In Rajasthan, a visually impaired man puts his life on the line to get a concrete road built.
“That boy wouldn’t have died had there been a road in the village. Two-three women also died in childbirth. I couldn’t take this,” says Hanuman Gujjar, a visually impaired man, about why he started a campaign to get the three kilometre road to his village concretised.
Hanuman lost his eyesight at the age of eight. With a single-minded determination that comes from overcoming obstacles all his life, Hanuman took on the challenge of improving life in his village.
The 300 odd residents of Gandayata Village in Rajasthan’s Sawai Madhopur District could not remember a time when there was a concrete road leading up to their village. In its absence, they walked through fields; narrow dirt tracks. Everyone from the Auxiliary Nurse Midwife, to farmers to the school teacher and the Village Head were exasperated by the inconveniences faced. Pregnant women, and sick people who had to be transported 8 kilometres to the nearest hospital in makeshift cots. Farmers found it difficult to get their produce – red chillies the area is famous for – to the markets.
In February 2010, Hanuman, along with other community members, started a five-year-long concerted effort to fix this situation. The problem was two-fold. The only possible road would have to built through fields belonging to the powerful Gujjar community. They were not willing to part with the land even after the community collected money to pay them. On the other hand the authorities responsible kept passing the buck between them.
Meanwhile, the community, who are mostly wage workers, had lost hope and had more or less left Hanuman to fight the battle on his own. Hanuman persisted, and escalated the matter from the Village Head to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Revenue Officer, Land Record Officer, Governor, and finally the then Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot. At regular intervals, they drummed up the local media’s interest in the issue as well.
It was in 2015 that matters came to a head. At a lok adalat (government-run legal camps), the community submitted multiple applications to the Sub District Magistrate demanding a decision on the road. Hanuman Gujjar submitted an application threatening to commit suicide if the matter was not resolved in 8 days. “On 8th August 2015, we got our road,” says Hanuman. The threat had convinced the landowners to part with a section of their farms.
The new road had made a remarkable difference to the lives of the community. It is evident as they beam at the camera, praising Hanuman for his dogged determination. The story is an inspiring example of not being bound by physical limitations.
Video by Community Correspondent Poonam Verman
Article by Kayonaaz Kalyanwala, a member of the VV editorial team