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, September 9, 2007

Man's inhumanity to Man

A week long tour of the Man river basin spending the nights in the huts of Bhil and Bhilala adivasis brought back to me the memories of my earlier Jhabua days. Despite almost a decade having passed since I last spent so much time among the Bhils not much has changed in the villages. People are still intensely involved with the crops on their fields and the celebration of the Navai festival which allows them to partake of the new crops like corn and various pulses. I had gone to do a preliminary survey of the status of water resource utilisation and water governance in the Man river basin as part of a new study that I am undertaking. The Man basin has a distinct socio-economic divide. While the upper reaches in the Vindhya hills are mostly populated by the Bhil and Bhilala adivasis the lower reaches in the Nimar plains are populated by upper and other backward caste farmers. The upper reaches are not only hilly the soil quality of the farms is also poor whereas the lower reaches have fertile and deep black cotton soils. The water resources too have been developed in the lower reaches extensively and are being used by the well heeled non-adivasi farmers for irrigation. There is very little development of water resources in the upper reaches.
A big concrete dam has been built midway through the river basin displacing about fourteen villages inhabited by adivasis. The logic offered for this was that it would help to irrigate about 15000 hectares of land. However this has proved a chimera. The canal system to make irrigation possible has not been constructed properly. If the water were to be released into this system at the designed flow then all the canals would burst. So much less water is released and so only about 30 percent of the designed command is being irrigated. This is the problem with most dams where after the construction of the dam wall the fund flow stops and the canal system suffers. Similarly the important work of treating the catchment area too has been neglected. Without proper watershed development in the catchment the silt load in the river will increase and its capacity to keep on flowing with the aid of ground water will decrease and this will impact negatively on the utility of the dam. Yet there is no thought being spared for this. It is thus quite appropriate to say that the Man dam is an example of man's inhumanity to man (pun intended)!
The people of the displaced villages conducted a militant struggle for a just rehabilitation under the aegis of the Narmada Bachao Andolan which did a very good critique of the project . However, this struggle was crushed and the oustees were palmed off with cash compensation.

No comments: