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, October 28, 2007

Mendacity as a Profession

I went to the Narmada Valley Development Authority Office in Manawar the other day to enquire about the procedure for getting detailed data regarding the design and execution of the Maan dam. As an aside I asked the junior engineering staff there to give me a rough idea about the extent of irrigation taking place pending more detailed data that would be made available later after I gave in a formal request. They told me that while the total command area was to be 15000 hectares spread over 53 villages at the moment 8900 hectares in some 37 villages were being irrigated. Now from my earlier tour of the right bank side of the command area I knew this to be a lie. I said nothing of course because I did not want to jeopardise the delivery of their official data to me in writing first before challenging it.
I came out of the office and then went on a tour of the left bank side of the command. Here too the story was the same. The canals had been poorly built and so could not carry the design flow of water. Naturally this meant that the designed command area could not be irrigated. Moreover in some cases the alignment and levelling of the minors and distributaries had been wrongly done and so water did not come into them at all. While going through the village of Khandlai I found a group of adivasis sitting together to resolve a dispute. I parked my motorcycle near them and got off to ask them about the status of irrigation in their village. They forgot their dispute and immediately surrounded me and began berating me for not supplying water to them mistaking me to be a government official. I had a hard time convincing them that I am an anti-government bimbo and was going round verifying the lies that their "ma-baap" sarkar (in villages even today people regard the government as playing the role of parents for the citizens) was telling about the extent of irrigation. Once convinced they then turned around and asked me to help them to get water to their village. I went with them to the point where the minor canal from the main canal to their village and further had been diverted and found that it had been wrongly aligned and levelled and so water was not coming into it. The villagers said that they had petitioned the officers time and again and even spent a few thousand rupees blasting the rock in the bed but all to no avail.
When it comes to dam related matters the government and its officials have made mendacity into a profession. Whether it is in rehabilitating the oustees or in later irrigating the fields in the command area the government lies with abandon. In fact a new study done by my friend Himanshu Thakker shows that even after a government spending of Rs 100,000 crores over twelve years from 1991 - 2004 no irrigation benefits have materialised in this period. Something is seriously wrong in the water sector but there is little attitudinal change among policy makers and for them it is a case of - " water, water nowhere and only money to pocket"!

No comments: