The rainfall has been 10% short of the average over 10 years. District collectors have been directed to ensure proper utilisation of irrigation facilities.