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.
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 -
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Saturday, March 9, 2019
Pushpendra was a local journalist, a stringer, of a Hindi daily and as such had no income. The income that such stringers earned was from blackmailing corrupt government servants by saying that they would publish their wrong doings. Pushpendra, never did that and instead used to report the wrongdoings. One story he did was about the abhorrent practice of burying alive of leprosy patients in connivance with the police. Naturally, he soon became friends with us and took up the cause of the Adivasi fight for rights. So he became our point person in Alirajpur and provided the communication with the world at large that was so required. On our suggestion, he set up the NGO, Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra and we got him a legal aid project through which he was able to take up our many cases in the courts by employing lawyers. Throughout the decade of the 1980s up to 1993, whenever the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath faced serious challenges, Pushpendra provided the crucial communication and legal support in Alirajpur that eventually helped the organisation to make a mark and considerably improve the situation of the Adivasis in Alirajpur.
After 1993, the non-Adivasi activists all moved out of Alirajpur as the local Adivasi activists like Khemla, Shankar and Kemat had become capable of running the show on their own. Pushpendra also moved out to Bhopal and became a full time journalist. He then continued to provide support from Bhopal not only to the KMCS but also to other mass organisations in Madhya Pradesh. As an accredited journalist he got a government quarters and his house in Bhopal became the rallying point of activists. He had a great knack of reporting and writing investigative pieces and soon made a name for himself, becoming an editor over time. However, given his unbending attitude towards corruption and his commitment to the cause of socio-economic justice he could not hold on to his editorial jobs and had to later survive on freelance work instead.
I am particularly grateful to him for the support he provided during the huge crackdown on our organisation in Dewas in 2001 when the government killed four of my Adivasi colleagues in police firing and packed me into prison for two and a half months. Subhadra, my wife, escaped by the skin of her teeth with our son Ishaan who was then just seven months old and landed up at Pushpendra's house in Bhopal to lie low. Pushpendra and his wife Renu gave refuge to them and then Pushpendra launched a scathing attack in the news papers against the government.
So, the passing away of Pushpendra last week in his sleep due to a massive heart attack came as a deeply hurting shock from which I have still to recover. The Government quarter he was staying in was due for demolition and was the only one that was still standing in that colony which is to be redeveloped as a swanky mall and up market residential colony. While all others being government servants had vacated their quarters, Pushpendra, had doggedly stuck on saying that he wouldn't move without getting another quarter. Probably all the tensions did him in and he lost the battle for his life leaving all of us shell shocked.
At a time when the fight for rights is on the back foot and we can only look back on those heady days of the 1980s with wonder at what we had achieved, the passing away of a brave comrade in arms from that time has left me shattered. A few years ago another great comrade from that time, Khemla, had passed away and now Pushpendra also has departed. Reminds me of the famous number by the rock band Queen, which is about comrades dying in the face of bullets of the enemy - Another One Bites the Dust. We had set out to fight injustice with great enthusiasm in our youth but have failed to achieve a just society and now one by one our comrades are leaving us.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
First of all solar panels need to be cleaned of dust regularly. Optimally once a week in cities where dust levels in the air are very high. If this is not done then the dust that settles on the panels reduced their energy absorption efficiency. Now the solar panels are normally at a height on the roof. So this means that one has to expend considerable energy and be athletic and climb on to the roof to clean the panels. The net result is that instead of once a week we end up cleaning the solar panels that we have installed in our office in Indore only once a month and this means we are losing some of the energy production potential. In big solar parks there are mechanical cleaners but then they also consume some of the energy produced for their operation so that too leads to some loss. In most medium sized installations there are people employed to clean the panels as shown below, which then adds to the cost.
Life of course used to be labour intensive before the industrial revolution and the generation of artificial energy from coal and later from oil. However, a few centuries of automated living has rendered us lazy. Moreover, it is possible to hire labour to do physical work but while this labour is easy to get for conventional appliances, in the case of solar this is not so as there are very few technicians who service the small scale solar market.
Thus, implementing solar energy at the small scale level is not only costly but also complicated because there is a lack of qualified technical personnel for repair work. In the face of Government apathy for developing the small scale solar sector and its concentration only on mega solar power projects there needs to be a huge commitment towards cutting down green house gas emissions by the use of solar energy as it is both costly and full of hassles.
