Despite the advent of technology and reforms in governance, the Indian state is unable to reach vast sections of its populace.
Left on the margins, this vast community of underprivileged Indians survive on nothing but their incredible will and labour.
With little in the way of essential services within the vicinity of remote areas, these underprivileged people are often made to travel long distances, whether it’s to open a bank account, buy rations, get an education or even receive basic medical attention.
There are those from the underprivileged communities that struggle for survival, and that itself is a remarkable feat.
However, there are those who go a step further and do extraordinary things without any assistance from the state.
In a heart-warming story coming out of Odisha, Jalandhar Nayak, a 45-year-old tribal man from the village of Gumsahi in Kandhamal district, worked in gruelling eight-hour shifts every day for two years to single-handedly construct an 8-km-long stretch of road through hillocks to Phulbani town.
He plans to extend it by another 7 km in the next three years.
What prompted Nayak to undertake this herculean task? As someone who never enjoyed access to education, the man wants to ensure that his three sons are not deprived of the same. To reach their school in Phulbani town, however, children had to cross these hillocks, which was both time-consuming and difficult.
In response to his children needs, he picked up the hammer and chisel and went to work on constructing a shorter route between his village and the town.
Nayak sells vegetables for a living, but the sight of his children undertaking that arduous journey pushed him to the extreme effort. Fortunately, the local district administration took notice of his efforts after local Odia publications reported his herculean feat.
“Nayak’s effort and determination to cut mountains to build a road left me spellbound. He will be paid under the MGNREGS scheme for all the days he has worked,” said district collector Brundha D.
In addition to payment, the administration also ordered the block development officer of Pulbani to assist Nayak in constructing the road.
Nayak and his family are the only ones living in the village of Gumsahi, while the rest left because of no proper connectivity and unavailability of essential services.
The story of Jalandhar Nayak is reminiscent of Bihar’s very own ‘mountain man’ Dasrath Manjhi who single-handedly carved a path through a mountain, shortening the travel distance between the village of Atri and Wazirganj town of Bihar’s Gaya district from 55 km to 15 km, across the span of a gruelling 22 years.
These remarkable acts are instigated by the failure of the state to provide for essential services.
In a country that often blames the state for all the country’s ills, these individuals have taken incredible initiatives to not just make their own lives better, but others as well.
Born out of necessity, the story of Jalandhar Nayak and Dasrath Manjhi is a testament to the strength of the human condition.