Magadh, a village in Bihar, was once the grain bowl of Bihar but modern irrigation methods turned this highly fertile land into an arid, rocky terrain. The water crisis was so acute that it forced mass migration to cities, with people abandoning their ancestral land and occupation. It seemed that the land was doomed and cursed forever and it was an irreparable damage.
But Rabindra Pathak, who taught Pali and Sanskrit at a college in Arwal, was certain that the answer lay in the long-forgotten and crumbling aqueducts and water reservoirs that irrigated the fields and fed ancient India’s most glorious empire. He pored through old books and scriptures, and found that reviving the dilapidated network of pynes (channels carrying water from rivers) and ahars (low-lying fields with embankments that act as water reservoirs) was the lone solution. This method of irrigation was used some 2000 years ago and this is what Pathak revived.
The villagers earlier shunned his idea, saying that if modern techniques could not work, how would this work? The local mafia too played its part not allowing this initiative to take off.
But Pathak did not give up. With small donations from local people, he revived the 125-km Jamune Dasain pyne and 159-km Barki pyne, bringing water from Falgu, a tributiary of Ganga.
Like a miracle, life changed. 150 villages along the Jamune-Dasain pyne and around 250 villages along the Barki canal have been able to irrigate their fields for the kharif and rabi crops, and grow vegetables, pulses and oilseeds as well. People began to say the water system’s revival was the second-best thing to have happened to Gaya after the Buddha’s enlightenment!
In 2011, Nitesh Kumar got the Govt to replicate Pathak’s model all across. The farmer distress is slowly but surely abating and some migrant workers are returning.
Just as all the solution to our life problems, lay in the scriptures, so many ailments of modern times can be solved using ancient methods!