India Tropic of Cancer


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India

Simon Reeve continues his epic journey. In India, Simon travels from the coast of Gujarat in the west to Kolkata in the east, via Bhopal and Gandhi's home town of Ahmedabad.


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'The Tropic of Cancer marks the northern border of the tropics,

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'the most beautiful, brilliant, and blighted region of the world.

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'My previous tropical adventures have already taken me

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'around the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn,

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'but this journey will be my toughest yet.

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'I'm following the Tropic of Cancer through Mexico, the Caribbean,

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'North Africa, India

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'and on through Asia to finish in Hawaii.

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'It's 23,000 miles across deserts, rivers, and mountains.

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'I encounter extraordinary people,

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'forgotten conflicts and some of the most stunning landscapes on our planet.

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'This fourth leg of my journey will take me across northern India.

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'I'm travelling almost 1,500 miles

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'across rarely visited areas of this vast country.

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'It's a land of deep religious faiths...

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'...but also violent political insurgency.

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'I experience the chaos of India's teeming cities.'

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Oh, my God! Oh, my God!

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'I take a dip with a national treasure.'

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Aaaargh!

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'And of course, I sample a few local delicacies.

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-So I've got to suck out the eye?

-Yeah.

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I've arrived on the west coast of India,

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and I'm starting another leg of my journey around the Tropic of Cancer.

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I've never been to India before, I'm hugely excited about being here,

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and one thing's already becoming clear to me - in a country this size,

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with a population of more than a billion people,

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it's going to be an exciting journey.

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Just looking at the dark clouds up there.

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We've arrived in India just as the monsoon rains are about to break.

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Haven't yet, but any day now.

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'The Tropic of Cancer hits India in the northwestern state of Gujarat.

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'I headed inland with my local guide, Amit Vachharajani.'

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We're on the road, racing to catch a train

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that hopefully is going to take us into one of India's two deserts.

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Only problem is, we're running quite late and we haven't got any tickets.

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'We arrived at the station just as the train was due to depart.

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HE SPEAKS IN DIALECT

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Thank you very much!

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ANNOUNCEMENT OVER TANNOY

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Thank you.

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'We'd made it with seconds to spare.

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'Like everything in India, the national rail network can be a little crowded.

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'Each year it carries more than six billion passengers,

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'roughly equivalent to the population of the entire world.'

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So, Amit, we're heading towards the Little Rann now.

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What exactly is the Little Rann?

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Rann is the word for "desert" in India.

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It's not like a sandy desert, like in Africa.

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It's a dry, marshy land, which once used to be green

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and it's now very hard and marshy.

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-But the monsoon is expected...

-Any day now.

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And how is that going to affect us on our journey across the north of India?

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Traffic jams, waterlogging, floods.

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-Have you brought your umbrella?

-Yes.

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-You have?

-Yeah, yeah.

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Don't travel without one.

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-At this time of year?

-Yeah.

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'The Rann of Kutch is a salty clay desert right on the Tropic of Cancer.

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'Covering 10,000 square miles, it's a threatened wilderness.

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'We were hoping to make it to the Rann and see some of its unique wildlife...

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'...before monsoon rains transform the whole area into a vast muddy swamp.

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'We stopped on the edge of the desert

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'to meet the Maliks, who were once the local royal family

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'and the rulers of this area until just a few decades ago.'

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ENGINE STARTS

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Ah!

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'Dhanraj Malik now manages his family's land

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'and has become a passionate conservationist.'

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So we're heading out to explore with Dhanraj here.

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Dhanraj, who is a local... What would you...?

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You look like a desert warrior.

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-Desert warrior!

-But an ecowarrior as well.

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Yes.

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'We'd come here hoping to see one of the rarest creatures in the world -

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'the Indian wild ass, close relative of the horse.

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'They're a gravely endangered animal

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'and this desert is home to the last viable population.

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'They're shy creatures and well camouflaged,

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'but a practised eye can spot them.'

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-Asses?

-Yes, yes. No, not these.

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Further down.

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Oh, my goodness! Right, yes.

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So they're about 500 metres away, in the distance,

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so we'll see if we can creep up on them and get a little bit closer.

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(So they're only about 25... 25 metres in front of us.)

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'It was a privilege to be so close to such a rare and beautiful creature.

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'They've never been domesticated and they don't thrive in captivity,

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'so there are none in any zoos.

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'The small herds in this desert are the last hope for the survival of this animal.'

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If you see, there is a stallion there, on the extreme right.

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He's very, very distinguishable because you see he's become very chocolaty brown.

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Stallion could have anything between, like, 20 females -

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mares, as they are known - to 80 mares.

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So... But at some times, then, he'll have a harem?

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A harem, like this one.

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This is a harem.

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Last year there was a stallion that had 82 mares with him,

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but for a short time,

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for about 15, 20 days,

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and then most of the mares left and then he was left with about 30 mares.

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Well, I'm sure he was still happy with that, but...!

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DHANRAJ CHUCKLES

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'But the wild ass is under attack from all sides.

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'Commercial salt farms are eating away at the desert,

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'and pollution is damaging their habitat.

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'Poachers also kill them for food.

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'But at the root of the problem

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'is India's enormous and rapidly growing population.'

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TRAIN HORN BLARES

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'We were leaving the quiet of the desert and heading along the Tropic of Cancer

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'towards busy Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat.

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'This city of more than five million people is where Mahatma Gandhi

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'led his campaign against the British, resulting in independence in 1947.

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'For most of the following half century, India's economy stagnated

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'and its giant population was locked in poverty.

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'But in the last 20 years, things have started to change.

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'The economy's taken off, and across India,

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'there's been an explosion of consumer culture.

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'Yet despite images of booming India,

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'hundreds of millions here still live in abject poverty.'

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So we're now on a bridge in the middle of busy Ahmedabad,

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and just down here, this...

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I mean, this strikes me as the contradictions of modern India.

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You've got people living in a proper slum, really,

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and then just over here, you've got a fairly fancy hotel.

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I don't know how you square these two,

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because this is a country with a space programme,

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and yet you've still got so many people living in extreme poverty.

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I wonder what... I wonder what Gandhi would make of it?

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He would like that everybody had the same levels of progress, but this is how...

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The extremities are too much.

