Karnataka's "Water Warrior" Who Ended Crisis Gets Lifetime-Free Bus Pass

A shepherd from Dasanadoddi village in Karnataka's Mandya district, Kame Gowda became known for digging ponds and bringing water to a dry hillock

"My work is helpful for the animals of the forest," says Kame Gowda

Bengaluru:

Kame Gowda, a shepherd from a small village in Karnataka's Mandya district, has got the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In his most recent Mann Ki Baat broadcast, PM Modi referred to Mr Gowda as a "water warrior" and described how he had dug ponds near his village Dasanadoddi so that the area which was patched in summer could have access to water all year round.

NDTV met Mr Gowda at his village back in 2018. The 82-year-old man stays in a small house. He shows the recognitions he had received for his work, including the state's Rajyotsava Award.

He walked with us to the ponds he had built. The animals of the village do not go thirsty anymore.

"I lived like a wild animal from the age of 5. My mother had 10 children and showed me no affection," he said. "The sheep and other animals - I was close to them. What do the birds, the snakes do? I understood what difficulties animals faced? All animals suffer a lot in summer. They want water. I have seen this from the time I was young. And I felt that if I don't do something about this suffering, aren't I a rakshasa (demon)? That is why I organised these ponds," he said.

The Karnataka government has also announced a lifetime free bus pass to Mr Gowda so that he can travel wherever he wants on buses run by the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation or KSRTC.

Mr Gowda's work - and the time and money he spent on it - has not always endeared him to his own family, but by naming some of the ponds after his grandchildren he hopes he will encourage the love of nature and water in them.

"I use a JCB to dig this. For a day, that costs Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000, or Rs 700 an hour... have called two ponds Pooja and Purvi. Why? If I give them gold, cash, they will waste it. This service will always be there for them," Mr Gowda said.

"My work is helpful for the animals of the forest. If I die, my name will always be there. It will be there as long as the sky and the Earth. Money may go tomorrow, does it stay?"

He sees the difference that the year-round availability of water has made.

"After water came, the animals drink from here and are happy. And seeing them, I am happy. For as long as the Earth and sky lasts - I have built such strong ponds. I have made things good for the animals. Whatever people say, I have done the right thing. Even if I die, plants, animals, ponds I, Kame Gowda, have served them," he said.

On his philosophy about responsibilities to the Earth, he said, "We should not be heavy on this world. We should be like flowers. That should be our weight on the Earth."