Shimoga's very own Gandhi

SOCIETY


Gandhigiri: Krishnappa has staged many a march as a tool for social change.  Photo by Veerendra PM

Civil disobedience and padayatra are the weapons that Mahatma Gandhi employed to humble the mighty British empire. A social activist from Ripponpet in Shimoga district, T R Krishnappa is following in the great man’s footsteps. He shows the same resolve of the Mahatama in taking on corrupt forces in the administrative apparatus.

A farmer from Ripponpet, T R Krishnappa is part of many democratic and social struggles of the region. He was the lone person from Hosanagar taluk to be imprisoned during the Emergency for his anti-establishment stand.

Krishnappa’s march to Bangalore

While Gandhi marched to Dandi barefoot to oppose imposition of tax on extraction of salt, Krishnappa took out a padayatra from Ripponpet to Bangalore in 1983 demanding the government to sanction a junior college, primary health centre and other civic amenities to the village. He walked 350 kms barefoot. Following this up, Krishnappa cycled to Bangalore to apprise the government of the necessity to upgrade civic amenities in the village. And all this did work. The government has fulfilled most of the demands put forward by Krishnappa. In 1996 and 2008 too, Krishnappa cycled to Bangalore, to get a first grade college sanctioned for his village.

Much like the Mahatma, Krishnappa also practises simple living. He married his wife Vani in a simple mass marriage ceremony. The wedding of his daughters was also part of a mass marriage ceremony he organised for the lesser privileged. Inspired by the Bhoodan movement of Acharya Vinobha Bhave, he donated three sites which he purchased with his hard earned money to the houseless poor in the village.

Today, he is the editor of Kodachadri, a local Kannada daily which is also a platform to discuss issues that matter, much like Harijan and Young India were for Gandhi.
Krishnappa is a nightmare for corrupt elected representatives and officials in the region. He has single-handedly launched several successive struggles against irregular practices. A box-drainage which was in good condition in Ripponpet village was demolished and reconstructed in the year 2004. It was the unholy nexus of government engineers and contractors which resulted in wastage of public money. He appealed to the Lokayukta against graft with relevant documents in tow, and eventually work was halted.

He exposed nepotism in electing beneficiaries for the Ashraya scheme and construction of percolation pits under the rainwater harvesting scheme in the Gram Panchayat limits in 2009. According to the law, an individual without a toilet in his/her house is barred from contesting local body elections. When the law was violated in Ripponpet GP, Krishnappa complained against the same in 2008 and an inquiry in connection with the case is on.

Krishnappa also exposed irregularities such as unscrupulous practices at a milk producers’ cooperative society in Ripponpet, encroachment of government land by a private education institution, and attempts to hand over a temple belonging to the Muzrai department to a private trust. The accused in many of these cases have already been punished and encroachments have been cleared. Krishnappa maintains the relevant documents ready to win legal battles against corrupt elements.

No bed of roses

Krishnappa’s crusade against corruption is not a path filled with roses. In fact, a rowdy sheet was opened against him at the Ripponpet police station. Organising communal harmony meets, collecting donations for a kid suffering from renal failure are some of the charges made against Krishnappa in the rowdy register maintained at the police station.
The Ripponpet Gram Panchayat was selected for Nirmala Gram Puraskar in the year 2008 for successful implementation of Total Sanitation Campaign. However, the public toilet complex constructed in the village under the campaign was not inaugurated for a period of six months. Protocol specifies that development works should be inaugurated by elected representatives.

The inauguration was delayed as ministers concerned had no time for the same. Krishnappa staged urulu seve (rolled on the street) for a stretch of 20 kms as a token of protest against the inordinate delay in building toilets. In what can be called an experiment in civil disobedience, Krishnappa in true Gandhian style inaugurated the toilet by violating all protocol.

Civil disobedience

A public programme was organised to mark the occasion which was attended by social and human rights activists. The act of civil disobedience proved dear for Krishnappa against whom Ripponpet GP passed a resolution to extern him from the village. In the resolution, Krishnappa was charged with attempting to disturb peace in the village and hampering development works. The district administration quashed the resolution and ordered a probe into the incident.

With the intention of introducing reform in police system and improving working conditions of police personnel, Krishnappa organised a workshop in Shimoga recently under the aegis of People’s Union of Civil Liberties. The crusader against corruption was shortlisted for the Manjunath Shanmugham Integrity Award for 2009. Gandhian ideology is still a powerful tool to reform the system and the self with which Krishnappa is successfully experimenting.

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