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There's too much disparity of wealth.

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It's just starting to rain now.

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Not too heavily yet, but do you think this is it?

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Do you think this is the start of the monsoon?

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Yes, yes, yes.

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So it begins now. The downpour begins!

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Just wait!

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-Uh-oh...

-Oh, dear, and at the same time

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there's just been a crash on the other side of the road.

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Two people have come off their motorcycles. Honestly, I'm...

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-TYRES SCREECH

-Oh, my God! Oh, my God!

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Oh, my God!

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What the hell?

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This is absolute chaos.

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I've never seen anything like that.

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It's like the rain arrives...

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Bizarrest sight I've seen in my life.

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It doesn't look as though people have been badly injured.

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They've come off their bikes but they were travelling at a fairly slow speed.

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This is such a frenetic city that life just goes on.

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'The monsoon hadn't yet started in earnest,

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'and the next day, we took a local taxi to explore a bit more of the city.

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'Gandhi's vision for India was based on tolerance,

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'but since independence,

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'India has been wracked by religious conflict and violence,

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'particularly between Hindus and India's 160 million Muslims.

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'Gandhi's home city has not been spared, even in the last few years.'

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Can you explain to us what happened here in 2002, I think it was?

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Not very far from here, there was a train going with a lot of Hindu pilgrims,

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and a compartment was set on fire, allegedly by a group of Muslim people,

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and as a form of revenge,

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there were attacks on all the Muslims in Ahmedabad.

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A lot of people got killed - arson, rape, murders. It was horrible here.

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'In rioting and horrific massacres that followed the train fire,

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'more than 1,000 people - mostly Muslims - were killed,

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'and up to 200,000 were made homeless.

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'Not surprisingly, there's still tension between the Hindu majority

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'and the Muslim minority in Ahmedabad.

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'But there are also organisations working to build bridges

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'between the communities and prevent further violence.'

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So, Amit, where have you brought us to now?

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We're going to the office of SEWA, that's the organisation

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which is doing a lot of work for communal harmony in this area.

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OK. Bringing the communities together?

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'SEWA is a national women's rights organisation.

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'It runs courses here to bring children from the two communities together.'

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Welcome. Hello. Salaam alaikum.

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CHILDREN OFFER GREETING

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Aw, hello, everybody! So what's happening?

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Drawing competition, OK!

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'Many of these children had parents who were killed during the riots.

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'Ten-year-old Arbaz Bani, on the left here, lost his father, a rickshaw driver.

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'He's become quiet, withdrawn, and suffers from nightmares and insomnia.'

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Hello, sir.

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Hello, sir.

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You have to hold your hand out and I have to go...like that, and then you go...

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Yay!

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'Manali Shah is one of the senior organisers of SEWA in Ahmedabad.'

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So Manali, what's the purpose of getting the children here

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together for the... for the art class?

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We don't want to isolate them in the society,

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so this is the peace centre

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where all the children come, from different community,

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they sit together, they learn, they laugh, they enjoy,

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they do this type of paintings and they come out from this trauma.

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Do you really think that's possible?

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Do you think you can draw them out from the trauma that they're living in?

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Yes, yes, this is our... This is our experience, so yeah.

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Look at this!

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-What are you drawing?

-Elephant!

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Elephant! It's very good, sir.

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Very well done.

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And Arbaz, you've drawn... That's a beautiful house.

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Very impressive. Well done!

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'Arbaz is still traumatised by his father's violent death,

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'and despite the efforts of organisations like SEWA,

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'tensions between the different religious groups remain a major problem in India.'

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So we're just leaving the city of Ahmedabad now, and we're heading east.

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We're leaving the state of Gujarat, actually,

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and we're going to...

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The next place we're going to is Madhya Pradesh,

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and we're aiming for a city... a Hindu holy city called Ujjain.

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'It was a drive of about 200 miles from Ahmedabad,

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'through India's rural heartland, to Ujjain,

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'which lies right on the Tropic of Cancer.

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'Throughout the state,

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'farmers were busy preparing for the arrival of the monsoon rains.

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'Nearly three-quarters of India's population

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'is entirely dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

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'Despite its recent economic boom,

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'I was surprised that India still has little in the way

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'of modern infrastructure, like irrigation projects.

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'Most farmers are totally reliant on the seasonal rains.

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'If the monsoon is even a few days late, the effects can be disastrous.

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'And the monsoon was running late,

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'but at least it was raining in fits and starts.'

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The farmers here will be relieved.

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HE CHUCKLES

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We don't really think twice about it in Britain, do we?

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But when you live in a dry, parched land, every drop matters.

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'Most Indians are Hindus, and this is one of their seven holiest cities.

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'Ujjain draws pilgrims from across the country,

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'a reminder of how fundamental religion is to Indian life.

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'My guide on this leg of the journey was Tania Sohal.'

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You know, there's a saying about Ujjain -

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if you're carrying a sack of rice, and even if you give one rice at each temple,

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you'll still fall short of the amount of rice to give,

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because there's just so much here,

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I mean, there's just so many places of worship and so many shrines, and it's...

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-So many temples in this town?

-Yeah.

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We're heading towards the Mahakal temple,

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which is one of the most, er, hugest, largest,

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most important temples of Ujjain.

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Mahakal is basically another manifestation of Shiva...

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-Shiva? OK.

-Yeah, Lord of Destruction.

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-So, one of the several Hindu gods.

-Yeah, one of the...

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-But one of the main...

-Yeah, one of the main.

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He is like one of the main among the trinity.

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Wow.

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What an... What an... What a haven.

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It's beautiful.

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What a fantastic place.

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Is that where we're going?

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Yeah, that's where we're going to be going.

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There's a general air of expectation

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and we think we're going to be allowed into the holiest area,

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closest to the...to the deity,

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that's at the front of the temple.

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BELL RINGING

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Tania, what is it that's being venerated, do you know?

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That's the Shivalingam.

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Among the 12 most sacred lingams.

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There's lingams everywhere, but this is among the 12 most sacred ones.

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OK.

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'The origin and symbolic meaning of the lingam is a matter of debate,

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'but it's central to Hindu worship.

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'There are nearly a billion Hindus in India alone,

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'making Hinduism the world's third-largest religion.

