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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Political Mobilisation and Leadership

Even though difficult it is political mobilisation of the masses under able leadership alone that is eventually going to transform society in favour of the poor. At present large political movements of the poor and marginalised sections have become rare primarily because the flexibility introduced into labour markets through newer production systems has succeeded in atomising society. So all that we have is isolated protest movements where people who are affected by some project or other are fighting for their livelihoods. The Narmada Bachao Andolan continues to be the flag bearer in this regard in the western Madhya Pradesh region. The government perversely persists in refusing to properly rehabilitate and resettle the oustees of the many dams that are being built. A most poignant instance is that of the Upper Beda River dam in Khargone district.
Fourteen Bhil tribal and Banjara villages are affected by this dam on a tributary of the Narmada River. The full reservoir level of the dam is 317 meters, and the maximum water level is 318 meters. This year, the construction on the dam has reached the crest level of 305 meters. As per government information, at the crest level of 305 meters, the possible submergence at back-water level this year is 312 meters. It is surprising that although the government itself has calculated the impact at back-water this year to be 7 meters there is no computation of the back-water levels at Maximum Water Level till now. Nor have villages been surveyed up to that level. To assess the full extent of submergence computation of back-waters at Maximum Water Level of 318 meters will have to be done. There is no doubt that this submergence will be much larger than the submergence at Full Reservoir Level. Thus it is highly likely that many other villages will be submerged.
The Rehabilitation Policy of the Government of Madhya Pradesh applicable for the Upper Beda dam requires that all oustees - land-holders, encroachers and landless families and their adult sons and adult un-married daughters should be allotted agricultural land with a minimum allotment of 5 acres of irrigated and cultivable land. However this has not been provided to a single oustee, which will result in the complete pauperisation of the oustees after displacement. Not even a single rehabilitation and resettlement site has been constructed for the oustees.
This year itself, at crest level of 305 meters, submergence at back-water level may go up to 312 meters in which many families of villages Khamid, Sonud and Palda will be affected, but none of them have been rehabilitated till date in total violation of the orders of the Supreme Court.
Consequently the oustees of the Upper Beda Dam under the leadership of the Narmada Bachao Andolan have decided to undertake a jal samarpan satyagraha vowing to drown in their villages rather than let the dam be built and to this end they have begun a sit in at Sonud village from the first week of August as shown below -

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