February 26, 2017

Sonbhadra | Basauli, India

Sundeep and I met last year during my first trip to Varanasi. A man with the heart of an angel and the soul of an eagle! I had just arrived in Varanasi’s train station. It was a nice spring morning. Sundeep and Shobhit (his childhood friend) were waiting for me as the train came to a slow stop.​ Sundeep and I had talked about how to be able to join our efforts to be a part of helping hands in the vast ocean of Indian humanitarian challenge.

I left India feeling disappointed… disappointed in myself, disappointed in a world that is quick to exploit the resources of less privileged and spit out the leftover to decay in time. Disappointed in a corrupted system that card more about individual wealth and the social welfare of its communities. And ultimately people who blame the past to excuse the presence!!!

I remember asking Shobhit… How can we help alleviating some of basic needs of the communities in Varanasi? Shobhit looked at me, smiled…They need life, Cyrus… LIFE, he said and that you can’t give them…

A year later back in Varanasi, this time with the help of an amazing supportive team and the formation of Impact a Life Foundation we will attempt to do exactly that…

“We may not be able to give them life, but we sure will try to make an Impact…”

Sonbhadra is the largest and one of the poorest districts in eastern U.P. Of its 6,788 sq. km area, 3,782.86 sq. km has forest cover. The locals call Sonbhadra the energy capital of India because of the vast natural and mineral resources the area possesses. Not only this district gives the highest amount of revenue to the State Government but still is seeking development aides from every part. However, for several decades now, the Sonbhadra region and several other districts of eastern U.P. has been the focus of protracted land struggle.

The struggle is between the forest department and forest dweller, mostly landless tribal and dalits, for the return of land that the local community claims is their traditional gram sabha land, illegally and forcibly taken over by the forest department in collusion with the police and local landlords. The forest department claims the land as its own and has reportedly refused to negotiate the issue or recognize the rights of these landless and economically impoverished indigenous communities

About 10 kilometers from the District Head Quarters there lays a village called Basauli.