First We Had Manjhi the Mountain Man. Now We Have Laungi the River Man Who Dug a Canal for 30 Years

Social Commentary

First We Had Manjhi the Mountain Man. Now We Have Laungi the River Man Who Dug a Canal for 30 Years

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

John F Kennedy famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” In India, it takes a whole new meaning since no one expects anything from the governments they elect, and everyone’s left on their own. Against such stupefying odds, some people manage to do miraculous things. That was exactly the case with a man from Bihar who carved out a three-kilometre-long canal to redirect rainwater coming down nearby hills to fields in his village. It took him 30 years to do this.

Kothilawa village in Lahthua area is marked as a refuge for Maoists and is surrounded by dense forests and mountains. It is nearly 80 kilometres from Gaya district. The main means of livelihood for the people of Gaya are farming and animal husbandry. But while villagers have started to move to the cities for work, Laungi Bhuiyan stayed back. “For the last 30 years, I would go to the nearby jungle to tend my cattle and dig out the canal. No one joined me in this endeavour… Villagers are going to cities to earn a livelihood but I decided to stay back,” he told ANI.

During the rainy season, the water falling from the mountains used to flow into the river, which bothered Bhuiyan and he thought of carving out a canal. “He has been carving out the canal for the last 30 years that too single-handedly. This will benefit a large number of animals and to irrigate the fields as well. He is not doing it for his own benefit but for the entire area,” said Patti Manjhi, a local. “A lot of people will benefit here. People are now getting to know him because of his work,” he added.

Laungi Bhuiyan’s perseverance was not only praised by villagers who had benefited from the canal, but it was also cheered by users on social media.

First there was Manjhi the mountain man, and there’s now Laungi the river man.

At the same time, there was scathing criticism of the administration in Bihar and why they had not helped him for 30 years. With government help, it could have been done much faster, and the benefits borne by people long ago. Is every man for himself in this country?

As one user said, it’s a story of personal triumph and collective failure.

This is not the atmanirbhar we wanted.

If people are doing the job of the government, what is the government doing?

There are demands to recognise his work post-facto and provide him with compensation under appropriate schemes. It is the least the government could do, after having failed already to help him in all these years.

Cheers to Laungi Bhuiyan.