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'And in India, at least,

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'Hinduism has become one of the most powerful political forces.'

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In the last couple of decades, there's been a rise in, um,

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Hindu nationalism, really,

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and generally it's been quite harmless, but there's a dark side to it as well.

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'I wanted to meet members of one of the most powerful

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'and secretive Hindu nationalist organisations - the RSS.

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'They might look harmless enough,

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'even a bit like Boy Scouts in their baggy shorts,

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'but the RSS has been notorious

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'since a former member assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.'

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THEY SING

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'Since Gandhi's murder, the RSS has been accused of involvement

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'in some of the bloodiest religious violence to afflict India,

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'though its leaders deny this.

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'Currently thought to have anything up to ten million members,

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'it's one of the largest organisations in the world,

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'with increasing influence and power across India.'

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WHISTLE BLOWS

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'RSS leaders only allowed us to film part of the meeting,

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'but seeing religious nationalism combined with paramilitary-style organisation

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'left me feeling uneasy

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'about future relations between India's different religions.'

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After you.

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Following the Tropic of Cancer east from Ujjain,

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'Tania and I made our way towards a place

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'that was etched into my memory when I was young -

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'the city of Bhopal.'

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Sorry.

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OK.

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So we're just rolling out of the station now.

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It's 12 minutes past two, we're bang on...

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-bang on schedule, very impressive.

-I know, miracles do happen!

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TRAIN HORN BLARES

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'For me, like most people,

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'this place will be forever associated with just one terrible event.'

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So we're just driving through the very congested and polluted streets of Bhopal.

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We're on our way to the factory, the pesticide factory,

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that was the scene of one of the world's worst industrial accidents.

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HORN BLARES

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'In December 1984, I vividly remember hearing the dreadful news

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'that a cloud of poisonous gas had leaked from a factory here,

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'blanketing this city and killing between four and ten thousand people.'

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Yeah, this is the factory right here.

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'Union Carbide, the American owners of the factory,

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'were blamed for the disaster,

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'and Indian courts ordered the firm to pay compensation.

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'The amount was a fraction of what they'd have paid

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'if the victims had been Americans.

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'The company has since been bought by another US firm, Dow Chemicals.'

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My God, look at this.

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'I was amazed to discover that the factory is still largely intact

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'and the site has never been properly cleaned up.

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'Tota Ram Chauhan used to work at the factory,

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'but he now campaigns on behalf of the victims of the disaster.

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'He told me that, even before the gas leak,

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'toxic waste used to be routinely dumped in the factory grounds.'

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You say this is where they dumped a lot of the waste.

0:23:480:23:51

Is it still... Is it still hazardous, is it still dangerous today?

0:23:510:23:55

Yes, yes. Still it is highly dangerous for our underground water.

0:23:550:23:59

For the underground water supply of the people in the area?

0:23:590:24:03

-Of this area.

-Oh, my God.

0:24:030:24:06

There's... There's goats grazing here.

0:24:070:24:09

This is where about 93% of benzene hexachloride...

0:24:160:24:21

-It's what, sorry?

-Benzene hexachloride, like DDT.

0:24:210:24:25

-DDT?

-Yeah, like DDT.

0:24:250:24:28

You got the smell?

0:24:280:24:30

You can actually smell a chemic...

0:24:300:24:33

the chemical smell leaching off what appears to be rock,

0:24:330:24:37

what appears to be rocky ground.

0:24:370:24:38

Oh, God, it's really... It's actually really strong. Can you smell it?

0:24:380:24:42

Yeah, I can. Extraordinary. SIMON COUGHS

0:24:420:24:46

-IN TRANSLATION:

-You see those houses over there?

0:24:460:24:50

This is their back yard. It's all contaminated.

0:24:500:24:53

When it rains, these pools overflow and all the water gets contaminated.

0:24:530:24:58

-SIMON:

-So you're saying that the toxic waste has seeped...

0:24:580:25:02

into the ground here, it's seeped into the ground water?

0:25:020:25:06

'Several studies have found high levels of mercury

0:25:110:25:14

'and other toxic substances in the ground water here,

0:25:140:25:17

'which is the main source of drinking water for local people.

0:25:170:25:20

'As a result, toxins have worked their way into people's bodies,

0:25:200:25:23

'and even been found in the breast milk of local mothers.

0:25:230:25:27

'More than 25 years after the Bhopal gas leak,

0:25:270:25:32

'this is still a disaster area.'

0:25:320:25:34

I mean, one thing that does really surprise me about the site here

0:25:380:25:42

is just how close people are living to the contaminated area,

0:25:420:25:49

the proximity of the... the slum, basically.

0:25:490:25:52

I mean, you can see the kids behind us here.

0:25:520:25:55

For them, this is their... this is their local park.

0:25:550:25:59

'There's a well-trodden path from the contaminated site into the slum.'

0:26:030:26:08

So we've been told about a, um...

0:26:100:26:12

a young...well, teenage girl around here

0:26:120:26:16

who's become quite an active campaigner on behalf of the people who live here.

0:26:160:26:22

We're just trying to find out where she is.

0:26:220:26:24

'The sad reality is that people here are still suffering.

0:26:260:26:30

'Campaigners believe the contamination of the water supply

0:26:300:26:33

'has created a whole new second generation of victims.'

0:26:330:26:36

-And this is where Sarita lives.

-Just here?

0:26:360:26:40

Yeah. Hello!

0:26:400:26:43

THEY SPEAK IN DIALECT

0:26:430:26:47

Hi, Sarita. Hi. Namaste. Simon.

0:26:470:26:49

-Simon, this is Sarita.

-Lovely to meet you.

0:26:490:26:51

-Hello.

-Hello, hello.

0:26:510:26:53

Nice to meet you.

0:26:530:26:54

'Sarita Malviya, who is just 16,

0:26:540:26:56

'wasn't even born at the time of the original Bhopal disaster.

0:26:560:27:01

'But now she travels the world,

0:27:010:27:03

'campaigning on behalf of the new victims of Bhopal.'

0:27:030:27:07

How did you come to be... How did your family come to be living here?

0:27:070:27:10

SPEAKS IN DIALECT

0:27:100:27:14

-IN TRANSLATION:

-My family weren't directly affected by the Bhopal disaster.

