Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

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, July 4, 2007

Labour Market Segmentation

I attended a meeting of the Dakshin Rajasthan Mazdoor Sangh (DRMS) in Dungarpur district in Rajasthan yesterday. It was a revealing experience. The union has as its members "meds" or mates who are Bhil adivasi men and women who are labour contractors. These meds are contracted by farmers in Bansakantha and Sabarkantha districts of Gujarat engaged in the preparation of BT cotton seeds. These seeds are genetically modified cotton seeds which have a bacillus inserted into their genes which acts as an impediment to attack by pests and they are also more productive than the general run of hybrid cotton seeds. Developed by Monsanto Corporation and prepared and sold under subcontract by various Indian companies these seeds have become quite popular with farmers despite the opposition of environmentalists who are continually pointing out the ominous consequences of the spread of genetically modified mono-cultures. Consequently the demand for these seeds has gone up and they have to be prepared through special processes in plots that are isolated from other varieties. This is what is being done by the big farmers in Gujarat. Obviously the work of cross-pollination of male and female plants to produce the seeds is a labour intensive one and this is where the Bhils come in in a big way. Bhil children of Dungarpur aged between 8 and 14 of both sexes are preferred for this work and the meds provide them to the big farmers for a commission which they take from the children's wages. Thus we have here a case of labour market segmentation of a peculiar kind. There are the meds who get a cut from the wages of the child labourers who are the actual surplus producers while facilitating their own and the children's exploitation by the big farmers and eventually by Monsanto. In fact this is a country wide phenomenon in all cotton seed producing states and has been critically reviewed by the India Committee of the Netherlands in a report. The children used to get paid some Rs 40 per day of which Rs 5 went to the med. Thus a med providing 20 children to the farmer would get Rs 100 per day. Obviously there is a lot of other kinds of exploitation and cheating also.
This is where an NGO Prayas stepped in. With funding from Action Aid and Aga Khan Foundation they organised the meds into the DRMS and then fought for higher wages for the children and so also commissions for the meds. They have over the last year been successful in raising the wages by Rs 10 and also intervened in many cases of cheating and molestation. However the situation is very queer because the DRMS organises the meds and not the child labourers directly and so is not really able to control the exploitation of the children by the meds. Anyway they are now trying to get the wages hiked even further so that the adults can then go for the work instead of the children.


Vinod Khare said...

It is surprising the kind of effect a new technology brings in. Who could have thought BT cotton would do this. Anyway, glad to know that something was done about the issue.

Rahul Banerjee said...

the chain of production of any product in the modern industrial system is very long and often people at one end are not aware of the kind of exploitation that may be going on at the other. for instance those who use and and then throwaway computers are not aware of the fact that these computers are then sent for recycling to poor countries like india where once again children use acids to glean the precious metals out of the motherboards in a highly toxic process that is harmful both to the environment and the children.