Gangadhar Tilak Katnam came into spot light after news reports claimed he used his own pension money to fill potholes in the city. He has been fondly given the title of 'doctor of road' by the locals.
Ever since news about Mr Tilak's selfless service came to fore, his phone keeps buzzing with calls and texts in which people laud him for his work. Extent of Tilak's towering popularity could be understood with the fact that his mobile phone has numerous missed calls and SMSes despite he being abroad.
When OneIndia contacted Mr Tilak, we came to know that presently he is in the United States. In a nearly 30 minute long conversation to OneIndia Mr Gangadhar Tilak talked at length about his journey so far.
Life before becoming 'doctor of road'
Gangadhar Tilak Katnam was born in a small village, Yernagudam, in West Godavari district, to a poor farmer's family. After completing class 10 in his native village, Gangadhar moved to Elluru for higher studies. He did diploma in Electrical Engineering from SMVM polytechnic and eventually got employed in the Indian Railways. After serving the national carrier for decades he retired as Assistant Signal Inspector.
Post retirement from his government job, Tilak joined Infotech Enterprises (a private IT firm) as a Design Engineering (Consultant). Tilak, who was drawing pension from his previous job, did not use the money for serving his personal needs and instead utilised the money for filling the potholes on the roads.
When and how did he start filling potholes?
Tilak told OneIndia that it all started in 2010, when he was driving down a Hyderabad road and he saw a speeding car dirtying uniforms of some school-going kids as the potholed-roads were filled with rain water. The very next day, he saw an accident on the same road in which a young man lost both his limbs, in a RTC bus and auto collision. Police blamed negligent driving for the road accident.
But, being an eyewitness to the tragic event, Tilak was shaken to the core, for he knew the actual cause of the tragedy. He filled the potholed-road the very next day which gave him a lot of satisfaction. From that day on, Tilak continues to do this selfless service of treating the roads in the city wherever he finds such aberrations.
Tilak initially started filling potholes as a weekend ritual but in 2011 he quit his job at Infotech and took it up as a full time job.
Tilak's job is a shame for civic bodies
This may be a matter of pride and satisfaction for Tilak, but he somewhere also reveals the callousness of the civic authorities, who despite having large infrastructure could not fill potholes.
Tilak said that whenever he comes across any potholes, the first thing he does is he informs the civic authorities. If the civic authorities repair the roads then well and good else he himself fills it on his own.
In the past 5 years, Tilak has filled more than a thousand potholes in Hyderabad city.
It costs him approximately Rs 5,000 to purchase raw materials for repairing the broken roads, which he shells out from his own pocket.
Fill potholes first, super specialty hospitals can wait
When asked about his view on filling potholes first and constructing super specialty hospitals later, Tilak said if roads are good then hundreds of lives could be saved by avoiding accidents while government may or may not be able to save lives even after spending Rs 100-1000 crore need to construct hospitals.
Family never objected
When asked if his family has ever objected to his spending all his money on this, Tilak says, "My wife says when she never took salary while I was working then what is she going to do with my pension." Tilak further adds, "My son is doing good in US and he always backs me in this."
Wants to directly talk to the politicians
Tilak has expressed his desire to talk to the politicians and bureaucrats one-to-one to ask them to put an end to widespread corruption in the system.
"If leaders decide they will be able to end corruption within days. And they should address smaller issues first and bigger issues later for it is the smaller ones that affect the life of common man more, not the bigger ones."