Rajesh Gupta

Rajesh Gupta

Rajesh had ‘secure’ life goals to survive, until he saw the desperation to survive and need of justice all around him – in his country, community, even in his own family.

Rajesh had always dreamed of having a “secure job and secure earnings, with enough to survive.”  That all changed when he came to recognize traces of the same desperation of the man from the train station all around him – in his country, community, even in his own family.  It was this new awareness that drove Rajesh to become a Community Correspondent with Video Volunteers (VV).  “As a Community Correspondent,” says Rajesh, “I am dedicated to showing the world the atrocities that are committed towards us, the marginalized living in interior India.”

Of the work that Rajesh is best known for is that surrounding silicosis deaths in his home state of Chattisgarh, where 26% of the nation’s sponge iron is produced.   While India, being the largest producer of sponge iron in the world, has “zero discharge” and proximity to residential locality laws, Rajesh reveals that these laws are rarely followed.  This is exemplified in several of Rajesh’s videos, including “Water body turns toxic as factories spew waste in Chhattisgarh,” which takes viewers to Pali, Chattisgarh,where waste is being dumped into the local bathing pond

Amidst images of children with absesses and tumours on their face and torsos, Rajesh also reveals that land adjacent to the factory is contaminated over “one foot down” from the surface.  One farmer, whose 5 acres traditionally produced “25 bags of rice,” is seen digging into contaminated soil, now laying barren beside the smokestacks of Ma Kali Alloys Udgoy Pvt Ltd.

Another one of Rajesh’s videos which speaks to the effects of unchecked industrialization on the rural poor is “Local Gram Panchayat violates PESA to favour industries in Chhattisgarh,” which reveals the local Sarpanch’s collaboration with industry despite community opposition.  When residents of Saraipali village found out that their Sarpanch and other community elite had signed a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to set up a storage facility for gunpowder, over 100-150 villagers signed a petition to oppose it.

With more and more land and forests being devoted to mines, power stations, and factories; and with state and municipal governments favoring the benefits of industrialization to the sustenance of more than 80% of the population, farmers and other local producers have few options.  Their voices are not heard by any authority and so they have turned to Rajesh for recourse.

One such story in which Rajesh’s efforts have successfully held government and industry to account, is outlined in the video “Farmers Happy After Getting Their Land Back.” In Bamhanpali, Chattisgarh, Nav Durga Metal Industries bought land “deceptively,” without the consent of the people who owned it. “They (the company) are saying that there are papers that show the company’s ownership, and said we won’t be getting our land back,” says one resident in the original video which Rajesh made.  To follow the video he persistently visited the local collector, the Ghargoda court, and the block court.  After many such meetings the villagers were permitted to go back to their land.

While not all of Rajesh’s videos have translated into justice, he knows that in many cases his voice will be the only one which speaks to the atrocities faced by the poor in his region.

I don't think the mainstream media has done much for social development, at least in Raigad. Accidents, cricket and politics – that's all you can read about in newspapers. In Raigad, you don't see much about the poor in the newspapers,” says Rajesh.  It is this misrepresentation of what constitutes daily life and the daily concerns of the average Indianthat Rajesh applies to his work at VV and which we know he will apply to his role as a civil servant, which he aspires to be one day.

Videos from Rajesh

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A Toxic Harvest: Development gone wrong

 
/ March 8, 2017

How industrial development without environmental checks and balances destroyed a farming village in Chhattisgarh

Drinking Water ends Thirst after a Decade’s Struggle

 
/ January 6, 2017

A little child turns the village tap in hope of water, but all he says he looks up and says, “There is no water.” The...

Drinking Water ends Thirst after a Decade’s Struggle

 
/ January 6, 2017

A little child turns the village tap in hope of water, but all he says he looks up and says, “There is no water.” The...

Crops destroyed for rail corridor without notice or compensation

 
/ January 2, 2017

The farmers of this small hamlet in Chhattisgarh were eagerly waiting for their crop to ripe. The harvest was thankfully good this season and was...

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Industrial Pollution goes unchecked in Chhattisgarh

 
/ December 13, 2016

The once green fields have turned black with fly ash, water has turned toxic in the community lake and farmers are forced to become labourers....

Farmers wins Land Rights after Three Years of Struggle

 
/ November 16, 2016

Three years back in 2013, tribal farmers of Raigarh, Chhattisgarh had unlawfully lost their lands to a local sponge iron manufacturing factory, Navdurga Pvt. Ltd....

After Six Years of wait for Government help, Bundeli’s House crumbles

 
/ September 14, 2016

  Bundeli, a 65-year-old woman from Chhattisgarh is living like a refugee in someone else’s backyard. All her worldly belongings are bundled up in a...

After Six Years of wait for Government help, Bundeli’s House crumbles

 
/ September 14, 2016

  Bundeli, a 65-year-old woman from Chhattisgarh is living like a refugee in someone else’s backyard. All her worldly belongings are bundled up in a...