0:27:140:27:18

We only moved here eight years ago.

0:27:180:27:21

When we came here,

0:27:260:27:27

we weren't aware that the water had been polluted by Union Carbide.

0:27:270:27:30

Within a year, we realised that people here had all sorts of illnesses -

0:27:350:27:39

headaches and nausea, irritation of the skin and eyes.

0:27:390:27:43

And there were children being born with all sorts of deformities,

0:27:510:27:54

with their fingers stuck together, with harelips and completely bald.

0:27:540:27:59

So I wondered why all this was happening here

0:28:030:28:05

and not where we used to live.

0:28:050:28:07

What do you want the Indian government to do? What do you want to happen?

0:28:080:28:14

What I want is for the government

0:28:190:28:21

to bring the companies who are responsible for this to justice.

0:28:210:28:24

Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals

0:28:290:28:31

must be forced to take responsibility for cleaning up the mess,

0:28:310:28:35

for the sake of future generations in Bhopal.

0:28:350:28:38

'Union Carbide says it found no evidence of ground-water pollution

0:28:420:28:46

'when the site was handed over to the Indian state in 1998,

0:28:460:28:50

'and that it now has no responsibility for what happens here.

0:28:500:28:53

'But it's incredible that, 25 years since the disaster,

0:28:530:28:57

'neither the chemical firms nor the Indian government have cleaned up this site

0:28:570:29:00

'to protect future generations.

0:29:000:29:02

'The monsoon still hadn't arrived,

0:29:100:29:12

'and Bhopal's main lake had shrunk to a quarter of its normal size.

0:29:120:29:16

'But the next morning, the monsoon clouds were gathering in earnest.'

0:29:190:29:22

Guess what.

0:29:360:29:38

It's the monsoon!

0:29:380:29:40

It's like somebody's up there pouring buckets of water over the soil.

0:29:440:29:49

'The rain poured down, but only for a few hours.

0:29:550:29:59

'We set off from Bhopal,

0:29:590:30:01

'out into some of the most beautiful countryside in India.

0:30:010:30:05

'This state, Madhya Pradesh, is home to the forest

0:30:050:30:08

'where Rudyard Kipling set The Jungle Book.

0:30:080:30:11

'To enter the world of Mowgli and Shere Khan,

0:30:110:30:14

'we headed for Satpura National Park.'

0:30:140:30:16

It's a beautiful morning.

0:30:300:30:31

'Tania and I were up at dawn the next day, the best time to see wildlife

0:30:310:30:36

'before the heat builds up and the animals retreat into the shade of the forest.'

0:30:360:30:40

-Morning.

-Good morning.

0:30:400:30:41

This is Aditya, who'll be taking us into the, er... into the national park.

0:30:410:30:47

-Welcome to Satpura.

-Thank you very much indeed.

0:30:470:30:50

'The Tawa River forms a natural border around the park...

0:30:590:31:02

'..where our forest transport was waiting for us.'

0:31:060:31:08

-Have you ridden on elephants before?

-Yes. Long time ago, though.

0:31:080:31:13

-Long, long time ago?

-Long, long time ago.

0:31:130:31:16

-Morning.

-Hello.

0:31:160:31:18

Look at you.

0:31:180:31:21

You're amazing.

0:31:210:31:23

Can't quite believe we're going to get to do this.

0:31:240:31:27

So we go up here, I think.

0:31:270:31:28

'Travelling on an elephant offers the best chance of spotting wildlife in the park.'

0:31:310:31:35

-Yeah.

-OK. Here we go.

0:31:350:31:39

'Out here in this 200-square-mile park

0:31:460:31:49

'are tigers, leopards, four-horned antelope and wild boar.

0:31:490:31:55

'But I was content just to be carried around by the real king of the jungle.

0:31:550:31:59

'Just 20 minutes out of the camp, we spotted something moving among the trees.'

0:32:100:32:14

-What's that over there, Aditya?

-Those are sambas,

0:32:140:32:17

the biggest deers in this country and tigers' favourite food.

0:32:170:32:24

(So there could be a tiger lurking around,

0:32:270:32:30

(ready to...ready to snaffle one?

0:32:300:32:32

(That would be... That will be our luck.)

0:32:320:32:35

Such thick forest gives to tiger an opportunity to come close

0:32:350:32:39

but it is not actually very easy for it to...

0:32:390:32:43

for the tiger to rush through and...

0:32:430:32:45

'The Bengal tiger has traditionally been

0:32:470:32:49

'the major wildlife draw for tourists in India,

0:32:490:32:52

'but they've become increasingly difficult to spot,

0:32:520:32:56

'and during our time searching in the park, we didn't even get a fleeting glimpse.'

0:32:560:32:59

We're speeding up a bit now.

0:32:590:33:02

'After carrying us around on her back on a fruitless tiger hunt,

0:33:020:33:05

'it was time for Upkali the elephant to cool off.'

0:33:050:33:08

God! Looks like a submarine going into the water.

0:33:080:33:13

Yes!

0:33:140:33:16

Yeah, but you're supposed to scrub hard, by the way.

0:33:220:33:25

You have to use your...

0:33:250:33:27

-SIMON:

-Look, you! If you want to come and teach us, you get in the water.

0:33:270:33:30

OK. I'm not sure who's enjoying this most, actually.

0:33:320:33:35

Us or her.

0:33:350:33:37

I think it's probably us.

0:33:370:33:39

Ooooh!

0:33:480:33:50

That was uncalled for.

0:33:520:33:53

I think this is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done.

0:33:580:34:02

'For me, the elephants are the real attraction here,

0:34:020:34:06

'yet even these wonderful creatures

0:34:060:34:08

'are now seriously endangered as their habitat shrinks.

0:34:080:34:12

'As we were leaving the park,

0:34:120:34:13

'Aditya spotted some telltale marks on the road.'

0:34:130:34:16

So we're just driving along and Aditya spotted these pug marks here,

0:34:160:34:22

which are fresh marks as a tiger has padded this way.

0:34:220:34:27

The whole thing is well soaked in water, so it's...

0:34:270:34:31

But it has happened in the night,

0:34:310:34:33

because it had rained in the night, and so it's happened after it had rained.

0:34:330:34:38

'This paw print was the closest I would get to a tiger in the wild.

