A shepherd by birth, a Gandhian by choice, a highly sensitive educator by default and a justice seeker by genetic compulsion, Shivaji Kagnikar is the man who is spreading literacy and also empowered the citizens of Kattanbhavi village near Belagavi 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 was awarded the AllAboutBelgaum’s Life time achievement award in 2013
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 Bhosale 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 AhmedNagar 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.
By Sameer Majali after the Award ceremony held in 2013 –
Shri. Shivaji Kagnikar was an experience beyond compare. After all, how many people do we find who take great pride in addressing our country with as “My Country India”? The amazing and simplistic flow of thoughts from this individual who has in a sense transformed the lives of the people in the region of Kattanbhavi left all of us with the task of introspection as to how genuine and how committed we are in each endeavour that we undertake both within and beyond our domain of routine operations.
Inspired by his words and in awe of his immense work and dedication even prompted my students to express the desire to visit his village and see the work for themselves.
Another amazing aspect was how this simplistic and rustic “Statesman” of his own sort, greeted and bowed before others who in comparison have really not accomplished anything. The smiles and thoughts on the faces of the members of the audience were testimony to the fact that each one present had been touched, somewhere deep inside.
While he continues with his relentless effort following claims that the award had only strengthened his resolve and heightened his responsibility, most of us will get back to living life the way we know it; we get back to living what we call “Our Life” while this great individual with no hunger for recognition of any sort will continue to live the “Lives of Others” whom he has made his own by touching each aspect of their lives.
Will this inspire change or will we be lost in the drudgeries of routine as we often are, regardless of whom we listen to and regardless of how inspired we may have seemed at the moment?
Will this be just another speech or will it find voice in thoughts and expressions of our own in our varied domains of indulgence.
Take a bow “Sir” for being with you and living your philosophy is in a true sense, living a life in the best interests of this country, in the best interests of humanity, the race of which we claim to be a part and of which we claim that we are far better than any other species on the face of this planet.
“Humbled and Inspired” would be an understatement.