The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.
Friday, August 18, 2017
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
If wishes were horses then pigs would fly it is said. But Modi's wishes are such that even without their becoming horses, the pigs are flying on shit!!! No wonder that in the galaxy of achievements that Modi listed from the ramparts of the Red Fort today he quietly left out any mention of freeing India from shit!!
Monday, August 7, 2017
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Friday, July 21, 2017
Then in 2001 things changed drastically. Our mobilisation for Adivasi self rule in Udainagar Tehsil of Dewas district which had gained considerable strength and had resulted in village councils effectively running their affairs on their own, sidelining the government, was brutally crushed by the State through heavy police action in which four of our colleagues were killed in police firing and scores of us were jailed. After coming out from jail after a couple of months, I found that not only was the organisation in a shambles due to the heavy repression but that all the main activists, including I, had dozens of criminal cases foisted on us which we would have to fight in the courts. Since my Adivasi colleagues obviously didn't have the resources to fight these cases on their own, it fell to me to mobilise the huge funds required to fight so many criminal cases involving so many people. So I had to give up mass mobilisation work altogether and busy myself with doing research consultancy projects to earn money to fight the cases and also read statute books and case law to bolster up our defence in court. After a few years, from 2005 onwards, many new laws were enacted like Right to Information Act, Forest Rights Act, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act and the like which gave people rights for which they had to go to jail earlier. Indeed it was the earlier political agitations across India that resulted in the enactment of these progressive laws. So a whole new field of activity to implement these laws was opened up. This is when my Adivasi colleagues suggested that we should activate an NGO named Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra that we had registered long back in 1987 but which we had never used for development work except in the early stages because we were too busy fighting for rights and going to jail and which was consequently lying dormant. So from 2007 onwards we began work with gusto in constructive activities in the spheres of education, health and forest, soil and water conservation apart from the implementation of the progressive laws. Thus instead of Sangharsh, Nirman became our buzz word.
The world of NGOism through which Nirman has to be carried out is such, that it is very important to write about the constructive activities being done and publicise them in order to gain visibility and garner the considerable funds required for the development work. So I began writing profusely about our work but getting it published was not easy. Newspapers and Journals most often either rejected my writings or demanded that I make substantial changes which were not to my liking. This is when a friend, who is a blogger, suggested that I should start blogging about our work. That is how this blog came into existence in 2007. It proved to be a great move because I was able to write and publish about our work on this blog and broadcast it to the world without having to wait for long periods to see it published and then face either rejection or drastic editing. This also helped us to get in touch with many people around the world and exchange ideas with them and so enrich our work. We took up new fields of activity, the most important being climate change mitigation and reproductive health work.
In the sphere of climate change mitigation we not only do a lot of work in rural areas but also our office in the city of Indore is designed to be as environment friendly as possible and provide us with enough opportunities of doing hard productive manual labour while staying in the city. One such project of ours is recycling urban waste from our office to rural farms. In our office cum residence in Indore all the green waste from the kitchen and the ground and terrace gardens is composted in a tank on the roof. Then every year before the monsoons this composted waste is taken out and transported to farms in the villages to enrich the soil there. This activity is highly labour intensive and so helps in keeping one fit, especially taking out the compost from the tank on the roof and taking it down to the ground for transport to the farm as shown below.
All the while I have written about our work in this blog and with this the 500th post I complete ten years of blogging. Before this I had written a book "Recovering the Lost Tongue" on the two decades of activism among the Bhils upto 2001 and dubbed it as the chronicles of savoured time as a counter to the title of the author Malcom Muggeridge's autobiography - "Chronicles of Wasted Time". This is because I had savoured a new anarchist and happy life among the Bhils vastly different from the one that I had led earlier. The writing in this blog I now dub as chronicles of constructive time because I have over the past decade done hugely personally satisfying work in pursuing alternative development models.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Then why is the RBI not revealing the data as to how much demonetised money was deposited even after more than six months have elapsed since the deadline for such deposits? The main reason is that contrary to the expectation that at least half, if not more, of the demonetised notes would not be deposited, almost all and according to some who are privy to the data even more than the total notes officially in circulation were deposited!! The rough estimate that the RBI had was of Rs 15 lakh crore or so of demonetised notes but it turns out that more than this has been deposited. This is embarrassing for the RBI because it hints at serious lack of oversight in printing and distributing notes if more than the estimated supply is actually in circulation.