0:34:380:34:43

'They've become frighteningly rare.

0:34:430:34:45

'A recent census revealed that India's national parks

0:34:460:34:48

'had been overestimating the number of wild tigers for years.

0:34:480:34:52

'There are now thought to be just 1,400 left in the entire country.

0:34:520:34:57

'Tiger numbers have been decimated by relentless poaching

0:34:570:35:02

'and the destruction of their habitat by India's ever-increasing human population.

0:35:020:35:06

'India's now close to losing its national icon.

0:35:060:35:10

'We travelled on along the Tropic from Satpura

0:35:140:35:16

'to Ranchi in the Indian state of Jharkhand.

0:35:160:35:19

'From there, we would drive across the state border into West Bengal.'

0:35:200:35:24

HORN BLARES

0:35:310:35:34

Oh, they're coming up the wrong side of the road. What the hell?

0:35:340:35:37

It's raining.

0:35:430:35:44

And we're out dodging cars, trucks, buses and death on India's highways.

0:35:440:35:49

We're heading into something called the Red Corridor,

0:35:540:35:58

so-called because there's a major Maoist, or Communist, insurgency

0:35:580:36:03

raging in India's central states,

0:36:030:36:07

and this journey is going to take us into the heart of it.

0:36:070:36:11

'To take us into what has become a dangerous area,

0:36:150:36:18

'I'd arranged to meet a new local guide at a guesthouse

0:36:180:36:22

'just outside the town of Lalgarh, in West Bengal.'

0:36:220:36:25

Well driven, well driven.

0:36:270:36:29

Let's see...if Abhra is here for us.

0:36:290:36:34

-Abhra?

-Yeah.

0:36:340:36:36

-Abhra, hello!

-Hello. How are you?

0:36:360:36:38

-Hello, very nice to meet you.

-Nice meeting you...

0:36:380:36:40

Thanks for coming all the way out here to see us.

0:36:400:36:43

No, it's a pleasure.

0:36:430:36:45

'The conflict here is little known in the outside world,

0:36:450:36:49

'but there's been a recent upsurge in violence,

0:36:490:36:52

'as Maoist guerrillas have fought to capture this area.

0:36:520:36:56

'In response, the government has sent in thousands of soldiers

0:36:560:36:59

'to try to retake control.'

0:36:590:37:01

So, Abhra, what's really happening here? Is it...

0:37:040:37:07

Is it a revolt, is it a rebellion, or is it some sort of civil war?

0:37:070:37:12

I should give it a name as a civil war rather than calling it a revolt.

0:37:120:37:17

-It's as serious as that?

-Yeah, it's serious as that.

0:37:170:37:20

This side of the river is under government's control

0:37:240:37:27

and the other side is under the control of Maoist.

0:37:270:37:32

Now government have taken control of the villages just after the bridge,

0:37:320:37:37

-very recently.

-What, the last few days, then?

0:37:370:37:40

-Yeah, by last week.

-Good Lord.

0:37:400:37:43

'The Maoist rebels target the police and armed forces.

0:37:430:37:48

'They say they're fighting corruption on behalf of India's rural poor,

0:37:480:37:53

'but they've also killed innocent civilians.

0:37:530:37:55

'The Prime Minister has called them

0:37:550:37:57

'the biggest threat to India's internal security.'

0:37:570:38:01

So we're just coming up to a heavily armed roadblock.

0:38:010:38:04

THEY SPEAK IN DIALECT

0:38:070:38:12

-OK.

-OK.

0:38:160:38:18

'We'd arranged to meet some of the advance troops

0:38:180:38:21

'who'd just moved into the area to retake it for the government.

0:38:210:38:24

'Soldiers from the Border Security Force are clearing bombs,

0:38:240:38:28

'mines and booby traps,

0:38:280:38:31

'and opening up the roads for other troops who will follow.'

0:38:310:38:34

So, those are the vests we have to wear?

0:38:340:38:36

Yeah, because we are going in the front line with them.

0:38:360:38:40

'We were allowed to accompany a detachment on patrol,

0:38:470:38:50

'Indian soldiers ready for war in the Indian countryside.'

0:38:500:38:54

From what we can tell, they've found some sort of suspicious package

0:38:540:38:58

or they're suspicious of something by the side of the...of the track,

0:38:580:39:01

and this is one of the weapons

0:39:010:39:04

that the Maoists have used against the authorities here,

0:39:040:39:07

against the police and the... the army.

0:39:070:39:09

They've used, basically, roadside bombs, um...

0:39:090:39:12

to kill members of the security services.

0:39:120:39:16

DOG BARKS

0:39:160:39:19

-Abhra...

-You have to stop.

0:39:240:39:27

'Just days before, these men had uncovered and safely defused

0:39:270:39:32

'two large roadside bombs.'

0:39:320:39:34

(What's he saying?

0:39:340:39:36

(He must have spotted something suspicious.)

0:39:360:39:38

INDISTINCT

0:39:380:39:40

Anything can go wrong at any moment.

0:39:450:39:47

'It was a false alarm, but the threat can come from any direction.

0:39:530:39:58

They don't know which villager is a part of Maoist troop and which is not.

0:39:580:40:04

They don't know who's the fighter and who's the farmer.

0:40:040:40:07

Yeah.

0:40:070:40:08

'With every villager a possible rebel, the police and army

0:40:100:40:13

'mount constant operations to search surrounding villages,

0:40:130:40:16

'creating huge resentment among locals.

0:40:160:40:19

'Human rights groups have criticised the government reaction to the insurgency,

0:40:220:40:27

'and identified numerous cases

0:40:270:40:28

'where the police have beaten and even killed suspects.'

0:40:280:40:31

I don't know if we're going to fit down there.

0:40:310:40:34

'We'd been advised to visit a place called Madhapur

0:40:360:40:38

'to get the view of locals caught in the middle.'

0:40:380:40:41

We're certainly not going to fit down there!

0:40:410:40:44

'The road runs out about a mile before the village.

0:40:460:40:49

'So we walked into a world where wooden ploughs are made by hand...

0:40:530:40:57

'..and I met one of the village elders.'

0:40:590:41:01

I was trying to understand what's happened here.

0:41:030:41:05

Everybody seems to be living here now,

0:41:050:41:07

but our understanding is that you all left the village for a period of time.

