Between 2015 and 2016, six boys aged between 8 and 16 years went missing in Karpi block of Arwal district in Bihar. Two of them returned after managing to escape their captors. They have harrowing tales to recount. “These men hit me on my face and I fell unconscious. When I woke up I was in a different place. They told me it was Ludhiana,” recalls Manoj Kumar*. He as made to chop wood from nine in the morning till six every evening. “There were eight of us. The other boys were from Sultanpur, Aurangabad, Agra,Jharkhand. Twenty men guarded us. They would beat us if we didn’t chop wood and not give us food. There was no payment at all. They killed four boys. And threw them in the river nearby.” Chilling as his story is, Manoj’s impassive recounting of the horrific ordeal reveals how normalised such violence had been in his life as a slave. Zafar Iqbal reports from Arwal, Bihar for Video Volunteers.
Savita lives with 172 other families in Ganganagar – a resettlement colony in Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district for those displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Dam. She is living inside a public toilet with her fourteen day-old child. “The water level started rising at midnight and our house got submerged,” she recounts. This is a regular occurrence plaguing the resettlement colony which is surrounded by shallow canals. Every monsoon flooding occurs and even after the water recedes, the residents have to live in knee-deep silt and mud for weeks after.
Thousands of migrant workers are employed by the BMC for the pre-monsoon cleanup every year. But they are made to work illegally in inhumane conditions. Under the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act of 2013, employing individuals, directly or indirectly, to manually clean sewers without protective gears or other cleaning equipment is a punishable criminal offence. And yet this blatant criminal practice continues with impunity. Nana Kale is among the thousands of migrant workers who get brought into the city by contractors at the meagre wage of 300 rupees per day. Not only do they not have protective gear, they are also responsible for their own medical costs if they happen to get injured or fall ill.
Gowhar Nazir Dar was an ambitious computer science student, beloved by his family, friends and teachers. On 7 November 2015, the 22-year-old engineering student went out to buy milk. But he never came back. Gowhar was brought dead to the hospital. His father says the doctors kept asking “Why did you bring him here?” The cause of death is listed as ‘tear gas shell’ and ‘bullet’ and the hospital-issued death certificate states that the exact cause of death was to be determined by an autopsy — an autopsy that doctors refused to perform. Bystanders and witnesses testify that Gowhar was shot in his head at point blank range by a Central Reserve Police Force personnel.The administration keeps changing the script: first they alleged that no tear gas or bullets were fired and then changed it to tear gas shells being fired because protesters were attacking authorities. It’s been over a year. The government probe had 18 witnesses testifying against the CRPF. No one has been arrested to date, nor has the probe report been made public.
The septuagenarian Babulal Dahiya recalls that in his childhood there were vast varieties of indigenous crops in his native Pithurabad in Madhya Pradesh. These gradually reduced to only a few bio-engineered varieties thanks to the green revolution. A retired postmaster, he decided to start collecting and preserving the indigenous seed varieties of paddy by growing them in his field. Today he has managed to save over 100 varieties of indigenous paddy.
The 200 residents of Gehlaur, now known as Dashrathnagar, were parched for two years due to lack of clean, hygienic water supply. But due to the persistent effort of Amit Kumar, a community member of Gaya district and collective efforts of the community, Dashrathnagar finally received water.
The founding principles of the school came from M.K Gandhi’s nai taleem (new training) pedagogical method. Gandhi was of the opinion that a truly complete education did not separate between learning from books and work and emphasised learning traditional handicrafts.
How a few determined local residents demanded accountability and challenged decisions taken by a government department. When threatened by the lumbering bureaucratic attitude of Goa’s forest officials, local residents took steps such as filing the RTI and mobilising a public call-to-action based on video proof with scientifically-backed research.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 2,097 murders were committed between 2000 and 2012, where the motive was “witch hunting”. People, mostly women, are targeted and branded witches whenever a calamity befalls the village – be it death, disease or drought. Witch doctors known as Ojhas, mostly men are called upon to undo the supposedly evil influences of a witch. Many a times, victims and survivors of witch hunting are also women suffering from mental illnesses.