After 30 minutes we were led to another well-head. And work resumed with 3 tractors. Just when I thought everything was rhythmic, I walked into another trap. Throughout the nearly month-long road laying operation, no one had questioned my right to lay it on 80′ feet of public land at the eastern end. Now a guy who lives by its side, a guy who had been friendly enough all these days with suggestions, appreciation and hospitality, came out flailing his arms and yelling. “The road is disturbing my peace, it has increased movement of strangers and so security of my house is compromised and besides have you taken permission to lay it,” he asked in a most unusually unfriendly tone. And that trapped me into losing my cool and I yelled back. In a few minutes there were ten people, all yelling at the same time, with new issues added to the boiling cauldron. Of course work came to a stop a second time. After an hour of this, someone rode out to fetch the local heavy who had consented in writing to let me lay the road. I asked him to show our agreement as I had not brought a copy. He went soft in voice and everything fell in place: the heavy had not shared the sum received with his cronies. The fracas was to bring the issue to boil. The intent was not to stop me but to use me to settle their accounts. I offered to send in my copy to clarify matters.
Let’s go back a bit and come honest on two issues. First, I hired an unworthy tractor to solve a problem. In other words the hire charges was really a bribe, wasn’t it, to buy out a sticky chap? In a word and without defence of any sort, the answer is ‘Yes’. And second, why was there an agreement with the heavy and a sum paid for laying a road on public lands? This requires some explanation. Almost all public lands, bar the prominent expanses, are encroached. The rich and the powerful are the worst offenders and the poor follow suit. The poor mostly grab hold of land to build small houses for themselves. Every ten years or so the State declares an amnesty and regularises these encroachers and makes them legal owners. And that encourages the next round of encroachments. If you think it through, this is not an unfair way to provide the poorest of the poor small lots to build their homes on. In villages certainly, there is enough land going. [In the cities it is a huge ongoing problem] The net result is that for almost every public land there is some private claimant, usually a minor politician or a local rich man of influence. Once a deal is made he yields to you and keeps up his end.
Now some moral justification: of my deal with this 80′, I have cearly written in, that the road I lay on it, is for all villagers to use. I have not laid claim to it as my property. I had in fact paid a modest sum [Rs.6,750 in this case] to restore it as public land.
Work resumed again but two hours had already been lost. The JCB owner had said the machine was available only for that day. I won’t weary you with more blow by blow details but work did stop once more with the second well-head owner also asking us to quit. But we found a third guy and we scooped dirt off his land till we completed.