In the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, resides another ‘Mountain Man’, who like the more famous Dashrath Manjhi, took on the task of cutting hills to build roads.
A former teacher at Gundegaon village in the Ahmednagar district, the 84-year-old Rajaram Bhapkar has cut through seven hills in last 57 years to make 40-km roads and is highly respected across the region for his valuable contribution.
Bhapkar, known affectionately as ‘Bhapkar Guruji’, dresses up as a simple villager, wearing a white shirt and pajama and sporting a ‘Gandhi’ cap. However, beneath that simplicity lies a steer determination and faith, which moved the mountains, quite literally. The villagers affectionately refer to him as ‘Bhapkar Guruji’ due to his simplicity and his inspiring achievement.
When Bhapkar, who worked in Zilla Parishad School between 1957 to 1991, was working at Kolegaon, people from his village had to cross three villages to reach there. In light of this, Bhapkar did ask the government authorities to build a road cutting across the 700 meter high Santosha hill, but the request went unheeded.
Bhapkar then took to himself the task of building roads for the ease of Gundegaon residents. “At the time of Independence, there was not even a ‘paywat’ (walking trail) connecting Gundegaon to adjoining village,” Bhapkar recalls. Due to his consistent and determined efforts over 57 years, Gundegaon is now connected with nearby villages through a network of seven roads, altogether 40km long. Bhapkar was joined by other people too in his endeavour, who he paid wages from his pocket. “I used to spend half my salary on their wages. Not a single rupee from the government has been spent on the road work,” he adds. Bhapkar also spent his entire post retirement earnings and pensions to fund the road work. Besides working with spade and shovel, he also hired heavy duty excavator machines for expediting the road work.
“In 1968 not even a cycle could pass through the earlier walking trail. Now, big vehicles ply on this road,” a villager said.
He completed the road building in 1997.