The expectation of the Government was that people who had unaccounted for money would not deposit it in the banks as they would then become exposed as tax evaders and have to pay heavy penalties. But the people hoarding black money are so greedy that disregarding the consequences of doing so, they deposited all their money very much in excess of the Rs 2.5 lakh limit set by the RBI. In many cases dummy people with very little income were found and cash deposited in their accounts too. Apart from this there are many shell companies which are regularly used to layer transactions and convert black money into white and the accounts of these companies were also used to deposit black money. In this way instead of the bonanza that the Government expected in the form of a huge cache of demonetised notes that would not be deposited leading to their value becoming an asset in the books of the RBI, the whole process has turned into a liability that is now being sought to be hidden behind the absurd fig leaf that the notes are still being counted!! Not surprisingly the Government has vehemently opposed the Supreme Court's suggestion that a window be opened again to allow some people who might have missed depositing their notes in the earlier period. The Government is saying that people unscrupulously resorted to various stratagems and deposited more notes than were actually officially in circulation and they would misuse this new opportunity also!!
The Income Tax department initially listed about 18 lakh individuals who had deposited more than Rs 2.5 lakhs of demonetised notes and sent them notices by email to explain how they had so much money. Very few of these people responded to these notices and the IT Department too, like the RBI, has become reticent and is not revealing any numbers!! But in bits and pieces it is coming out that not only has a lot of money been so deposited but they have also been deposited in bank accounts which had not been declared by these people in their earlier income tax returns. Thus, now the Government is claiming that due to the demonetisation exercise all this tax evasion has been detected and can now be acted on by the IT department because when these people file their returns for Assessment Year 2017-18 they will have to account for all this money in all these bank accounts and if they cannot do so then they will face penal action. Simultaneously action has been taken against shell companies and lakhs of them have been deregistered by the Registrar of Companies which has sent this data to the IT department for action after reconciling it with the data on the huge deposits of demonetised notes made in these companies' bank accounts.
However, was it necessary to submit the citizens of this country to so much trouble and subsequently disrupt the economy's growth path substantially to unearth all this tax evasion? Absolutely not. By making it mandatory to link the Income Tax permanent account number (PAN) to the universal identity Aadhar number and the bank accounts as is being done now and tracking the data on large cash deposits and tracking the shell companies diligently all this unaccounted economic activity could have been traced earlier. The black money that was demonetised was not held in cash in isolation. It continually went into the banking system and came out again to fuel economic activity. Thus, if a stringent system of heavy cash transaction tracking in banks, as is in place now, had been there earlier, then the flow of black money could have been traced with the use of advanced digital data mining. In fact there was a rule that any deposit greater than Rs 50,000 could only be made in a bank account after declaring the PAN of the depositor. If this data had been tracked diligently then all the duplicate PAN and shell company related deposits would have been unearthed. But no, Pied Piper Modi called the tune of demonetisation and all the rats in the government system followed him and drowned themselves in cash which they are now still counting!!!
