Agrawal was shot in the groin area and legs by the guards of a steel company in Raigad whose project he was opposing vociferously
Ramesh Agrawal, an environmental activist from Raigarh district in Chhattisgarh, who received Goldman Environmental prize on Monday in the United States, can't wear trousers.
Owner of a small internet cafe in Raigad, the activist has six metal rods and discs attached to his lower body for support and wears a lungi.
“In July 2012, Agrawal was shot in the groin area and legs by the guards of a steel company in Raigad whose project he was opposing vociferously,” claimed Amit Tripathi, an activist himself, and a close associate of Mr.Agrawal.
Much before he was shot, Mr. Agrawal was jailed for 72 days in 2010 and was released after Supreme Court granted him bail.
“He was falsely implicated in a case of blackmail,” claims Mr. Agrawal’s younger son Dhananjay.
Mr.Agrawal and his associates have been fighting the mining lobby since 2001 for preservation of “Jal, Jangal, Zamin” (water, forests, land) of Raigad district. They call themselves, ‘Jan Chetna Raigad’, an organisation which remains unregistered to date.
Using the Right to Information Act, which came into existence in 2005, Mr. Agrawal extracted details of mining projects proposed in Raigad area.
“Through the RTI, we got to know that a project of Jindal Steel proposed in Raigad area, had (allegedly) violated many environmental guidelines. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not being followed,” recalls Mr.Tripathi.
The group led by Mr.Agrawal appealed in the National Green Tribunal (NBT) in 2008 against the proposed Jindal 2400 megawatt project in Raigad. The project was denied clearance in 2011 and the company is still trying to get approval.
“Even before the big attempt on his life, there were many legal cases slapped on Mr.Agrawal by the Jindal group. His house was attacked thrice,” claimed Mr.Tripathi.
When asked for his reaction Mr.Suyash Shukla, of Jindal Steel and Power, refused to comment saying he was not “authorised” to react on this. Mr.Shukla’s senior colleagues could not be reached for their reaction.
“It feels good. At least the people who are after his life will now understand that my father was not alone in this battle,” said Mr.Dhananjay on his father getting the Goldman Environmental Prize which recognizes "individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk".
Mr. Agrawal will receive an award of $150,000 and will be viewed among the “grassroots” leaders as those involved in local efforts, where “positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them”.
Through recognizing these individual leaders, the prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.