A common man who has the zeal and determination to change the world shall face several odds, but eventually will find his way to the zenith. The saying ‘Never to underestimate the power of common man’ fits perfectly on the renowned social worker and environmentalist, Ramesh Agarwal.
Since the inception and birth of human beings, the wealthy have always exploited the weak and poor. Ramesh Agarwal faced the same, but he did not let them capitalize him, and instead, fought bravely and emerged victorious. Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, one of the largest steel producers of India had proposed a coal mining project in the Indian state of Chattisgarh without taking into account the hazards of the mining activity. The Jindals, without conducting any surveys and holding public hearings, had submitted false reports to the environment ministry to get the clearance. The largest coal mining project even got a clearance from the ministry. The project also violated several environmental laws.
It is a well-known fact that mining activities claim innocent lives and affect nearby surroundings. Those companies, involved in profit making, hardly care about the society and the laws of the land. When Ramesh Agarwal, the owner of an Internet café in Raigarh, Chattisgarh, came to know about the coal mining project and found out that the local people are unaware of it, he decided to take a stern step. Within no time, he formed an NGO with the name ‘Jan Chetna’ for the protection and the conservation of the environment and its resources.
Ramesh Agarwal, with his volunteers of Jan Chetna organization, held several public meetings with the villagers and made them aware of the rules and regulations and their right and laws that need to be followed. The villagers immediately demanded the coal mining project to be abandoned, realizing the detrimental effects it would bring alongside. On behalf of the native villagers, Ramesh Agarwal filed a petition and several pleas for the right to information. The local villagers demanded an inquiry into the massive Jindal project. The Forest Law Act and Right to Information exposed the scams and frauds in the region that were going on since ages. Later, investigations by the concerned authorities found the Jindal mining project to be violating several environmental laws and the submission of fake Environment Impact Assessment. Due to the work of Jan Chetna, Ramesh Agarwal made several enemies for himself. As a result, false cases were filed against him and he was jailed for more than 2 years without any bail.
The National Green Tribunal which was established in the year 2010 to hear cases related to environment canceled the environmental clearance of the project. The Jindal Group, irritated with the constant defeats and abandoning of the project, decided to take revenge from Ramesh Agarwal. He was shot in the thigh and near the groin area and was left to die. However, he survived the attack. But unfortunately, the attackers are still absconding and justice hasn’t been delivered.
Ramesh Agarwal, the man behind the shutdown of one of the largest coal mines of Chhattisgarh, is not only recognized in India but also globally. For his indomitable efforts and exemplary work, he was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, better known as the Green Nobel Prize. Ramesh Agarwal is an epitome of what a common man can do if he strives hard to make impossible possible.