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Unsung Hero: A Padma Shri Awardee Who Built Over 125 Low-Cost, Eco-Friendly Bridges

How important is it to stay connected with people and the outside world? No, we are not talking about double taps, pokes, and inboxes but the actual physical connectivity. Even in 2018 there are places in our country that are aloof from mainland or cities.

It could be hard for the urban population to imagine such a scenario where people cannot travel freely but one man has devoted himself in changing this. Girish Bharadwaj, known as Setu Bandhu or the Bridge Man of India, has built more than 127 low-cost, eco-friendly bridges for connecting villages.

A mechanical engineer by profession, Girish was working at his father’s workshop where he repaired farm machinery. His life wouldn’t have taken a turn towards building bridges if a forest officer hadn’t asked him a question. “Can you connect an island in Kaveri (Nisargadham) to the mainland?”

Girish had no clue as to how will he execute this. But he decided to give it a shot anyway. He, with the help of a friend, started forming a prototype. They built a 50 metre long bridge from wooden slats, wire ropes, and steel rods without any blueprint. This led to the making of the first-ever bridge by Girish, in 1989, across Payaswini river at Arambur in Southern Karnataka.

Thereon, Girish went on building bridges and solving people’s problems. He also built a 290-meter  bridge in Hukkeri of Belgaum district, Karnataka, which stood to be the longest bridge constructed in 1998. Girish worked for humanity as a whole and never discriminated his work for any caste, creed, or religion.

In 2007, an instance that took place made it clear to the society that serving humanity is the only goal for Girish. He was working on a project where he had to construct a hanging bridge in Laknavaram village of Warangal district, in Telangana, across a large lake. The area where he had to construct the bridge was under the domination of Naxals.

Girish could see a huge challenge ahead of him but he only focussed on the numerous people who would benefit from this bridge. Despite all threats, Girish continued his work four four years and the final result astonished every human being in that area, including the Naxals. Everyone only had pure gratitude for this Setu Bandhu and praised him incessantly.

Girish served in state home guards department for 24 years. His work has took him to various island countries where people have benefitted from his knowledge. Numerous awards and recognitions have greeted Padma Shri Girish Bharadwaj.

Experience builds a character and work creates a personality. Girish has nothing to gain out of what he is doing but nothing matches the amount of convenience, relief, and joy enters people’s life through his initiatives.

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