Unable to find work under the MGNREGA, a group of villagers in Banda, Uttar Pradesh, have started the task of cleaning a canal so that water supply reaches the farm lands.
About 70 labourers from Naugava village in Naraini tehsil have decided to do it for free -- saying its a "shramdaan" to give life again to land turning barren.
After coming to know about the work being done by the men, the authorities offered to pay them for the job but the villagers refused.
They all said they could not find work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
Shyamlal, one of the workers, said a stretch of the 40-km-long canal between Guhala Kalan and Divli villages was not cleaned for years.
"Due to this, the fertile agriculture land was becoming barren. I was sitting idle since I did not get any job under the MGNREGA. Then I thought that I should clean the canal so that water reaches its tail-end and we are able to grow foodgrains to feed our children," he says.
Another labourer, Ramswaroop, said people from nearby villages have donated food to them, which is being cooked by women involved in the "sharmdaan".
Gulabrani, Mamta, Sumitra and Rani are among the women taking care of the task. They have named their kitchen "Shramdaan Rasoi". At present, 65-70 people are involved in the initiative, said Ms Gulabrani.
"Till a few years ago, crops were irrigated by water from this canal. But for the past two to four years due to the non-cleaning of silt, there was a shortage of water," she said.
Ms Sumitra, who also cooks food with Ms Gulabrani, said if every agriculture field gets water, crops can be produced and people will not have to "go to other places to earn a living".
Executive Engineer of the Irrigation Department in Banda Sharad Singh said: "As we got news on Saturday of labourers doing the shramdaan, a departmental staffer was sent. We spoke to them over the phone. Their work is praiseworthy. We offered to pay wages but they did not agree to it."