Bihar’s mountain man dies with unfulfilled dreams

By Imran Khan, IANS

Patna : Dashrath Manjhi, who single-handedly carved out a road by cutting through a Bihar mountain for 21 long years, is no more.

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Majhi, 80, died Friday evening at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi. He was suffering from cancer and was admitted to AIIMS in a critical condition 20 days ago.

With his death has died his dream of constructing a metalled road linking his native village Gahlaur with Amethi in Gaya district of Bihar, about 100 km from here.

Manjhi had single-handedly carved out a 360-foot and 30-foot wide passage by cutting through a hill near Gahlaur.

The hill stood between the Attari and Wazirgunj blocks in Gaya. Thanks to Manjhi, the blocks have been brought closer than ever before.

“It is a sad story. A state that spends millions of rupees for decoration of ministers’ houses failed to fulfil his dream of building a metalled road through the mountain,” said Arun Singh, a journalist who first discovered Manjhi in the 1990s.

“Manjhi died a frustrated man. His work was neither recognised nor awarded. But people will remember him and his story will inspire many,” Arun Singh, who knew Manjhi for over a decade, told IANS.

Manjhi started off his extraordinary task in 1967 when his wife was injured and he had to go around the mountains to reach the nearest hospital.

He finished his epic project in 1988 and met the brass of the state administration with a request to construct a metalled road through the mountain.

Two months ago, 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 this year, the foundation stone laying programme by Manjhi, as announced by Nitish Kumar, for construction of the road was postponed at the last minute.

Sources in the Gaya district administration said the forest department had cleared the proposal a few weeks ago. But the work is yet to start.

The Bihar government proposed Manjhi’s name last year for Padma Shree award in the social service sector.

The Bihar government has declared a state funeral in his honour Saturday.