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.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Self-help groups on the other hand are typically supported by NGOs of one kind or another and so the interest rates are lower and the administrative costs are borne by the NGO which has funding support. Moreover the self-help groups also serve as community institutions that build up communitarian feelings among the people and help them to collaborate on various other activities like watershed development, marketing of agricultural produce, purchase of agricultural inputs and the like. The most important thing from the financial point of view is that lending in the SHGs begins only after a corpus is established through regular savings. The interest paid on the lendings when they do begin goes towards increasing the corpus and so over time capital is built up and there are examples of SHGs that have successfully freed their members from the clutches of moneylenders and built up substantial capital.
Microfinance institutions, however, do not insist on the savings aspect and are only interested in advancing loans and recovering them. Since recovery is a difficult proposition all kinds of stratagems are used to ensure that this does take place. In the picture below the women members of a group linked to a micro-finance institution in Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh are being made to take a collective vow to return the money that has been loaned to them.
Many NGOs in western Madhya Pradesh have instituted good micro-credit and savings operations among the Bhils. They have modified the working of the SHGs to suit the situation of the members and serve them in the best way. One NGO Bharatiya Gramin Mahila Sangh formed SHGs among the Malwi Bhil women of Indore district. The SHG members save regularly and then leverage the corpus to get loans from banks at a low interest rate. However, once the corpus reaches a level of about Rs thirty thousand for a ten woman group they distribute the corpus among themselves because they feel that they cannot deal with more money. After this they begin again from scratch. These groups too have freed themselves from moneylenders even though they have not been able to build up capital due to their diffidence about dealing with large sums of money. A diffidence that arises because their basic resource endowments are very low and so they are liable to economic shocks. They fear that if the corpus gets too large and the leveraged loans larger then in case of default due to a big economic shock the whole group will collapse leading to great difficulties. All these groups have got together and contributed some money and a lot of labour to build a community centre in one of the villages for themselves where they regularly meet to discuss various issues relating to their livelihoods as in the picture below.
An important aspect of this mobilisation is that the contribution of these women's groups in the social and political spheres has been even more than in the economic sphere and the activities that have been undertaken are as follows -
• The women were at the forefront of the struggle to increase agricultural wages and they succeeded by doubling them from a lowly Rs 25 a day to a much more justified Rs 50 per day.
• The Below Poverty Line surveys had been done in an improper manner earlier. The SHGs ran a campaign for the correct identification of poor people and got many genuine families listed and non-genuine families delisted.
• Similarly many eligible women were registered for widow pension.
• Concerted action including social ostracism and registration of police cases was instituted against alcoholic men who used to cause a nuisance for their wives who were members of the SHGs.
• Action was taken against corruption in the Panchayats and Sarpanches were forced to return funds they had defalcated.
• When a woman was beaten up by upper castes then the women of all the SHGs together went and sat in front of the police station demanding action against the culprits and were successful in getting a case registered against them.
Thus the SHGs can become potent institutions of the people while micro-finance institutions will always remain profit churners for their owners and keep the poor perpetually in debt bondage.