In Rajasthan, a visually impaired man puts his life on the line to get a concrete road built.
Video Volunteers (VV) runs India’s only reporting network that’s focused exclusively on providing broad coverage from the poorest, most media-dark districts in India. We currently have 206 individuals trained across India’s most diverse and marginalised communities, who all earn a living as a VVCommunity Correspondent (CC). Our goal is to grow our network to ensure India’s poorest and most conflict-ridden districts have a video producer and news outlet.
“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.
As the clock ticks and the day starts ending, the only thing on the mind of every woman is to rush home. From literally sprinting to informing of their location every minute to the family members, women do it all. All this for just one reason – it’s not safe to be outside after the sun sets. If by chance there is even a slight delay, the family also starts fretting.
Why is being outside after a certain time considered to be unsafe? Well, the answer can be found in the question itself. It is because, as it starts getting darker, lesser women step out and hence roads are perceived to be unsafe.
Volvo beautifully addressed this via a video, set at the background of a popular old Hindi song, showing three women and sending out a simple message that more the women on the streets, more safer it will become. This video struck a chord among a lot of people, especially women who could identify with it.
Volvo, in a bid to encourage women to step out and reclaim their city spaces, organised a night walk. Mumbai Night Walk which was organised by Volvo under the #MakeYourCitySafe initiative in association with CrossBow Miles invited all the women to participate in a great number
The mood for the symbolic march, which was held on May 19, was set up right at the beginning of event with some soul-stirring music and talks by various artists who champion the cause of equal rights for women.
In the final leg of the movement, which was the midnight walk itself was joined by Srishti Bakshi, founder and campaign champion of CrossBow Miles, who also holds a unique feat of walking 3,800 km from Kanyakumari to Srinagar in 230 days for raising awareness for women empowerment through financial and digital literacy. She is of a strong opinion that small steps lead to bigger changes. Problems like misogyny and gender stereotyping cannot change overnight and only sustained efforts towards completely removing them can bring change.
Bakshi joined the enthusiastic crowd of women marchers who walked from High Street Phoenix to Mahalaxmi Racecourse. The event had performances by spoken word poet Simar Singh, singer Abhilasha Sinha, singer-songwriter Aarifah Rebello, rapper Sofia Ashraf and award-winning singer Rekha Bharadwaj. The event saw some really acclaimed personalities like Sushmita Sen and Dia Mirza in attendance too.
This is not the first time that such a night march is being organised by CrossBow Miles. Earlier too, public night walks were organised in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Gwalior and New Delhi which were attended by 200-15,000 people in each city.
The Logical Indian congratulates Volvo on the grand success of their initiate #MakeYourCitySafe. We also hope that women leave their apprehension behind and unitedly reclaim their city spaces.