Bantwal: Amai Manhalinga Naik, a hardworking agriculturist from Dakshina Kannada, finds a name in the list of Padma Shri awardees in the ‘Others – Agriculture’ category announced by the Union government on the eve of Republic Day.
Naik’s efforts to irrigate his areca nut fields on his farm atop a rocky hill earned him the monicker “Tunnel Man”.
It was Naik dream to grow an areca nut grove but faced the challenge of watering barren hilly tract of land he owned. With little money he had saved, he could not hope to hire workers for digging. He chose to dig up a tunnel himself, guided all by instinct.
For four years, the resolute farmer dug up tunnels after tunnels all by himself in search of water without success. Four of his attempts were utter failures. But this did not diminish his resolve. He dug a fifth tunnel at an elevated land and found moisture on the ceiling when reaching 50 feet. On his 6th attempt, he found water at a distance of 315 ft fulfilling his dream. He later dug the seventh tunnel to provide water for domestic use.
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Today Mahalinga Naik reaps bountiful crops such as areca nut, coconut, banana, cocoa, pepper, etc. grown on his farm. He also raises cattle and honeybees on the side.
Padma Awardees from Karnataka this year
This year 5 persons from Karnataka, including Mahalinga Naik, find their names in the list of Padma Awardees. Padma Shri will be conferred on ‘Dalit Kavi’ Dr| Siddalingaiah (Posthumously) for Literature, crop and environment scientist Subbanna Ayyappan for Science and Technology, noted Gamaka exponent H. R. Keshava Murthy for Art, and innovative farmer Abdul Khadar Nadakattin for Innovation.