As we usher in a new year, we take a look back at some of the exciting stories our grassroots reporters helped bring to light in the past twelve months – from bitcoin robberies in small towns to Assam’s flood victims being given a burial in the very waters that killed them, these stories are startling, touching, inspiring, sad and funny.
A Bunty and Babli-style crime played out in a nondescript Uttar Pradesh town recently. Only there was no Babli to help this Bunty. Sandeep Chaturvedi, alias Bunty, a notorious criminal who has cancer and is reportedly mentally unstable, was arrested on the charge of looting Bitcoins worth about Rs 25 lakh from a local businessman at gunpoint.
An institution that saw its birth with the encouragement that India’s first president gave a fellow Bihari to make a film in their own language, Bhojpuri films today have travelled far from their cultural roots into the territory of sleaze, loud music and violence. How did this transition happen?
With more than 1.14 lakh villages, 61 districts and three states — Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim — having been declared open defecation free (ODF) across India under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the sanitation achievement no longer calls for tom-tomming. But, Kapasi village in Balod district of Chhattisgarh, which was declared the first ODF village in the district, deserves to be talked about as it has done things differently. The village has taken the help of CCTV cameras to stop people from defecating in the open.
Meet Surat Singh (60), a resident of Gajuwala village in Haryana’s Fatehabad district. For the last 20 years, he has been buying a train ticket every single day. Not because he needs to travel for work, but merely to keep the lone railway station in his area alive. In 1996-97, the railway authorities had decided to shut the railway station owing to low ticket sales. That’s when Singh learnt about a government rule that says a railway station shall be kept active so long as it meets the minimum requirement of ticket sales. Since that day, he religiously buys a ticket every day.
In Pokar, an Uttar Pradesh village situated 32 kilometres away from Taj Mahal, Muslim households have no option but to bury their dead in their compound. The Muslims are a minority in this village and don’t have a burial ground, despite repeated pleas to the government. Occasionally, heavy rain washes away the land above the graves and exposes the corpse. There are children who had been traumatised since stumbling upon such a sight and haven’t recovered for years now. Owing to their predicament, the Muslims not only live with dead but also face boycott from the villagers.