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Meet Karnataka's 70-year-old 'Tunnel Man' Who is Set to Receive Padma Shri Award

Naik is often hailed as the 'Suranga Man' or the 'Tunnel Man' and is known for being a one-man army. (Photo: Twitter/@gssjodhpur)

Naik is often hailed as the 'Suranga Man' or the 'Tunnel Man' and is known for being a one-man army. (Photo: Twitter/@gssjodhpur)

Amai Mahalinga Naik single-handedly converted a piece of barren hilltop land into a flourishing farm.

Amai Mahalinga Naik, a labourer from Karnataka, has been selected as one of the Padma Shri awardees this year. He is set to receive the honour for his contribution towards agriculture. He had converted a piece of barren land into a flourishing farm in Kepu village some distance off from Mangaluru, reported Times of India. Around 70 years of age, Naik said he was happy about the selection and reminisced over Mahabala Bhat who had given him the barren hilltop land back in the 70s. Naik is often hailed as the ‘Suranga Man’ or the ‘Tunnel Man’ and is known for being a one-man army. Naik is unlettered, and has relentlessly kept on in his pursuit for over 40 years. As per a report by The New Indian Express, Naik’s farm is an organic one with a zero energy micro-irrigation system in place.

After the Centre’s announcement of the Padma Shri for him, Union Minister of Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat tweeted about Naik. He wrote, “What a life, what an achievement. Karnataka’s ‘single man army’ Amai Mahalinga Naik, who has been conferred with the Padma Shri Award."

Agriculture expert Shree Padre said that Naik’s entire project was developed from scratch purely through his grit and optimism. The farm is a sustainable man-made resource with a garden, water resource and runs on sustainable agricultural methods. Padre followed Naik’s work through several years, and said that when tunnel after tunnel built by Naik had failed, he had been subjected to ridicule and mockery.

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Now, Naik has improved upon the traditional surangas which tap deep into rocks to facilitate water flow without the help of a pump, and built a small water reservoir. Naik grows around 300 arecanut palms, apart from many coconut trees, banana trees, pepper vines and cocoa on his hilltop farm.

Over the years, there are many bright examples where citizens have taken matters into their own hands. Bihar’s famous ‘Canal Man’ , Laungi Bhuiyan finished building a 3-km-long canal that he had worked on single-handedly over the course of 30 long years, in 2020. Its aim was to bring rainwater from nearby hills to the fields of his village, Kothilawa in Lahthua area of Gaya. Bhuiyan now wants to dig his second canal to bring rainwater from the hills to five villages in Gaya, ANI reported.

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first published:January 26, 2022, 14:45 IST