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The New York Times: “India’s Barefoot Lawyers”

In the August 8th copy of the New York Times,  Pulitzer Prize-winning writer TINA ROSENBERG captured the work of paralegals working for environmental justice in India. An Excerpt follows below. The full Article CAN BE READ here.

Mahabaleshwar Hegde, left, and Maruti Gouda, center, speak with Devidas Gouda, vice-president of the clam collectors union, in Karnataka State, India. Photo: Aubrey Wade/Namati

BOGRIBAIL, India — A David and Goliath story: Two years ago, a road-construction company called IRB Infrastructure Developers established an open-air factory just across a path, and upwind, from this village in Karnataka State, in southwestern India. Here stone-crushing machines pulverize piles of rocks while other machines mix crushed stone with hot tar, cement and chemicals.

It is monsoon season, when heavy rains shut down the machines for long stretches and tamp down the dust. When I visited on July 29, the air seemed fine. But the rest of the year the machines work 16 to 18 hours per day, swathing the village in the fine dust of crushed stone.

Just outside the factory fence — which is low and porous, meant to keep people out, not to keep dust in — I met Ravi Gouda, one of the villagers most active in trying to stop the pollution. He transports goods by rickshaw for a living, and like everyone in the village, he is also a farmer.

Bogribail residents grow rice and trees: cashew, banana, coconut and mango. Ravi Gouda said the dust has hindered the flowering of the trees, damaging the harvests. It also has contaminated the villages’ open wells.

And the dust does who-knows-what to the lungs of the 250 people who live there. We will never know the extent of harm, since no one can afford to travel to, let alone see, a specialist. One building closest to the plant is a nursery school.

Until recently, Bogribail had been asking IRB and government officials for compensation for these problems, and had gotten nothing. Villagers did not ask IRB or the government to stop or diminish the pollution, because they didn’t know that the factory’s practices violated numerous regulations.

Then Maruti Gouda took the case.

To read the rest of the article on the New York Times’ website, click here.

August 9, 2017 | Namati

Region: India