70 villagers petition Mandya DC that ‘Pond Man’ was harassing them by denying access to graze cattle
Malavalli: Just days after octogenarian ‘Pond Man’ or Kere Kamegowda of Dasanadoddi village in Malavalli taluk of Mandya district was recognised and lauded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ All India Radio address and is basking in new-found and well-publicised glory, a group of his fellow villagers have complained to Mandya DC Dr. M.V. Venkatesh that Kamegowda’s claims were false.
After the PM’s address where Modi called him Water Warrior, the humble farmer Kamegowda shot into national fame and talks were on to make a documentary film on him. There was a demand that Kamegowda must be honoured with ‘Water Conservation Expert’ award and also institute an annual prize in his name to be given to genuine water conservationists.
Now, a group of 70 villagers have petitioned the Mandya DC where they have stated that Kamegowda was falsely claiming that he has built 16 ponds and was denying access to grazing field. Villagers have alleged that Kamegowda did not dig any pond or lake as projected in the media and social media platforms.
The villagers claimed that Kamegowda dug only pits that were of no use to villagers. “After Kamegowda dug pits, it has become difficult for us to graze cattle. He behaves as if the hillocks are his personal property. He has been harassing the people of the village,” they complained. Moreover, the land belongs to Forest Department and it was green since ages. “Kamegowda did not contribute for the greenery,” they said.
The villagers also alleged that Kamegowda was keeping away the villagers from accessing the ponds. “These ponds are all natural and not man-made. How can one person build 16 ponds single-handedly,” they questioned. The villagers alleged that no officer cared to visit the village to check the veracity of the claims made by Kamegowda.
They also charged Kamegowda with illegally extracting sand from ponds and have urged the DC to conduct a spot inspection to check the veracity of Kamegowda’s claims and also take back the honours bestowed on him if they are proved false. “Kamegowda is a wrong man in a right place and his fame is false and he does not deserve the attention and awards. Now he is threatening to file cases against all of us,” the villagers said.
However, Kamegowda said that he was facing trouble from some people of the village after the PM mentioned his name and his work in his speech. He alleged that villagers have conspired against him due to old rivalry.
Meanwhile, Mandya DC Dr. Venkatesh has asked Assistant Commissioner and Tahsildar to convene a meeting and sort out the issue.
He clarified that only after inspecting the ponds and lakes constructed by Kamegowda, the District Administration had submitted a report to the Government. “Personal grudges must not overshadow the good work,” he said.
Fact-finding Committee to be formed: Mandya AC
Based on Mandya DC Dr. M.V. Venkatesh’s order to ascertain the veracity of Kamegowda’s claims that he has built 16 ponds at barren lands of Dasanadoddi and regarding the allegation of villagers that Kamegowda was harassing them, a Fact-Finding Committee will be formed, said Mandya Asst. Commissioner (AC) Sooraj.
He was speaking at a conciliatory meeting at Dasanadoddi yesterday after villagers petitioned the DC regarding what they called dubious claims and harassment from Kamegowda. However, Kamegowda did not attend the meeting as he was indisposed. The Committee will be formed within July 21 and it will comprise officers from Revenue, Forest and Earth Sciences Department.
Once the Committee submits its report, suitable action will be initiated, Sooraj said and added that if at all Kamegowda has filed false cases against villagers, steps will be taken to withdraw such cases. The Mandya DC had announced that Kamegowda’s name would be recommended to Padmashree Award. But since the Fact-Finding Committee has been constituted now, the award proposal has been put on hold for now.
Tahsildar Chandramouli, Taluk Panchayat Executive Officer Satish, Rural Dy.SP Dhanraj, Dy. Tahsildar Siddamma and Belakavadi Sub-Inspector Umapathi and other officers and villagers were present.