A shepherd by birth, a Gandhian by choice, a highly sensitive educator by default and a justice seeker by genetic compulsion, meet Shivaji Kagnikar the man who is spreading literacy and also empowered the citizens of Kattanbhavi village to sustain their lives being ecologically friendly.
He can still be seen in his Khadi half pant and shirt going on his cycle, which he has being doing for ages now.
He also played a catalytic role in introducing gobar-bio gas plants, which are now find in several houses in and around Kattanbhavi, including Kadoli. Besides, campaigns against alcoholism, preservation and development of biodiversity, and ignited feeling of voluntary service among villagers. Above all, along with Shri Bhonsale, he has been sustaining Gandhian values at least in some of these villages, which otherwise, as elsewhere, remained in text books and history books ornamenting our libraries.
His life was never easy, from the very beginning experienced discrimination from early childhood as his he was considered to be of a lower caste. He believes in Gandhian principles of frugal living and simplicity.
During his school days he was inspired by Sane Guruji, a great thinker and promoter of literacy and he decided he too will have to take this route at some point in life.
The villages around Kattanbhavi, Bambarge are now self reliant in terms of water and other resources just because of the commitment and tenaciousness for the past thirty years.
The village well would go dry mid summer and people used to get water on the rationing basis. Literally they used to get into the well using ladder and fill water by hand. With no employment and little agricultural activity each one was depending on money lenders and the many were addicted to liquor. Many were even working as bonded labourers to clear their loans.
At this time Shivaji Kagnikar along with Ram Apte, Sadashivrao Bhosle took meetings and explained to the villagers what can be done to get them out of this menace along with importance of water harvesting and how water management will one day accomplish all their dreams.
A few villagers were taken to Anna Hazare’s village Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmad Nagar by Jana Jagran the NGO which was helping him in this activity. Situation of Ralegan Siddhi was very similar to that of Kattanbhavi and hence if a model worked there, a similar model should work here as well was the thought. Massive plantation was taken up on govt land, trenches were dug by alongside the village using indigenous methods (Continuous Contour Trenches) Jan Jagaran NGO came forward with financial support on this front. About 1 lakh trees were planted in the trenches and with time a committee was formed so that the trees would be saved. With time the only well in the village started to recoup water and also the ground water level increased dramatically.Small Check dams were also built to store surface water which will help in recouping ground water level. A pond near the well now serves the livestock which has water all the year round. With the growth of trees many species of birds and even wild boars, peacocks, have made it their home. With good grazing grounds and also good agricultural activity due to availability water the village came out of the hands of the money lenders. Even co-operative societies working in the milk sector have started operations there. Each family has cattle and each one has his own Gobar gas plant. Starting with 30 liters of milk collection a day it has now crossed 1400 liters a day.
Once the Kattanbhavi village had large illiteracy but now it has an Anganwadi and primary school upto 7th Standard and even night school.
Shivaji Kagnikar later started to work on similar lines to upgrade the village of Ningenhatti. 3 lakes were dug and over 1 lakh saplings planted. Nigenhatti which was more of a barren land a decade ago is now a completely full of trees of various fruits and agricultural activity has also grown tremendously.
With simple thoughts and practices Shivaji Kagnikar has changed the fate of these villages and even today he is on the same mission telling the youngsters about why the conservation of environment is very important. He has also worked for the upliftment of labourers and also spread importance of organic farming.
AllAboutBelgaum salutes this great man and his vision.
with inputs from Multiworld India, Internet