Jugal Purohit is a journalist with 15 years of experience working with print, television and digital platforms. He is currently working with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in New Delhi. While his area of reportage remains conflict and security, he has also extensively reported investigative stories, natural disasters, politics and issues pertaining t0 environment and urban development, both in India and abroad.
Jugal has a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media from Mumbai University and a Master of Arts degree in Defence and Strategic Studies from the University of Pune. His work has been recognised by different organisations including the Mumbai Press Club and the Inspired Indian Foundation.
Here is a short Q&A with Jugal:
We hear you’ve just launched a new project- PAAP. Can you tell us about it?
The project is actually called People Affected by Air Pollution in India or PAAP in India. @PollutionTales is the handle on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram. My wife (Sapna Nair Purohit, Indian Express) and I are together in this quest to sensitise the burgeoning global online community about another community – millions of voiceless Indians who are being forced to face air pollution with no means to defend themselves. Also, PAAP in Hindi implies ‘sin’ and though we are by no means religious but feel strongly about leaving millions in the lurch.
For a few years now I’ve walked around with a question – those who can afford it will secure themselves using anti-pollution masks and filters and travel in cabs. But what about those who cannot? Through PAAP in India, we’re trying to make people think and seek better.
How are you sourcing the stories that get featured?
Almost every weekend, we head out to meet people whose life or work keeps them out on the street for long hours. Based on their interviews – which are done with their consent – we prepare case studies and profile them on our page/accounts.
One of the challenges in the Indian context is a degree of apathy towards the issue of air pollution. In the last few years, this seems to be changing. What has been your experience as you talk to people?
There’s definitely an uptick on that front. However let me quickly add a caveat. Awareness about the issue is restricted to the class which reads, is aware of the news and contemporary debates. How much does this class care is a different debate altogether. Now we come to the class that is not aware, has no time/capability to track current news but at the same time is more vulnerable. This class is without a doubt way bigger than the former and there’s the worry. One doesn’t have to travel far to find them. Like other things, the disparity in India is in your face. I recall a conversation with a couple that sells vegetables outside a popular, local mall. After many attempts at making them understand did they even realise there’s a phenomenon called air pollution. “Yes I did wonder why some people wore masks but then I thought that was because perhaps they didn’t like the smell on the road,” the woman told me.
As a journalist, where do you see the role of media in the air pollution narrative?
To my mind, there’s a clear need for intervention and at two levels – raising awareness and seeking accountability towards curbing air pollution. On both fronts, there’s a lot that journalists can do. While media organisations do focus on pollution, the scope tends to be seasonal and reactive. What this does is – it condemns the entire society to coexist with levels that are very unhealthy but somewhat short of being catastrophic. It also conditions the population into accepting air pollution as a part of their lives which it need not be.
Finally, if someone has a story to tell, where and how do they find you?