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
The Siang valley is mostly populated by the Adi tribes people who have their own nature worshiping religion known as Donyi Polo which are the Adi names for the sun and the moon. In the upper reaches near the China border there are Pemba tribes who are Buddhists. The people are mostly farmers and hunters. They cultivate rice in terraced fields and live in bamboo and thatch houses on stilts. The thatch is skillfully made of Tok leaves that are weather resistant. These houses stay warm during winter and cool during summer.
Surprisingly, there is no measurement of the flow of the Siang at Gelling where it enters India even though there are flow measurement stations at Tuting, Yingkiang and Pasighat further downstream. Even so the flow measurements from these stations, which are classified data and so are not available to the general public, must clearly be showing that the flow of the Yarlung Tsangpo into India is miniscule compared to that of the Siang in India itself and even less if compared to that of the whole Brahmaputra basin.
The most important data from the measurement of the flow of all the rivers that are tributaries of the Brahamputra is that regarding their contribution to the flood flow of the Brahmaputra during the monsoons which has such a devastating effect annually. Given the steep slopes of the lower Himalayas and the huge deforestation that has taken place, heavy rains in the hilly catchments of the tributaries of the Brahmaputra are the main cause of floods. Thus, it is imperative that both natural and artificial recharge is drastically increased in the Arunachal hills for any worthwhile flood control to be possible. The challenge to implementing artificial recharge measures is the steepness of the slopes and the very sparse population in the area. Nevertheless, thought must be applied and solutions found for this problem. The higher costs involved in this will be compensated many times by the prevention of losses due to floods. Moreover, artificial recharge will ensure that there is a better flow during the lean season and so improve the possibilities of navigation and irrigation in the Brahmaputra valley much more than building dams and dredging will ever do.
The other side of the coin is the diminished lean season flow in the rivers. Whereas the Siang has a good lean season flow due to the snow melt in the Tibetan plateau and upper Himalayas, the other rivers have very low flows. Due to the huge monsoon flows these rivers have very wide beds stretching to a few kilometers in width but just after that they dry up substantially. The Lohit River has the longest road bridge across it at Sadiya measuring 9 kilometers in length while the Dibang River has the third longest at 6.2 kilometers. The Bogibeel bridge across the Brahmaputra has the second longest bridge at 6.4 kilometers. However, when we crossed these bridges on our return from the Siang valley we found the river beds to be mostly dry and in some places covered with vegetation with the water flowing in a small stream.
Arunachal Pradesh is inhabited by tribes and and strict rules that prevent people from outside the state from settling or doing business there have kept the place comparatively safe from the depredations of greed based modern development and trade. Those going in for work or tourism have to obtain an inner line permit which is given for only a fortnight and has to be renewed after that. Even then dam building has made its mark in the Subansiri river valley and may some day lay the Siang valley to waste due to the local political leadership being inclined towards it. An interesting thing that I noted was that Hindi has become the lingua franca of the state. Everywhere right up to the China border people speak Hindi and some of them speak very chaste Hindi with good diction and pronunciation. The day we reached Yingkiong there was a big public meeting of the Chief Minister and he was speaking in Hindi because his own tribal language would not be comprehended by the Adi tribes people in the audience!!!
Finally a word about the roads. While the road to Yingkiong is fairly good apart from the stretches where construction work is going on, thereafter, up to Tuting the road is atrocious. We could drive at a an average speed of 15 kilometers and hour and it took us 9 hours to cover the distance. This is indeed a pity because this road is strategically very important and there is heavy army traffic on it most of the time and also because a good road combined with good tourism infrastructure can really open up this beautiful valley which is now visited only by river rafting enthusiasts. However, it is necessary to build these roads so as to cling to the contours as much as possible because the steep slopes get destabilised by the road cutting. While going up on the first day our path up the left bank of the river was blocked by a section where a landslide had taken place and taken the road with it. We had to turn back and return to Pasighat to cross the bridge there and go up the right bank instead. On our return journey also we encountered a land slide but that held us up for only an hour or so. The land slides during the monsoons are even more severe and frequent.
Even though the road situation is poor, there is fairly good mobile connectivity in the towns and also along the route. The road condition delayed my schedule and so at Tuting I had to reschedule my return flight from Guwahati by a day. As there was good mobile connectivity in the town, I could call up the airline and reschedule my flight.
All in all the trip up the Siang turned out to be truly one off the beaten track. The author James Hilton in his novel "Lost Horizon" has written about a mystical valley called Shangri-La where people live harmoniously. The Siang valley comes close to that utopian ideal and the trip was for me the experience of a lifetime.