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.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Water Mismanagment

Not all NGOs are dole givers and one Sampark in Jhabua district has always tried to involve the people and make them self reliant. Sampark has also taken up cudgels regularly against the government for its wrong development policies and even worse implementation. One example is that of the Community Lift Irrigation Schemes implemented in the nineteen eighties and nineteen nineties. The government typically treated water as a commodity and in the process of extracting it for profit mismangaged it and inconvenienced the Bhils.
Jhabua district is situated in the Vindhya Hills and has high gradient lands with thin lateritic topsoil cover which drain into the Mahi and Narmada rivers. The underlying rock structure too is basaltic. Over and above there has been massive deforestation due to indiscriminate logging. All this has meant that most of the precipitation runs off and the recharge of aquifers is low. Under the circumstances what is needed for the region is intensive watershed development and forest regeneration schemes for the conservation of soils, soil moisture, underground aquifers and forests. Unfortunately The government from the early 1980s embarked on a programme of group lift irrigation schemes for drawing water through heavy duty pumps from rivers and streams for distribution through pipelines to farms of adivasis situated at a distance in the upper slopes. In Petlawad tehsil of Jhabua district there were as many as 81 such schemes involving over a thousand farmers implemented but only 12 were successful to some extent. The rest of the schemes failed and the adivasis being unable to repay their loans are now burdened with them.
A study has revealed that the reasons for the failure of these schemes are as follows -
1. The streams and even the Mahi River, which were the main water sources had dried up after a few years in the crucial winter season when irrigation is most required because of the large number of LIS that came up on them. So most of the schemes had not worked after the first year or two.
2. The power supply to the motor pumps was highly irregular and of so low a voltage that the high power pumps either would not run at all or would get burnt out.
3. Qualified engineers of the Government had not designed the schemes and instead the materials had been supplied on an ad hoc basis by the sahukars who had come to the villages and got the villagers together to apply for the scheme. The sahukars did all the paperwork and running around and handled all the money in cahoots with the loan advancing banks and the government officials. Thus the materials supplied were ill designed and of an inferior quality leading to the failure of the schemes.
4. The loans that were thrust on the beneficiaries were far greater than their annual incomes and so represented a tremendous financial burden right from the start.
As opposed to this the immensely successful Comprehensive Watershed Development Project implemented in Petlawad tehsil with financial and technical assistance from the funding agency DANIDA has amply shown that it is possible to substantially improve the soil-water situation and increase agricultural productivity with an investment of as little as Rs 5000 per hectare.
After a long battle involving mass mobilisation and advocacy these farmers who are now saddled with unpaid principal and interest burden cumulatively running into crores of rupees have finally managed to convince the government that these loans should be waived and criminal action taken against the officials and traders responsible for this debacle. A commendable victory in the general gloom of anti-people development that is mandated for the Bhils.

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