Thwarted by officialdom, Maharashtra farmer builds a dam

For years, the monsoon has been scanty in Maharashtra's Akola district, but when it did rain, a section of Sanjay Tikde's farm would get flooded and disintegrate, the precious soil streaming away.

India's planners, obsessed with large projects, have always ignored the potential of micro dams, and nobody in the administration agreed to help him. So the 42-year-old farmer sold part of his 10-acre farm for Rs55 lakh and used Rs20 lakh of this to build a makeshift dam. The construction, which began in March, will be completed by the end of this month, just in time for this year's monsoon.

''I repeatedly asked the government for financial assistance for this but they said there was no such scheme. An official told me I won't get money. I said I will build a dam and show them,'' said Tidke, who farms soyabean and cotton.

The dam that now stands on the edge of his farm can hold 3 crore litres of water – a bonanza he plans to share. ''I will let all farmers use the water from my dam for free,'' said Tikde.

''Villagers said he is a fool. But today he has built a dam which no farmers has done before. He is not human. He is our God,'' said farmer Sachin Taral.

Far from being helpful, officials actually filed a case against Tikde for moving sand in the area illegally for private use. The harassment added to the challenge of the massive project.

Worth it, he says, standing on his farm. Tikde was able to trump government apathy with his own resources. Many smaller farmers in the area have nothing they to beat the vicissitudes of weather, and the dam will be a godsend to them.