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Machines, the means of living

Sharath Hegde, Dec 4 2017, 22:25 IST
Bannikoppa village in Yelburga taluk of Koppal district can be aptly called 'the land of bulldozers'. PHOTO BY BHARAT KANDAKURA

Bannikoppa village in Yelburga taluk of Koppal district can be aptly called 'the land of bulldozers'. PHOTO BY BHARAT KANDAKURA

Nearly 50 years ago, when Shivappagouda, a progressive farmer, bought a bulldozer to flatten his rugged land, the machine became the neighbours' envy and the owner's pride. Impressed by its prowess, he ventured to purchase 20 more such units. Soon, neighbours began to swarm his fields on the pretext of lending him a helping hand to till his land, often simply to get closer to these giant machines.

Shivappagouda did not stop at this. He also opened a garage to repair his machines that occasionally threw tantrums. Little did Shivappagouda realise that the penchant for machines would soon grip the entire village. Within a few years, most of the farmers began using bulldozers. Today, the bulldozer business is the backbone of the economy of Bannikoppa, a small village in Yelburga taluk of Koppal district.

Their success story lies in hard work, planning, cooperation and experience. While purchasing bulldozers is not an easy task, finding spare parts is even tougher. Neither do they have the financial backup nor do the banks support them. The farmers purchase old machines, spare parts and motors, assemble and transform them into giant machines, which are useful in large-scale construction projects like housing, railway, road-laying and transportation. The farmers often mortgage their land or avail loans to assemble spare parts at their garages.

Those who worked with Shivappagouda and mastered the tricks of the trade are now entrepreneurs in their own right. At Bannikoppa, your worth is measured by the number of vehicles you own, says Mahesh, a gram panchayat member who owns a bulldozer. If qualification, salary and family name are the deciding factors for seeking an alliance elsewhere, at Bannikoppa, the number of vehicles owned by the family is the deciding factor! It has also helped them sail through in times of drought. The bulldozers of Bannikoppa are quite popular in Karnataka and neighbouring states.

According to Basavaraj, a garage owner, old machines and motors are purchased through the agents who buy them from the auctions of various government departments. They also visit the scrap dealers in Kolhapur and Kolkata to purchase the spare parts. They reassemble, revive and transform what they buy into tippers, JCBs and bulldozers. They either sell these vehicles or rent them out to construction companies on an hourly or monthly basis, depending on the deal they fix with the contractors.

Giant machines have provided direct or indirect employment to hundreds of people in and around Bannikoppa as many work as drivers, mechanics, cleaners, assemblers, garage owners and entrepreneurs.

Their business will thrive as long as the construction companies continue to hire their vehicles. The track-doubling of the Hosapete-Tinaighat railway line and the four-laning of the Hosapete-Bhanapur stretch are among the projects that have kept their hearth warm.

It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the residents of Bannikoppa have set their village apart from the rest, as the entire community is part of an industrial movement.

(Translated by Jyotsna P Dharwad)

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