Meet the Padma-winning Karnataka farmer who changed barren land into lush farm

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Karnataka,

Padma Shri awards: Amai Mahalinga Naik was lauded as “water warrior” by Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. (Image tweeted by @gssjodhpur)

A farmer from Karnataka, who transformed barren land into an organic tree farm, is among those who will receive the prestigious Padma awards.

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Amai Mahalinga Naik will receive the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award. The government had announced the list of Padma awardees on January 25.

Naik, 70, tirelessly dug tunnels in an effort to irrigate barren land in Karnataka’s Kepu village, The Times of India reported.

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“He developed a sustainable, lively resource from zero,” agriculture expert Shree Padre, who has been tracking Naik’s work, told the newspaper. “For me, he is a one-man army on a hilltop. But for his sheer optimism and determination, the greenery there could not have been developed. When he was digging suranga [tunne] after suranga which failed, people ridiculed him.”

The once-barren land, brought to life with Naik’s hard work, now hosts a variety of trees and vines.

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Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat lauded Naik in a tweet.

“What a life, what an achievement,” the minister tweeted. “Karnataka’s ‘single man army’ Amai Mahalinga Naik, who has been conferred with the Padma Shri Award.”

“He has proved that where there is a will, there is a way, even if that means cutting through stones and digging tunnels to source water,” Shekhawat added.

Shekhawat described Naik as a “water warrior”.

What a life, what an achievement.

Karnataka’s ‘single man army’ Amai Mahalinga Naik, who has been conferred with the Padma Shri Award.#PadmaAwards pic.twitter.com/w3AinMaq9y

— Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (@gssjodhpur) January 25, 2022

In 2020, environmentalist Tulsi Gowda and Harekala Hajabba, an orange seller, were among the Padma Shri awards recipients from Karnataka.

Gowda, known as the “encyclopedia of forests” because of her vast knowledge of plants, has planted more than 30,000 saplings in her lifetime.

Meanwhile, Hajabba has built a school for children from underprivileged families in his village in Karnataka’s Dakshin Kannada district.

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