0:41:070:41:12

What happened here?

0:41:120:41:13

SPEAKS IN DIALECT

0:41:130:41:17

-IN TRANSLATION:

-When we saw the police coming the first time,

0:41:190:41:22

we locked up our houses and ran away.

0:41:220:41:24

When we heard they'd left, we came back.

0:41:240:41:28

But gradually things got worse.

0:41:280:41:31

The police would raid our houses in the middle of the night,

0:41:350:41:39

break down the door, wake up us at 4am and ask,

0:41:390:41:42

"Who's in charge?" "Who are you?" "What are you doing?"

0:41:420:41:47

They would also turn our houses upside down. This is what they did.

0:41:470:41:52

It scared us, so we left the village again.

0:41:520:41:54

'There's no evidence anyone here is helping the Maoists.

0:41:560:42:00

'But with little help from the government and harassment by the local police,

0:42:000:42:05

'it's perhaps not entirely surprising

0:42:050:42:07

'some villagers in this area are supporting the rebels.'

0:42:070:42:10

What does the government do for you?

0:42:100:42:12

Where... Where do your little ones go to school?

0:42:120:42:16

Where's your... Where's your nearest health care?

0:42:160:42:18

Are there any health care centres around here?

0:42:180:42:21

We're not getting anything from the government.

0:42:240:42:27

There are two health centres about five miles away,

0:42:270:42:30

but there are no doctors there.

0:42:300:42:33

There's no public water supply in our village, only private wells.

0:42:330:42:39

The road is only half-built, and not by the government.

0:42:420:42:45

The village council had to raise the money

0:42:450:42:48

and the villagers did all the work themselves.

0:42:480:42:50

'More than 600 million Indians still live in this type of rural poverty.

0:42:560:43:01

'These are the people who have been left behind by India's economic boom.

0:43:010:43:05

'Life here has hardly changed for centuries.'

0:43:050:43:08

It's very depressing, I think, because what...

0:43:110:43:13

The problems you see played out in that village

0:43:130:43:17

are really the problems of India as a whole.

0:43:170:43:21

You know, the state, sadly,

0:43:210:43:24

does not provide so many of the basic things that people need -

0:43:240:43:29

primary education, primary school education, health care and fresh water.

0:43:290:43:34

They've got none of this.

0:43:340:43:36

'It was time for the final leg of my Indian journey along the Tropic of Cancer...

0:43:450:43:50

'..to the city of Kolkata.

0:43:510:43:53

'We took India's biggest and newest road -

0:43:540:43:58

'the rather grandly named Golden Quadrilateral highway.

0:43:580:44:00

'Designed to push India's economy into overdrive,

0:44:050:44:08

'the 3,500-mile-long dual carriageway links the country's major cities.

0:44:080:44:13

'It was the first really impressive bit of government-provided infrastructure

0:44:130:44:18

'I'd seen in the country.

0:44:180:44:19

'But, for a motorway, it had some unusual travellers.'

0:44:190:44:22

There's a bloke up ahead just strolling across the motorway,

0:44:240:44:27

there's another guy on a cycle

0:44:270:44:28

carrying some... maybe sacks of potatoes or something, I don't know.

0:44:280:44:32

Just here there are some goats and cattle in the middle of the motorway.

0:44:320:44:38

But you can see, look, people getting onto the bus here on the motorway

0:44:400:44:44

and they're climbing onto the roof of it.

0:44:440:44:46

'Kolkata, Abhra's home town, is one of the biggest cities in the entire tropics,

0:45:000:45:06

'with a population of more than 15 million.

0:45:060:45:09

-So, Abhra, we've arrived in your city.

-Exactly.

0:45:160:45:20

I love Kolkata.

0:45:200:45:22

Kolkata has a character, you'll see.

0:45:220:45:24

'Under British rule,

0:45:260:45:27

'this was called Calcutta, and was the capital of India.

0:45:270:45:31

'For years, the city was notorious for its poverty and slums,

0:45:330:45:37

'but now it feels like a place on the up.

0:45:370:45:40

'Where else would Abhra take me after a long drive,

0:45:410:45:45

'but to a car showroom to see a new vehicle set to transform road travel in India.'

0:45:450:45:50

Here we are.

0:45:500:45:52

Ah! Let's hop out, go and take a look.

0:45:520:45:55

I wanted to show you one of the revolutionary cars that has come up.

0:45:590:46:06

It's the cheapest car of India, at the price of a motorbike,

0:46:060:46:10

which is going to take the road for millions of people together.

0:46:100:46:15

-Really?

-Yeah.

0:46:150:46:16

-This is the car.

-It's got a lot of interest already!

0:46:170:46:20

Yeah, of course.

0:46:200:46:21

So it's called a Na... It's the Nano, is that right?

0:46:210:46:24

Yeah, that's the Nano.

0:46:240:46:25

There's a gentleman here, he's trying it out. Let's look through the window.

0:46:250:46:29

What did you think? It's good?

0:46:310:46:33

-Very good.

-Very good?

0:46:330:46:34

Unmatched.

0:46:340:46:36

'Demand for this little vehicle has been astronomical.

0:46:380:46:41

'The manufacturers, Tata, actually held a lottery

0:46:410:46:44

'to see which of the many eager customers

0:46:440:46:47

'will be allowed to buy one of the first 100,000 cars off the production line.'

0:46:470:46:51

Can I just interrupt? Very sorry. You... You've won the lottery...

0:46:530:46:57

-Yes.

-..To buy the car?

0:46:570:46:59

So, normally a car is 500,000 or 600,000, and this is 100,000.

0:46:590:47:05

-So, you can afford this car?

-I am low-income group.

0:47:050:47:09

How will it change things in your family?

0:47:090:47:12

-IN TRANSLATION:

-It's a status symbol.

0:47:120:47:15

Before, I could never have afforded a car. Now I can.

0:47:150:47:18

It's a dream come true.

0:47:180:47:20

Congratulations!

0:47:200:47:22

All right, so let's have a look at the car.

0:47:240:47:27

Let's see.

0:47:270:47:28

Well, the seat goes back plenty.

0:47:320:47:35

I'll tell you what, it's not bad.

0:47:350:47:37

-Go on, Abhra, jump in.

