Indian television news journalist Narayan Pargaien defended sitting on a flood survivor’s shoulders in order to do a report for the local News Express.
On camera the survivor holding Pargaien is standing in muddy, ankle-deep floodwater. The floods in northern India have killed more than 1,000 people and left thousands of others stranded. Landslides have destroyed entire towns, and at least 600 bodies were found buried in silt.
Once the video appeared on YouTube, Pargaien, a journalist of 20 years, garnered criticism from across the world. But he claims he was helping the victims in Uttarakhand.
"People are talking about us being inhuman and wrong but we were actually helping some of the victims there," he said.
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Pargaien said the cameraman shot the segment wrong and was not supposed to show the victim holding him up.
“The report was supposed to be telecast only with footage of me chest-up,” Pargaien said. “This was entirely the cameraman's fault, who ... tried to sabotage my career by shooting from that distance and angle and releasing the video.”
Despite the appearance that he did not want to get his pants wet, Pargaien says the man hoisted him up simply out of respect.
“It wasn’t my idea to begin with, but there was this man who took me to his home and asked me to report the damage he had suffered,” Pargaien said. “His house was in a miserable condition and he had lost a lot in the flood, and was left with very little food and water. We helped him with some food and some money and he was grateful to us and wanted to show me some respect, as it was the first time someone of my level had visited his house.”
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He admitted he should not have shot the footage.
"I was wrong as well," he said. "That was the wrong thing to do, and the wrong time to have shot that sequence. But what my cameraman did was even more unacceptable."
Would this video still be outrageous if you could not see that Pargaien was using a flood victim as a perch, or rather, a pack mule?