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.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Many years ago when the non-adivasi activists of Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath left Alirajpur and only the adivasi activists remained to carry on the work the general prognosis was that the organisation would fold up in a year or two. However, Shankar and Khemla along with other village level activists defied these doomsayers and have continued for more than fifteen years and taken the organisation from strength to strength. The latest feather in their cap is that of getting the NREGS implemented in the face of Herculean obstacles created by the bureaucracy and the sarpanches.
The problem starts right from the time of filing applications demanding jobs. The sarpanches and the bureaucracy actively dissuade the people from filing applications because they feel that this will bring in more work and responsibility for them. Once the applications are filed it takes ages for the work to be started because technical and administrative sanctions have to be taken for the work and the staff who will give these sanctions is limited. Even after that the people get on an average around two months work instead of 100 days. Finally the payment is very late in coming and sometimes does not come at all. The critical bottleneck here is that payments cannot be made until the sub-engineer has certified the work done and as in the sanctioning process the number of sub-engineers is too less as compared to the work done in hundreds of panchayats in a block. So naturally the bureaucrats make the most of this shortage and demand kickbacks for both sanctioning and evaluating work.
The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath launched a continuous campaign in the year 2008 to get work allotted against demands made by the people and then when the work was done get the payments made, albeit late, to the workers. More than a thousand workers spread over six villages were paid rupees thirty lakhs in pending payments due to this massive mobilisation and doggedness. Of course this has exposed Khemla and Shankar to threats from the sarpanches who have in the process had to do a lot more work than they would have liked and also go without the graft money that they would otherwise have made.
Moreover there are reports that taking advantage of the provision that only a minimum of fifty percent of the funds has to be allotted to panchayats and the rest can be allotted to government departments or NGOs the officer in charge of the NREGS at the state and district levels take a cut to allot funds to these other agencies thus siphoning off more funds from the poor.
This clearly means that the sanctioning and evaluation process of NREGS will have to be changed and made more people friendly and transparent.

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