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Amai Mahalinga Naik: K’taka’s ‘Tunnel Man’ Awarded The Padma Shri

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Image- ETV

For transforming barren land into an organic tree farm, Amai Mahalinga Naik, a farmer from Karnataka, has been awarded the coveted Padma Shri award, the country’s fourth-highest civilian honour for distinguished service. The government had revealed the list of Padma awardees on January 25.

Naik, a skilled labourer, toiled tirelessly for more than four decades to transform a barren mountaintop with no water into a beautiful green field in Kepu village. He worked painstakingly to water parched land in the Karnataka hamlet of Kepu. Naik’s farm is said to be a completely organic one with a zero power micro-irrigation system in place.

Shree Padre, an agriculture specialist who has been following Naik’s progress, remarked, ‘He developed a sustainable, lively resource from zero. For me, he is a one-man army on a hilltop. But for his sheer optimism and determination, the greenery there could not have been developed. When he was digging suranga [tunnel] after suranga which failed, people ridiculed him’.

Naik has now built a modest water reservoir to supplement the standard surangas, which tap deep into rocks to permit water circulation without the use of a pump. On his hilltop property, Naik plants some 300 arecanut palms, as well as several coconut trees, banana trees, pepper vines, and cocoa.

Naik’s efforts returned the land to life, and it now has a broad mix of plants and vines.  In a tweet, Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat hailed Naik as a warrior. 

The Padma Shri recipients from Karnataka in 2020 also included environmentalist Tulsi Gowda and orange vendor Harekala Hajabba.

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