-You're going to drive me out?

0:47:370:47:40

We're busting out of here.

0:47:400:47:43

It's Thelma & Louise all over again.

0:47:430:47:46

-So, it has air-con as well.

-Are you tempted?

0:47:460:47:50

I would rather drive my motorbike,

0:47:500:47:52

because I know what it's going to be like outside!

0:47:520:47:56

You're saying that it's going to be easier to get around on the motorbike?

0:47:560:47:59

Of course. With these cars on the road,

0:47:590:48:01

the streets are not prepared for that number of cars!

0:48:010:48:07

That is the factor they haven't all considered, perhaps.

0:48:070:48:11

No.

0:48:110:48:13

'Tata, which also owns Jaguar and Land Rover,

0:48:130:48:17

'plans to produce at least a quarter of a million of these cars every year.'

0:48:170:48:21

Well, it's all very well,

0:48:210:48:23

producing hundreds of thousands, or even millions of these, but...

0:48:230:48:27

..where are they going to put them?!

0:48:310:48:33

It's chaos on the roads of India at the best of times.

0:48:330:48:37

HORNS BLARE

0:48:370:48:39

Can you imagine what these streets will be like

0:48:390:48:42

with millions more cars on them?

0:48:420:48:46

'Experts are warning that over the next 20 years,

0:48:470:48:49

'another 160 million vehicles will flood onto India's streets,

0:48:490:48:53

'but I find it hard to see how this kind of economic growth can be sustained

0:48:530:48:58

'without a huge investment in roads and other basic infrastructure.'

0:48:580:49:02

Well, it's Sunday, so we're off to the fish market to buy lunch.

0:49:030:49:08

Abhra's very kindly volunteered to cook for us.

0:49:090:49:13

Thank you, mate.

0:49:130:49:14

Actually, my wife will do the cooking.

0:49:140:49:16

It's outrageous. Actually, what you've done is volunteer your wife.

0:49:160:49:20

'Fish is central to Bengali culture and cuisine,

0:49:230:49:26

'and the Gariahat fish market is one of the biggest in Kolkata.'

0:49:260:49:29

Wow! That'll feed us for the next week.

0:49:290:49:32

Er...

0:49:350:49:36

Oh, it looks very good.

0:49:430:49:45

SPEAKS IN DIALECT

0:49:510:49:53

This is a good fish, actually.

0:49:540:49:57

-Fresh, fresh?

-Fresh, fresh, fresh.

0:49:570:49:59

Fresh?

0:49:590:50:00

What are you doing?

0:50:050:50:07

'Abhra picked out a huge carp for our lunch.

0:50:070:50:10

-SPEAKS IN DIALECT

-'First, he wanted it properly prepared.'

0:50:100:50:17

He seems to be cutting the head off now.

0:50:180:50:20

-He's really getting into the head there.

-Yeah, he is cleaning it.

0:50:200:50:24

-Abhra, this is your neighbourhood?

-Yeah.

0:50:320:50:35

And soon we shall park the car,

0:50:350:50:37

because the car can't go... can't go to the door of my house.

0:50:370:50:41

Oh, right, so you live in a pedestrianised area?

0:50:410:50:44

Yeah.

0:50:440:50:45

-Wonderful. It's a nice neighbourhood.

-Yeah, very peaceful.

0:50:470:50:51

Full of teachers and lawyers.

0:50:510:50:54

-Middle-class Indians!

-Middle-class Indians.

0:50:540:50:57

This is all very nice.

0:51:010:51:02

'A home-cooked meal was a final treat

0:51:060:51:07

'as I was coming to the end of my journey across India.'

0:51:070:51:11

-So, here we are.

-Here we are.

0:51:110:51:13

-The house of Abhra.

-Yeah!

0:51:130:51:15

DOORBELL RINGS

0:51:160:51:18

-Hello, hello.

-Hello.

0:51:180:51:21

How come...? Babita's already got her cooking apron on.

0:51:210:51:25

Exactly!

0:51:250:51:26

This is Sunday, she starts cooking from the morning.

0:51:260:51:29

He's forcing you to cook for us, I'm very sorry about this.

0:51:290:51:32

But thank you for inviting us in.

0:51:320:51:34

Dirt of the city into your... into your home.

0:51:340:51:37

Thank you very much.

0:51:370:51:39

It's customary that in our Bengali meals we definitely have something fried.

0:51:390:51:45

-Thank you.

-Thank you.

0:51:450:51:47

-And that's...

-And here comes the fish.

0:51:470:51:49

Yeah.

0:51:490:51:51

-Yeah.

-What is this?

0:51:510:51:53

This is the... You are the guest of honour today,

0:51:530:51:57

so the guest of honour is given the head of the fish.

0:51:570:52:00

-No!

-Yeah.

0:52:000:52:02

-The head of the fish?

-Yeah.

0:52:020:52:06

And there's the rest of it.

0:52:060:52:08

That looks fantastic.

0:52:080:52:10

I mean, this looks fantastic as well,

0:52:100:52:12

I'm not disputing it.

0:52:120:52:14

But I get to eat the fish head

0:52:150:52:18

and you get to eat the rest of the fish?

0:52:180:52:20

-Yeah.

-Right, all right.

0:52:200:52:22

How am I supposed to eat the fish head? We must give it a try.

0:52:220:52:24

-You have to use the hands?

-Yeah.

0:52:240:52:27

It takes a lot of time to cook that.

0:52:270:52:30

-Look, its eye is looking at me.

-It has to be cooked for the guests.

0:52:300:52:36

So what should... What bit should I eat, then?

0:52:360:52:38

-I've got to suck out the eye?

-Yeah.

0:52:380:52:41

All right, Abhra, but if I find out later you're winding me up,

0:52:420:52:45

I'm coming back for you.

0:52:450:52:46

-It's all right actually.

-Yeah.

0:52:510:52:53

-It's quite fatty and fishy.

-Yeah.

0:52:530:52:57

Where's the brain here?

0:52:570:52:59

Why are you giggling away, Bobby?

0:52:590:53:01

Can you help us? How can he get to the brain?

0:53:010:53:03

-Oh, look, that must be the brain.

-Yeah, that's the brain.

0:53:030:53:06

Oh, my God! OK, look, here goes the brain.

