Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday paid glowing tributes to "Mountain Man" Dashrath Manjhi, the legendary villager who had flattened a hillock by toiling for 22 years with just a hammer and chisel.
The Chief Minister recalled Manjhi's Herculean feat - which had reduced the distance between two blocks of Gaya district by 40 kms - while inaugurating a new complex for a labour planning and research institute named after the latter.
A poor daily wage earner, Manjhi had undertaken the task, ignoring the derision of fellow villagers, in 1960 when his wife succumbed to injuries received in an accident since the remoteness of his village, Gehlaur, came in the way of timely medical help.
"Manjhi's life underscores the fact that every individual is endowed with immense potential. It is only a question of when someone gets an idea to harness that potential. He will be a source of inspiration for posterity. We have named the institute after him as a mark of respect for his efforts as also the labour class in general", Kumar said.
He also felicitated, on the occasion, Bhagirath Manjhi, who is the son of the "Mountain Man", and expressed delight over his presence at a function associated with his late father.
"Manjhi possessed unbelievable will power. Besides having flattened the hillock, we learn that he had also once travelled on foot from his native district of Gaya to New Delhi with the desire to meet the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi", Kumar said.
"I have deep reverence for Manjhi. When he had once came to meet me at my Janta Durbar programme, I had made him sit on my chair as a token of respect", the Chief Minister recalled.
"This institute will go a long way in helping our workers upgrade their skills. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the Chanakya Law University so that our labourers have adequate knowledge of rules and regulations which would help them perform their jobs more efficiently", Kumar added.
"Workers from Bihar have made a mark for themselves in every part of the world. People from Bihar comprise more than half of the population of Mauritius. They are going to the remote Bhutan to earn livelihood through their labour", the Chief Minister added.
Kumar also underscored that many schemes brought in by his government like ban on liquor and construction of toilets was having a direct impact on the well-being of those from the working class.
Others who spoke on the occasion included Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, labour minister Vijay Kumar Sinha and minister for building construction Maheshwar Hazari.