Now that demonetisation itself has turned out to be a fiasco, the Government has turned its attention to such tracking methods and is giving demonetisation the credit for this new alertness to try and salvage something out of this costly mistake. However, this latest outrageous act of the RBI Governor of telling the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that the notes are still being counted and so no official estimate of demonetisation is available has to be taken seriously. It is a telling comment on the state of Indian democracy that the opposition members in the committee which included the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided to crack jokes at the RBI's expense instead of moving a motion for breach of privilege against the Governor for willfully refusing to give the data on demonetisation. Prime Minister Modi once joked about the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he was deft at using a raincoat even while taking a shower and so came out unscathed from all the scams being perpetrated during his tenure. But now Modi has gone one step further and is using the RBI Governor Urjit Patel as a raincoat for his own Tughlaqian misdemeanours.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
I have from the very beginning of my life as an activist been against ashrams and have instead tried to see if communitarian living is not possible in rural areas on a larger scale in a natural way instead of in contrived communities. I was fortunate to start in the 1980s by living among the Bhils of Alirajpur who have practised sustainable albeit subsistence living for ages. For ten years I lived among them and we did a lot of things together at the subsistence level but also collectively improved the lives somewhat. Later, Subhadra and I lived for two years in a Bhil Adivasi area in Khargone district and there too we adapted to the living style of the Bhils. However, certain exigencies made us come to the city of Indore after that and for the past two decades or so we have lived a highly unsustainable urban life.
Now we have decided to jettison Indore and move to the villages again in a year or two and to this end have begun developing a farm and centre among the Bhil Adivasis in Pandutalav village in Dewas district nearby. Since now we frequently go to this farm and often stay there for a few days, we have once again come in close contact with the simple and sustainable lifestyle of the Bhils. Even in these times when the market economy and consumerism have penetrated deeply into the rural areas, the Bhils in Pandutalav which is situated just 50 kms from the city of Indore still live simply depending on their labour and the natural resources that they husband.
Our neighbour in Pandutalav, Raisingh, lives together along with his three sons and their families and they cultivate their land. Since they do not have much money they work hard on their fields. They have built a new house this year from wood, bamboo, mud and baked mud tiles. The whole family worked hard continuously for three months to first prepare the wood and the baked earth tiles and then set up the house. Occasionally, people from other households would also come to help in making the house. This is the custom among the Bhils as they pool in their labour to help each other.
The monsoons came early this year and so the house was not completely ready and had to be left half done as everyone got busy in sowing the seeds and doing the various other associated farming tasks. The whole family is busy now with some people working on the farm, others cooking the food and yet others taking the livestock for grazing. Most importantly someone has to stay back in the house and look after the small kids. So all this work is done very efficiently by apportioning responsibilities to various people in the household in a very democratic manner. Eventually, little money is required and efficient use of hard labour makes the household run like a well oiled machine.
The other day I watched with fascination as one of the women of the household not only took care of the children but also engaged in work to finish the house building work. Below is a photo of this idyllic scene.
This is what the Bhils have to teach us - do hard physical labour and use natural resources judiciously to live a simple and productive life. They provide for themselves and also for others by producing the food that we all eat at a very cheap cost. So instead of revisiting the highly unsustainable ashrams that Gandhi set up, we need to learn from the Advasis across the country how to live together by helping each other, doing hard physical labour and taking as little from nature as possible and giving much more to human society than they take from it in the form of cheap food.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
The Subedar or Governor of Burhanpur Abdul Rahim Khankhana commissioned a Persian geologist Tabukul Arj to devise a system that would be able to harvest the rain water falling on the Satpura ranges and bring them by gravity to the town in 1615. A very ingenious plan was drawn up wherein a few large tanks named Mool Bhandara or main water store and Chintaharan Bhandara or tension free water store and Sookha Bhandara or dry water store were constructed to harvest the rain water and recharge it into the ground. Finally a 3.5 km long tunnel about thirty feet below the ground level, lined with marble, was constructed just uphill of the town into which the water from the three other Bhandaras seeped in through the ground as shown below.
As the needs of Burhanpur grew in the twentieth century alternative mechanised water supply was implemented from the Utavali river leading to neglect of this gravity based system and it finally became defunct in 1977 due to clogging with sediment.
