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, October 4, 2019
Monday, September 30, 2019
Thursday, September 26, 2019
Friday, August 30, 2019
The student in question belonged to the Scheduled Caste category. He hailed from one of the smaller towns of Madhya Pradesh where his father makes a marginal living as a motor repairer. Therefore, his selection for admission in this government engineering college in Indore for computer science through the competitive entrance examination was welcomed by his family with great enthusiasm. They and he thought that this would put them eventually on the path to prosperity.
Unfortunately, the reality that confronted this boy and which confronts most students coming from humble vernacular backgrounds these days, is very harsh. The first barrier they face is that all teaching in Engineering colleges is in English. Therefore, they are not able to perform well and end up with low cumulative grade point average scores. Finally, when the time comes for campus placement they are not able to achieve the cutoff score of 7 CGPA that is demanded by the visiting companies for eligibility to be interviewed by them. Therefore, these students never get placed from campus interviews conducted by private concerns. There was a time when there used to be Government jobs for such people but those too have dried up these days with very few government institutions and those that are there, outsourcing most of their work to private concerns. So eventually these students attend coaching classes for competitive examinations for jobs in the government administrative services, public sector banks, railways and the like. Those who don't succeed in either getting placed through campus interviews or getting selected for government jobs through competitive exams have to eke out their living in low paying and insecure private jobs which cannot lift people out of poverty.
This is why a huge number of low income background students in engineering colleges are frustrated. Their aspirations have been raised that a degree in engineering will result in a well paying and secure job. So their parents spend a huge amount to get them educated in this hope. But eventually they find that this is not the case because late capitalism has drastically reduced well paying and secure job opportunities both in the private sector and in the government and so only those with good grades succeed in landing these jobs and the poorer students are left with low paying insecure jobs.
Even though there are scholarships provided to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students for their college studies, they do not cover all the costs of tuition and hostel residence. Therefore, the parents of these students have to make a substantial outlay in addition to what is provided through scholarships by the government. After that due to the load of these expenses which often push poor families into debt there is pressure on the students to deliver which they cannot. Even if only a few commit suicide, there is general depression and desperation among them.
Thus, even technical education is now not able to provide a leg up out of poverty for those who are poor and liberal arts education had stopped doing so much earlier. The problem of course is not with education so much as with the capitalist system which creates aspirations among the people for good high paying and secure jobs on the one hand and continually decreases the number of such jobs on the other hand. Even though this adversely affects the large proportion of students coming from weaker socio-economic backgrounds more, the adverse impact on those from more privileged backgrounds is also quite high. These students have to spend a lot more on their education, even when it is in government colleges, anything from 5 to 10 lakhs if not more. After that the pay packages that are offered are on an average about 5 lakhs a year which are insufficient for staying in metro cities at the luxurious level they are accustomed to in their homes as the cost of living and rent are very high. Therefore, in many cases where students have taken loans which have to be repaid, they find it difficult to make ends meet and have to borrow further from their parents at the start of their careers.
There is also the question as to why so many engineers are being produced when clearly there is not enough demand for them. In fact for quite some time now most engineers do not pursue careers in engineering and are instead serving as managers and administrators. The answer is that the huge number of engineers pushes down the wages of these engineers in the market. The remedy could be to redesign these courses to suit the needs of the masses of the country in the areas of sustainable communitarian development but that would not suit the rapacious drive for capital accumulation and so the youth are being misled into becoming engineers who are not needed by the capitalist development juggernaut.
All this makes the mass struggle against capitalism so much more difficult. The contribution of organic intellectuals from the oppressed classes and justice minded intellectuals from the privileged classes to provide support to the struggles for justice is very important. However, the way in which aspirations have been created and then throttled by capitalism, most of the educated youth these days whether from the oppressed classes or from the privileged classes, are least inclined to rebel against the system and are instead either trying to somehow progress in it or are falling by the wayside in depression. Those of the youth who do make it, become aggressive defenders of the oppressive status quo. Some youth do want to rebel but are scared of the consequences of penury and possible incarceration and so are afraid to take the leap into the uncertain world of activism.
