Commuting on Indian roads is not a cakewalk; Potholed roads pop up as a most surprising element and roars at us like a giant to tumble us into the graveyard. Potholes are the common element we all have managed to accept as if it is part and parcel of our road journey and move to the destination.
As per the statistics released by Ministry of Road Transport in the year 2015, 10,876 people were killed due to accidents caused by potholes on roads and highways. While authorities have a blind eye towards these ‘mini-monsters’ we as common people accept it as part of our daily chores to maneuver and avoid these potholes while commuting.
But here we have an incredible human being who on witnessing these potholes on streets, gears up with action to get rid of them by using a crowbar, spade and broomstick and filling them with any unattended tar or gravels available in the neighborhood without bothering about the apathy or surprise gesture of people around him. This persona by name Mr. Gangdhara Tilak Katnam is a retired railway officer from Hyderabad who has taken up this social cause of providing pothole free roads for commuters. Mr. Tilak has taken up this mission from January 19th, 2010 and his relentless passion has not subsided even after 7 years of long journey. In fact, the mission that started as a weekend ‘Shramadhan’ (Voluntary Service) has become his full-time mission.
Mr. Gangadhar Tilak Katnam a resident of Hydershakote near Rajendranagar, Hyderabad was a Senior Section Engineer in South Central Railways. He had put in 35 years of service at railways. True to his nature of well disciplined he was not ready to accept anything with ‘status quo’ attitude and used to question anything wrong in the system. As a consequence, he was involved in elevating the safety standards of signaling systems in railways. On retirement in January 2010, Mr. Tilak got an opportunity to work for an IT Firm as Software Design Consultant in Hyderabad. As usual, Mr. Tilak would have been happy rendering his experience to the IT firm but an incident that occurred on his very first-day travel to the office in his Fiat car changed his destiny altogether.
Incidences that shook him
Mr. Tilak was on his way to his office in his Fiat car and the road next to his house was full of potholes. He tried his level best to drive carefully in that potholed street, but unfortunately, he ended up driving into a pothole and a school girl with the neatly starched dress was dirtied with a splash of muddy water. Even the mother of that girl was not spared. Tilak immediately got down from the car and apologized for both of them for the mishap. As it is a common phenomenon in our society, both of them didn’t show the courtesy to acknowledge this sincere apology from him.
Tilak was very upset; He immediately arranged for some kind of cement by paying 4200 INR from his pocket and voluntarily decided to fill up the potholes. This incidence became a precursor for a bigger role that he is playing today as ‘Doctor of potholes’ on Hyderabad streets.
Another incidence that reinforced the innate urge in him to free the roads from potholes was when he witnessed a road accident where a young man lost both his limbs. Another accident severely damaged an Auto rickshaw and passengers were severely injured. In both the cases, it wasn’t reckless or rash driving that caused the accident, but it was the bad shape of road that was the culprit. Unlike most of us, Tilak didn’t turn a blind eye on such issues but strengthen him to fight for the cause of accident-free roads.
Journey as ‘Doctor of Potholes’
It was on January 19th, 2010, Tilak decided to take up his mission of repairing the potholes by utilizing weekends. He got equipped with a crowbar, spade, and broomstick available in his car 24/7. His hunt for potholes would start on weekends and used to return back home with a sense of accomplishment. But this part-time role as ‘Doctor of Potholes’ didn’t suffice his urge to reshape the roads of Hyderabad; On July 31st, 2011, he quit his job at IT company and took up the role of Pothole repairer in full time. Daily he invests 500 INR as fuel expense for his car and starts hunting for fresh potholes. Approximately he has repaired 1125 potholes and has obtained No Objection Certificate (NOC) from Home Ministry to carry Spade and Crowbars in his car. The local authorities also have lauded Mr. Tilak’s service and Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation GHMC- Commissioner Mr. M.T Krishna Babu had instructed his men to provide Tilak with necessary vehicles and raw materials to carry out his mission.
Truly Mr. Gangadhar Tilak Katnam is leading a life of selflessness adhering to the principle of Gandhiji, which says “Be the Change you wish to see in the world.” Kalam Fan Club wishes a happy and healthy life to this gentleman who is in his late sixties.