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Common man campaigner

Common man campaigner

Author: Satarupa Bhattacharjya
Publication: India Today
Dated: February 4, 2008

Every Wednesday evening C.M. Ganga Ram rides his bicycle laden with snacks from his home in west Delhi to the India Today office at the city centre. Selling packets of small eats to staffers fetches him Rs 200 on a good day. At 73, Ganga Ram is your anonymous vendor, but a common man with an uncommon past.

This retired mill worker and record keeper spent 40 years pursuing a project that has changed lives in his region-Telangana. Ganga Ram played an indefatigable soldier in the construction of a railway line from Peddapally to Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh-which took him the better part of his adult life.

Ganga Ram's childhood passed in Karimnagar district's Mallial village shouting freedom slogans in the late 1930s. Poverty meant he could not continue in school beyond 1947.

During the harvest season he helped his mother in her work in the fields at six naya paise an hour. Ganga Ram's life changed in 1953 when he had to walk 110 km from Mallial to Nizamabad. That three-day walk gave his life a new purpose.

"It was unacceptable to me that years after Independence we had to travel long distances on foot," says Ganga Ram. So he dreamt of a railway line that could connect Peddapally, the better developed neighbourhood of Mallial, to Nizamabad.

He moved to Mumbai and worked in a mill till 1960. By that time he had already organised 1,500 residents of Karimnagar and Nizamabad to campaign for a rail head.

A number of surveys on a railway line in the area had already been conducted by the erstwhile Nizam's government but there was no progress after the Nizam's powers were dissolved in 1948.

After 1960, he migrated to Delhi as a record keeper for the Andhra Bank but he continued to flood the offices of the Railways with letters of request. Most politicians from Telangana were aware of the growing demand for the rail track and Ganga Ram's reputation as an activist grew.

The Andhra Pradesh government finally approached the Planning Commission in 1976 but four years of silence followed.

Indira Gandhi too, it seems, had promised a railway line to the people of Karimnagar and Nizamabad. That pledge died with her assassination in 1984 but Ganga Ram continued lobbying.

His campaign of three decades met with partial success in 1992 when the Railway budget included the Peddapally-Nizamabad railway track as a project.

The first goods train ran on the track in 2000 and a year later, the first passenger train was flagged off from Peddapally to Nizamabad by the then minister of state for Railways D. Rajagopal.

Ganga Ram was not invited to either of the ceremonies. But he holds no grudges. His life's mission had been achieved.

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