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Kemat hailed from a marginal farmer family of which he was the eldest of 7 sons though he had elder sisters. Despite his father educating him with great deprivation so that he would eventually get a government job and so relieve their poverty, Kemat decided to join the Narmada Bachao Andolan to fight against the Sardar Sarovar Dam which was to submerge their farm land in Kakrana village on the banks of the Narmada River in Alirajpur district. He later gave up his studies without completing his graduation to become a full time activist of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath (KMCS) which was fighting for the rights of Adivasis and Dalits in Alirajpur district to the great chagrin of his father who threw him out of the house.
Even though his contributions to the struggles against the dam and for the rights of Adivasis and Dalits through community mobilisation, for which he was imprisoned and tortured several times, is of great importance, his seminal contribution is in the field of education. He set up along with other members of the KMCS a residential school in Kakrana village named the Rani Kajal Jeevan Shala (RKJS). The major problem in Alirajpur, which according to the Census 2011 is the district with the least amount of literacy in the country of just 37%, is that the people migrate to Gujarat and towns in Madhya Pradesh seasonally to increase their earnings as the income from agriculture on their marginal farms is not enough for them to make ends meet. This results in the children missing out on their education as they have to go with their parents. Moreover, the standard of pedagogy in Government schools is abysmal with high student teacher ratios, multigrade teaching by the same unqualified teacher and poor facilities. Matters are compounded by the fact that the Adiavasis and Dalits in Alirajpur speak the Bhili dialects and so it is even more difficult for first time learners to understand the sanskritised Hindi texts that are prescribed in the syllabus.
So the RKJS developed its own pedagogy in Bhili to initiate children into studies under the leadership of Kemat and provided quality education in a residential milieu to the children of migrating parents. Kemat is shown in the picture below with two students and their father who is a mason who migrates to Gujarat for work with complete satisfaction that his sons are in good hands and all set for a great future.
Kemat also led reform movements within his community to restrict the amount of the bride price, alcoholism and gender based violence against women. He was in addition a public health activist trying to improve the access to health services and their quality for the poor.
Sadly, we have lost him at the peak of his abilities and at a time when there are very few new activists coming up to fight for justice. His passing away in this way prematurely is also a telling commentary on the abominable status of public health in this country. Kemat suffered from diabetes and hypertension but despite being aware as a health activist that these are silent killers and require constant monitoring, preoccupation with work prevented him from doing so and over the past four months or so he had not been taking medication regularly. This lack of proper management of these diseases led to the sudden brain stroke and paralysis. He had to be brought to Indore which is five hours away from Kakrana as there was no hospital nearer than that where he could be given even preliminary intensive care. Even though he was admitted to one of the best corporate hospitals at great expense and was treated by the best neuro surgeons under good intensive care with proper medication and finally surgery, he could not be saved.
The photo below is that of his last journey to the school he founded where he was kept for some time on the central platform built around a big neem tree before being taken for cremation. There is a skeleton hanging from the branches of the tree which is used to teach the students about the bone structure of humans. Here it eerily conveys the futility of the fight for justice which is continually losing its most militant protagonists. We lost Khemraj Choudhary a month back, Chhotubhai a little earlier, Pushpendra before that and Khemla, another militant Adivasi founder of the KMCS, two years back. Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
The farm is also running on solar energy. The technology for this of course is not local and has to be sourced from outside and in this also considerable investment is required which is once again beyond the reach of the average farmer. Yet again the government has not shown much interest in promoting decentralised renewable energy despite the fact that it is running up huge losses in supplying thermal power through centralised grids in rural areas due to high transmission and distribution losses.
The problem of water scarcity has become very acute in urban areas also and so there is a need for decentralised water conservation measures in cities. To this end in the office of MAJLIS at Indore rainwater harvesting, recharge and wastewater treatment and reuse are being done so that the office is self sufficient in water. It also has both active and passive solar energy with net export of surplus renewable energy to the grid. Once again this requires considerable investment and the government is not providing enough support to these decentralised renewable energy efforts to make them more wide spread. The office also has fruit trees and vegetables are grown in the garden. The drumstick tree that dominates the office building is very popular with people living in a radius of 2 kilometers and its leaves, flowers and fruits are consumed with enthusiasm. The office is covered in creepers and has good cross ventilation so that it remains cool in summer and saves on energy required for cooling.
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Monday, April 1, 2019
After this action was taken as follows -