By Ruchika Thakur:
Shaktimaan exists! I don’t joke about such things, we have a superhero amidst us and his name is Gangadhara Tilak Katnam and since Gangadhar hi Shaktimaan hain, he is a true Shaktimaan. “Be the change you want to see” everyone has heard of this quote but how many of us really want to be the change? We sit back, relax and happily pass the buck on the government, stars, astrology or the neighbour’s dog.
But not this man! Gangadhara, a retired railway employee has filled more than 1200 potholes in Hyderabad from his pension money. It all started five years back; he was on his way to work when he was employed in a software company. While trying to duck potholes he happened to splash the muddy water on school kids. Recollecting the episode, he says, “I was really pained by the entire incident. The next day I bought material to fill the potholes and managed to fill 30 to 40 potholes in the 300m stretch. But after a week I witnessed a fatal accident where the biker lost his limbs and sustained serious head injuries while trying to avoid a pothole. And then a couple of days later on the same spot a biker lost his life.” These episodes, says Gangadhara, left him nauseated.
This is when he decided to gather material and fill the potholes. He started keeping empty bags in his car to collect material. Thus began his journey from one potholed road to another. He would even go out during his lunch time, fill a pothole and come back to work. But he would get perturbed every time a crash happened. He had to do something about it and decided to leave his job and do the pothole filling work full time. He began to purchase material from his pension and took care of one road at a time.
His family tried to dissuade him considering that he was exhausting all his resources and keeping his age in mind. But the 66-year-old was firm in his resolve and even convinced his family to join the cause. Now, Gangadhara’s son Ravikiran is financially supporting the initiative. After creating a website and a Facebook page, students and software professional started joining his program called “Shramadaan”. “For two and a half years, I did the work on my own. In 2012, we approached the GHMC Commissioner (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation) and held a discussion with him. Since then we are getting material from the Corporation. Sometimes, we face difficulties while collecting the material and have arguments with the GHMC staff”, reveals Gangadhara about the difficulties that he has to face while carrying out his work.
India witnesses one of the highest numbers of deaths due to road accidents. Approximately 16 deaths occur every hour due to road accidents out of which 3 deaths are caused due to bad road infrastructure. On this, the man who has taken care of potholes plaguing more than thirty roads says, “What about the people who lost their lives due to potholes? What about their families? No amount of money can bring back a life. I can cover at least 30 potholes in a month but if the 30 trucks of material provided by the GHMC are utilized in a diligent way then we can cover all roads in 150 divisions and all potholes can be covered.”