After Dashrath Manjhi in bihar, now comes the story of another ‘Mountain Man’ from Maharashtra who took on the task of cutting hills to build roads. Rajaram Anand Rao Bhabkar from Gundegaon village of Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra built 40km roads in 57 years. The 84-year-old Rajaram Bhabkar, a retired school master is a man of few worldly possessions. But Bhabkar Guruji, as he is popularly known is no ordinary man. He is a human bulldozer. He has cut through seven hills in last 57 years to make 40-km roads and is respected across the region for his feat.
Rajaram Bhapkar looks a simple villager, clad in a white shirt and pajama and sporting a ‘Gandhi’ cap. However, beneath that simplicity lies a steely resolve, which moved the mountains, literally. Bhapkar, who has studied till seventh standard in Modi language said, “At the time of Independence, there was not even a ‘paywat’ (walking trail) connecting Gundegaon to adjoining village.”
When Bhapkar was working at Kolegaon in zilla Parishad School between 1957 and 1991, people from his villages had to cross three villages to reach there. Bhapkar says, “I remember asking government authorities to build a road cutting across the 700 meter high Santosha hill. With no help forthcoming, I embarked on a journey of grit and determination, which 57 years later resulted in seven roads, altogether 40km long, linking my village to the adjoining villages.” He paid wages from his pocket to those who accompanied him in the road work. “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 said he spent his entire post retirement earning and pension to fund the road work. Besides working with spade and shovel, he also hired heavy duty excavator machines for expediting the road work. He finally completed the road in 1997.
Earlier, the route to Kolegaon via Deulgaon was 29km long. The distance became just 10km after Bhapkar, through sheer grit, cut through the hill and made a kuchcha road. “In 1968 not even a cycle could pass through the earlier walking trail. Now, big vehicles ply on this road,” a villager said.