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 25, 2007

Public Lies

The struggle against the construction of the dams on the Narmada has brought out as never before the economic unsustainability of big dams. In the months of June and July the Narmada Bachao Andolan staged a dharna or sit in demonstration to press for the proper rehabilitation and resettlement of the oustees of the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dams. The demonstration started in Khandwa which is the headquarters of the East Nimar district in which these dams are situated and later shifted to Bhopal the state capital. Five people were on an indefinite hunger strike. Over 12000 oustee families recorded their complaints regarding incomplete rehabilitation as per the terms of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award and the directives of the Supreme Court. In between the Supreme Court heard a matter in which the Government of Madhya Pradesh and the Narmada Hydro-electric Development Corporation were challenging the stay granted by the Madhya Pradesh High Court on the closure of the gates of the Omkareshwar dam since rehabilitation of the oustees had not been completed. The Government of Madhya Pradesh and the NHDC filed false affidavits saying that only five villages were to be affected and that rehabilitation was complete in these villages. On the basis of this false affidavit the Supreme Court lifted the stay. As a consequence the dam was filled and some villages which had not been rehabilitated were submerged. The people of these villages then launched a jal satyagraha by staying put in the water. They stayed in the water for a whole week before the administration relented and provided them with temporary rehabilitation and promised to give them proper rehabilitation in the future.
However the government was not prepared to relent on the larger issue of rehabilitation for the thousands of other people who had complained and so the dharna continued as well as the hunger strike. Parleys were held continuously with the officials and ministers but no agreement could be reached and ultimately the NBA had to withdraw the dharna and hunger strike without getting any concrete assurances.
The basic problem is that providing proper rehabilitation to all the thousands of oustees involves crores of rupees which will shoot up the cost of the dam so much that it will become unviable. That is why the government is not prepared to provide the oustees with their just dues and is continuously lying. The benefits in terms of electricity and irrigation are illusive and can never measure up to the costs. However these are to be given to those who are more powerful and so the powerless adivasis have to be sacrificed.
Some amount of pressure has been built up on the government and it is now trying to provide better rehabilitation than it did in ousting the people from the submergence zone of the Indira Sagar dam and it is now also restricted from using force by the orders of the High Court. But the basic problem of not having enough money to completely rehabilitate the oustees is forcing it to lie in public continuously. Ultimately it is a question of changing our resource guzzling developmental model. This is something that no one beginning with the richest of the rich is prepared to do. And so the adivasis continue to suffer.
The struggle conducted over a month cost the adivasis and other oustees lakhs of rupees. Some of it was garnered from the people and some from well wishers across India and around the world. Yet there are a lot of bills yet to be paid. So here too there is a resource crunch.
The Omkareshwar dam was inaugurated day before yesterday and it is claimed that it has been completed in record time being the first dam in the country to be finished before the target date. The future of the oustees however remains bleak.

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