Mahesh Sharma, known as Gandhi of Jhabua, may not be known all over India but his work is something which has ignited curiosity of those who know its importance. By uniting the tribal of Jhabua area he started a water conservation mission called Shiv Ganga Mission to solve the issue of water at Jhabua. Together they built thousands of water structures. Today the researchers of IITs, IIMs and other universities are trying to understand and replicate his work.
If you see Mahesh Sharma you will see that his living and clothing style is somewhat similar to Mahatma Gandhi. He wears a cloth and a dhoti. It has become his identity too. Mahesh Sharma works for tribal development has earned him respect in social strata and he is awarded the Padma Shri. Shiva Ganga campaign chief, Sharma, taught villagers how to cultivate on the waste land of Jhabua by creating own sources of water.
Originally from Ghongasi village in Datia district, Mahesh Sharma came to Jhabua in 1998. Here he started his work and then he remained here. Till 2007, he worked dedicatedly for people through Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad and started his philanthropic and mass awareness campaign. After this, he started Shiva Ganga project and decided to make the drought lands of Jhabua fertile and to increase the underground water table of the land. Under the campaign of Shivaji’s Halma campaign on the hill of Hathi Pava (situated at the outskirt of city), he constructed 1, 11,000 water structures through public participation. As a result, millions of liters of water harvested in the ground and it increased ground water level. In addition, more than 5 thousand small water structures have been constructed in 350 villages. Due to this the villages which were suffering from drought are more fertile now. At one time where there was only maize cultivation, now farmers have started wheat production. People have started taking two crops in a year.
Even after receiving Padma Shri, Mahesh Sharma is still the same humble dhoti clad Gandhi who is living modestly. When asked how he feels about his achievement, Mahesh Sharma said, “Padma Shri is the result of efforts by all of us and not just mine. I am just a face. The real work is done by the vanvasi’s of Jhabua who had toiled for hours and hours to bring the change which the world is appreciating. Padma Shri is as much of them as it is mine.”
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