Simon Oraon popularly called as “Waterman of Jharkhand” by the media and as “Simon Baba” by the villagers is a Man of Inspiration, who unlike many Indians doesn’t thinks about water conservation only at few odd months of drought. Since 1961, he was engaged in social activities like building water reservoirs and planting of trees in his locale. Let’s look deep into his journey from Jharkhand to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
STORY IN BRIEF
Simon Oraon Minj, was born in Khaksi Toli, a place in Jharkhand, India. He was well known for his hard work to combat drought in the state of Jharkhand. He has constructed five irrigation reservoirs around Ranchi and engaged in various environmental projects like Mass Tree Plantation, digging of ponds and wells in Bero Block near Ranchi covering around 51 villages. For his excellent work, Indian Government has awarded him with fourth highest civilian honor, Padma Shri in 2016.
VILLAGE KING WITH A VISION
As by the quote of Albert Einstein, “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it” Simon Baba has studied only till class IV but his effort is mammoth. The villagers of Kasksi Toli rely only on rainfall for agriculture. And so their farming activities are restricted to few rainy months. Their main crop paddy was grown only once in a year. Simon baba took an initiative to build a reservoir at the footsteps of nearby hills with the assistance of his fellow villagers in 1961. This was followed by construction of two more dams at Deshwali and Jharia and also he constructed several ponds in neighboring villages of Hariharpur, Jatoli, Khaksi Toli, Baitoli and Bhasnanda.
In 1964, the villagers elected him as the Parha Raja (chief of tribe). he initiated social forestry program at his hereditary land, Planting 1000 trees every year to prevent soil erosion and depletion of water resources. He also lead the villagers against deforestation and illegal felling of trees. He also assisted in cultivation of over 2000 acres of land producing three crops a year and yielding 20000 metric tons of vegetables annually.
PUTTING CAUSE OVER HONOR
When he received the Padma Shri award in 2016, he said “I would not accept the Padma award if the Government doesn’t take up Farmers cause seriously”. Even when Jharkhand Chief Minister Mr. Raghubar Das congratulated Oraon, and also when he gave him a name “waterman of Jharkhand”, Oraon has conditions for accepting the award announced for him.
He said, “Though the present government announced much, but nothing is happening on the ground. Only when farmer’s conditions are considered seriously, I will accept the award”. He further added, “The award is not only for me. This is a team work and all the villagers deserve this Padma Shri award”.
“ The award is not only for me. This is a team work and all the villagers deserve this Padma Shri award ” – Simon Oraon
Oraon was known for his simplicity and high thinking. This 84 year old man has transformed lives of thousands of villagers. Even at this age, He wakes up at 4.30 a.m., go to the fields and check the saplings he planted, go around the forest which he had created. When asked about how the towering achievements are possible , he said, “we initially started with only with our villagers but later on many other villagers joined. We stopped forest mafia and wood smugglers in the area”.
These dams he built have no cracks since it was constructed. The nearby ponds are also connected to the Dams which act as a reservoir, ensuring continuous supply of water for agriculture. Now, 1600 families reap three crops a year. The migration had declined. They supply vegetables for Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Kolkata. Oraon has been an inspiration for the farmers and villagers in Jharkhand. Now Padma shri Simon Oraon is the Brand Ambassador of the Watershed Program of the Rural Development Department, Government of Jharkhand.
Water shortage and Monsoon failure are root cause for agrarian crisis today. When most of the population expect something from top echelons for help and when Government try unscientific and unsustainable conservation measures, Simon Oraon stands as an exemplar for both. He instill how a common man can do great things and also acted ‘locally’ to solve ‘global’ complications.