Then in 2001 the Burhanpur municipal corporation sought to revive the Khooni Bhandara and with funds collected from the local citizens and grant support from the Government the tunnel was cleaned and some of the wells that had collapsed were repaired. Water began seeping in again and currently about 0.15 million litres of water per day flows out of the tunnel. The lower flow of water is also due to the higher withdrawal of groundwater in the catchment through pumps. A lift has been installed in the third well which allows visitors to go down and see the tunnel which is how the photo above was taken.
What struck me most was the ingenuity of the Mughals in devising a system that first tapped the rain water by harvesting it and then used an underground tunnel to extract it and take it by gravity to the town. This was a necessity at the time because there were no mechanised pumps to do lift water from the underground aquifer at that time. This tunnel was dug by human labour obviously as there were no machines then and this adds to the uniqueness of the system. Even though the Burhanpur municipality finally had the sense to revive this historic system it has not had the further sense to replicate it in other areas around Burhanpur to make it completely independent of mechanised systems. Water harvesting is the most sustainable means of water supply. The municipality has beautified the area around the third well where visitors can pay a fee and descend into the well in the lift and also applied for world heritage status for the Khooni Bhandara. However, instead of just reviving it as a heritage which is no doubt laudable, the municipality would have set an even better example by replicating this fantastic sustainable water system devised by the Mughals for the whole water supply.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
When we did get down to running some schools of our own we came up against this major constraint of lack of capable teachers. Whether it is the residential Rani Kajal Jeevan Shala in Kakrana or the single teacher schools in Vakner, Bada Amba and Chilakda, the basic education that the teachers had received when they were in school was so poor that despite being trained periodically they were not able to teach properly. Often I have gone and taught in these schools for a day or two to find that the children in a particular class were at a level of a few classes further down. There is no solution to this problem because it is next to impossible to get teachers in Adivasi areas capable of teaching the prescribed texts.
One of the programmes of the newly set up centre of the Mahila Jagat Lihaaz Samiti at Pandutalav village is to improve girls' education standards. What we have planned is that we will provide coaching classes to the girls studying in nearby schools at the secondary level from classes eight to twelve on weekends. For the past few weeks considerable publicity has been done in the nearby villages that Subhadra and I for starters, till others from Indore and elsewhere too decide to chip in, will provide coaching to girls in all subjects on saturdays and sundays and so they should come for this. The first class that was held under this programme had only four attendees as shown below!!
One is left wondering about the farce that is being enacted in the name of education in Adivasi areas. The prescribed texts are of a high standard and unless they are taught well from the lower classes, the backlog of knowledge that builds up is near impossible to address in the higher classes. Since there is a no detention policy upto class ten when the first public examination is held, students are promoted through to class ten without being taught much. They come to accept that teachers do not teach and they need not learn. In the end what we have is a huge lot of young people who have been turned into duffers by an inappropriate education system. They are all very intelligent children who do a lot of thoughtful work on their fields and in their homes but when it comes to learning at school its just a waste of time and effort. So while the children of the rich go to schools where teachers do teach and they go on to become important cogs of the capitalist system, poor adivasi children are deliberately turned into duffers as they are NOT TAUGHT, due to lack of teachers, the same prescribed texts as the rich children.
In recent years there have been many projects to groom a few underprivileged children who have somehow learnt something in poor schools and help them to enter elite institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology, with one of them being very famous by the name of Super Thirty. They do a laudable job by helping these few children put a foot into the edge of the closed door of opportunities in the capitalist world. But eventually these few children become part of the oppressive building and the door remains firmly shut for the vast majority.
Without some rudimentary education it is not possible for the Adivasis to forge a mass movement to break down the capitalist door and create a more just world. There is no need to become super intelligent in the paradigm of education designed by the rich in order to challenge their hegemony but at least the adivasi children must not become duffers. That is why instead of the super thirty we have launched a programme to ensure that we counter the invidious conspiracy of the capitalist state of converting adivasi children into duffers and have named it - Anti Duffer Unlimited.