Joint pains and bone weakness once racked Beedupalli, a tiny village about 10 km from Puttaparthi. Today, “Swami neellu” (water supplied by the lord) has cured it.
Beedupalli — a Telugu word meaning arid village — was one of the 731 in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur district that had been perennially parched despite the presence of rivers Pennar, Hagari and Chitravathi.
Irrigation was a problem, and the locals had no option but to drink the saline, fluoride-laden water drawn from wells and thereby suffer from various ailments. “We women had to walk to the wells and carry the salty, muddy water. Thanks to Sai Baba, we were freed from that hardship,” said Adilakshmamma Ontipi, 60.
In 1995, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust launched a massive water project and executed it in a record 18 months.
“As a child, Swami used to roam in our villages,” said Chandravarna Choudhary of Kappalabanda on Bangalore highway. “Once we told him about the lack of safe drinking water, Swami sent us water.”
The treated water — which the villagers consider sacred — is supplied to the village’s concrete storage tanks for eight hours a day.
The project was handed to the government in 1998. Now the Sathya Sai Water Supply Project Board — a society under Andhra Pradesh government — is operating it.
“Not just Anantapur, Baba is providing water to other dry areas like Medak and Mahboobnagar,” said farmer Laxminarayana Ontipi.
In 2001, 320 villages benefited in Medak and Mahboobnagar districts under a similar project. Sai Baba’s initiative took water even to Chennai, which faced an acute shortage of drinking water.
The project was announced in 2002. Executed with government support and completed within a couple of years, it involved repairing the dilapidated 150-km Kandaleru-Poondi canal under the Telugu Ganga Project. The canal is now called Sathya Sai Ganga canal.
“Who else can execute such massive projects, which take decades even for large countries?” said Geetha Reddy, industries minister, Andhra Pradesh. “It is Baba’s human concern and divine charm that make such projects happen.” The Anantapur project
Lately, a construction near Beedupalli had damaged the supply pipes and the village had gone dry again. The people were thinking of sharing the problem with Baba after he recovered from his illness. Now, the news of his death has hit them hard. “We hope the Sai trust will take up our cause and do as much good,” said a villager.