“The media in Chhattisgarh doesn’t cover issues like education or health or even the struggles of the adivasis,” says K.R. Kunjam, a Community Correspondent from Chhattisgarh. “The poor person who struggles to earn to square meals a day has no means to put his issues forward.”
The story of Chhattisgarh epitomises the tension that accompanies growth in India. Economic prosperity is juxtaposed against social justice and human rights violations especially in areas like Chhattisgarh where farming communities including tribal groups are being ousted from their lands to facilitate industrial projects and development.
In 20 out of 27 districts there have been incidents of forced evictions. These have been done to facilitate industry, mining projects, large dams and even courthouses and jails.
Most reportage from Chhattisgarh focuses on the Maoist insurgency in southern Chhattisgarh. There is hardly any focus on people’s movements fighting for the common person’s rights nor on the gross human rights violations taking place in the name of development and security.
In 2012 the IndiaUnheard network expanded to Chhattisgarh. At the end of an intense recruitment mission from the length and breadth of the state 17 Community Correspondents, including 5 adivasis and 7 women, joined the IU team.
“When leaving Chhattisgarh I was certain of one thing. There is a dire need for the presence of IndiaUnheard there. While I read about various surveys and reports detailing the number of civilians, security forces and Maosists killed in the last few years, not one mentioned that there have been over 700 deaths on one single road that was built to facilitate the trucks carrying coal for companies,” says Radhika, our Recruitment Co-ordinator.
“Lack of trained drivers meant tractor drivers took to the wheel, more often than not working overtime to make extra money because they didn’t have fields to live off. The fields now hosted those very same industries they were driving for.”
In the past year CCs from the state have produced compelling videos telling the stories of their communities. Their struggles to get their children to school; travails with inept officials and their attempts to assert their rights over their resources.
“When I make my videos I will make them with the point of view of my people… Whatever problems come my way I know I have my camera which is my biggest weapon,” says CC Reena Ramteke.
In the coming year we hope to expand the IU network further into the depths of the state to uncover the real story behind Chhattisgarh’s image of a rapidly industrialised state welcoming development and wealth with arms wide open.
In this video of UPS Manwan Awoora school, Kupwara, Kashmir, the community correspondent Pir Azhar shows us that there are nine classes for 250 students, and due to lack of space, the lower primary classes are held outside in the open. Also the school has only 7 teachers.