Another debt-ridden farmer commits suicide by eating poison. Bholanath Pradhan had taken a loan amount of Rs 5000 and 10 bags of fertilizer for his 3-acre land. The loan amount on paper was put down by the loan officer as Rs 51000 and 10 bags of fertilizer instead, which Bholanath was unaware of.
Mamta Patra reports from Sarpal village, Redhakol block in Sambalpur district of Odisha for IndiaUnheard
Mamta Patra is an NGO founder and a Community Correspondent.
As a child, Mamta saw her father arrested by police on a fake case. This early experience set the direction for her life, which she has since dedicated to fighting inequality and corruption. Due to the injustice to her family, Mamta has familiarised herself with the laws which are meant to afford the people of her community their rights and privileges. She uses this knowledge in her videos as a means to expose injustice and create change.
Hailing from a farming community in Sambalpur district in Odisha, Mamta has an innate understanding of the implications of issues farmers are facing today. In one of her videos she reveals that despite the allocation of 8 lakh rupees to the West Odisha Development Council (WODC) for the purposes of building an irrigation system, this money was never spent. The result was three years drought:
“I depend on agriculture. It is my only livelihood. Its failure ruins us,” says one of her interviewees.
This commitment to the integrity of small income earners and producers is revealed in a range of Mamta’s videos, including those on farmer suicide, withholding of labourers wages under the MNREGA Employment Act, and the threat of development to agrarian livelihoods. Mamta also takes on caste and gender issues in her videos, which she argues are human rights issues. These include the brutalization and displacement of a Dalit family,“It is a fundamental right guaranteed by our constitution to every citizen to reside in any part of the country and to practice any profession. But this has been violated,” states Mamta.
Her commitment to human rights is furthermore revealed in her video on a woman whose First Information Report (FIR) is refused by police after she is brutally beaten by her in-laws. “If they come to take my son, I will never give him,” says the woman who has been assaulted. In this video, as in others, Mamta succeeds not only in exposing the injustice of this woman’s situation, but she also manages what so many documentarians work hard to achieve – an immediate connection between the subject and the viewer.
Among the other lived realities which Mamta urges the public to demand justice, are those of a small town in Kudi District, Odisha, where 20 percent of the town’s population has died of kidney disease. Mamta takes us on a journey where we meet town members afflicted with the disease, as well as the visiting doctor. “Earlier soil and water test has happened but the report was negative. We doubt its result,” she says.
While the mainstream media is just watching and does not, or will not, report on the lives of India’s most disadvantaged, Mamta and her grassroots counterparts turn on their cameras and demand that we pay attention. It is with this intention that she founded the NGO Kosjit Vikas Sangathan, and that she continues her work as a Community Correspondent of Video Volunteers.