0:53:060:53:10

Goodbye, fish brain.

0:53:100:53:12

-That's all right.

-Yeah.

0:53:150:53:17

It tastes very...fishy.

0:53:170:53:20

Thank you for a lovely meal.

0:53:210:53:24

'Before I finally left India, Abhra took me across town on his motorbike

0:53:240:53:29

'to show me one of the great landmarks of Kolkata.'

0:53:290:53:32

-So we're heading out to the wetlands?

-Yeah.

0:53:320:53:37

You were saying they're on the eastern side of the city.

0:53:370:53:40

Yes.

0:53:400:53:41

That's why they are called East Kolkata Wetlands.

0:53:410:53:44

SIMON LAUGHS

0:53:440:53:46

Careful, cows.

0:53:460:53:48

HONKING

0:53:480:53:49

Oh!

0:53:490:53:52

Minding the rickshaw.

0:53:520:53:53

'The East Kolkata Wetlands

0:53:590:54:01

'are a vast area of natural and man-made ponds covering 50 square miles.

0:54:010:54:06

'Much of the wetlands are a wildlife haven,

0:54:060:54:09

'but they also play a vital role in the ecology of the city.'

0:54:090:54:12

-We're here?

-Yeah.

0:54:130:54:15

This is a terrible smell.

0:54:180:54:20

-Come. You shall see more.

-So, why...?

0:54:200:54:23

-Not only smell.

-Look at this.

0:54:230:54:24

This little river

0:54:260:54:29

is actually bringing in all the sewage

0:54:290:54:33

as well as industrial waste from the city.

0:54:330:54:37

This is, what, raw sewage?

0:54:370:54:40

Yes. And industrial waste.

0:54:400:54:43

-Oh, my God, it is. You can see.

-And what you see here burning

0:54:430:54:46

is actually plastics that have been drawn out of this drain up there,

0:54:460:54:53

and it's carbon monoxide.

0:54:530:54:56

It's disgusting, is what it is.

0:54:560:54:59

I would prefer you to hold your breath.

0:55:010:55:04

-MUFFLED:

-Yeah, cover my mouth.

0:55:040:55:07

Get past this.

0:55:070:55:09

SIMON COUGHS

0:55:090:55:11

The smell is just, ugh!

0:55:110:55:13

Abhra, it sounds like a bit of a... of an environmental disaster

0:55:190:55:24

to have a river - a small river, anyway -

0:55:240:55:26

of raw sewage coming into the... into the wetlands here.

0:55:260:55:31

You see, it's not that big a disaster.

0:55:310:55:34

Rather, this wetlands act as the natural sieve or natural filter for this,

0:55:340:55:41

so you have huge vegetable gardens all around the edges,

0:55:410:55:45

because they pick up just the mud from this and use it as a manure.

0:55:450:55:50

Then again, this entire wetland is the largest fishery base of Kolkata.

0:55:500:55:55

So not even just to filter the sewage, but you need it for...

0:55:550:56:00

to grow vegetables and you need it for fishing as well?

0:56:000:56:03

-Yeah. Even the fish...

-Fish farms.

0:56:030:56:05

..we ate today for dinner must have come from one of these fisheries.

0:56:050:56:09

-Really?

-Yeah!

0:56:090:56:11

I didn't tell you before.

0:56:110:56:13

You didn't tell me that! This is where I put a sharp knee in your groin area!

0:56:130:56:19

'As well as providing the only major sewage treatment facility

0:56:210:56:24

'for the entire city of Kolkata,

0:56:240:56:26

'the wetlands also produce a staggering 13,000 tonnes of fish each year,

0:56:260:56:31

'and 150 tonnes of vegetables every day from small market gardens.'

0:56:310:56:36

I mean, that sounds as though it's... it's nature working very kindly

0:56:400:56:44

in harmony with one of the big...

0:56:440:56:47

one of the fastest-growing cities in the developing world.

0:56:470:56:50

Yeah, but nature is not at all incapable of retaining its area.

0:56:500:56:56

The city is infiltrating inside. The huge building there you see...

0:56:560:57:01

-Yeah.

-That entire area

0:57:010:57:02

is what we call the software park, or the electronic city of Kolkata.

0:57:020:57:08

Most of the call centres you might be calling to from your country

0:57:080:57:12

are situated there.

0:57:120:57:15

'The expansion of Kolkata and the city's growing population

0:57:150:57:18

'is the single biggest threat to the vital ecosystem of the wetlands.

0:57:180:57:22

'I've seen evidence of this population crisis across India

0:57:220:57:26

'and around the tropics.

0:57:260:57:27

'With the population of this country predicted to rise

0:57:270:57:29

'to up to 1.9 billion by 2050,

0:57:290:57:33

'it's the most serious issue confronting India.'

0:57:330:57:36

There's no disputing that this country faces huge challenges and problems.

0:57:360:57:40

But for me, the best thing about India is the Indians.

0:57:400:57:45

They're a wonderfully good-natured and tolerant people,

0:57:450:57:48

and I've loved travelling across this vast country.

0:57:480:57:52

East from here is Bangladesh and Burma, or Myanmar as it's known,

0:57:520:57:56

and that's where I'll be travelling on the next leg of my journey

0:57:560:58:00

around the Tropic of Cancer.

0:58:000:58:01

'Next time, I cross the water world that is Bangladesh...

0:58:050:58:08

'..where I witness the shocking effects of climate change...'

0:58:100:58:13

Oh, my God!

0:58:130:58:14

'..before I make a covert journey deep into the Burmese jungle,

0:58:140:58:19

'to find out what life is like under the country's brutal regime.'

0:58:190:58:22

Simon Reeve continues his epic journey around the world following the Tropic of Cancer, the northern border of the tropics region.

In India, Simon's journey takes him from the coast of Gujarat in the west to Kolkata in the east. Along the way he spots the shy and beautiful Indian wild ass, learns of the violence between Hindus and Muslims in Gandhi's home city of Ahmedebad and visits the site of one of the world's worst industrial accidents in Bhopal, where people still claim to be suffering from chemical spills.

In the setting for Kipling's Jungle Book, Simon bathes an elephant and in Kolkata he ponders a new car that is so affordable that it could add to the city's already unbelievable congestion.