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, February 3, 2009

Changing Times

The indomitable Khemla has now done something close to historic. He along with yet another doughty campaigner Khajan of Anjanbara village on the banks of the Narmada has succeeded in getting the district administration in Alirajpur to pay the people there unemployment allowance for having failed to provide them with employment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The people of Anjanbara under the leadership of Khemla and Khajan had applied for work under the NREGS but despite repeated reminders this work had not been provided. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath then applied the screws on the administration threatening to take them to court and so the unemployment allowance as mandated under the NREGA was provided to the tune of Rupees two lakhs or so.
This is a significant achievement as it heralds a change in the situation at the grassroots. For years we have battled the administration for effective development at the grassroots but have always been stymied by state repression. However, all those years of struggle and sacrifice finally resulted in the passing of the NREGA and the Right to Information Act and earlier the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act. These three can now be combined to ensure that the tribals do get at least one hundred days of employment per family per year and this is used to improve their natural resource endowment and impact on their chronic poverty. And this can be done without inviting state repression at least for a seasoned organisation like the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath. When Khemal phoned me and told me of this a few days ago I had felt a thrill go down my body. The KMCS has now embarked on a massive campaign of mobilising people to apply for work under NREGS. We are also working on the designing of a rigorous water balance estimation methodology which will allow the planning of appropriate natural resource management plans at the micro-watershed level which can then be implemented through the NREGS.


Anonymous said...

So have they got the compensation ? I gather few more places like Orissa,Karnataka, Jharkhand and of course Barwani in MP too have got the compensations earlier. Most of them report struggle in claiming the allowance.

Any detailed report done to study the processes in this case ? Will be worth sharing. A compilation of struggles in claiming compensation across these states itself will make a good resource learning.

Rahul Banerjee said...

The people did get the unemployment allowance but it was paid by the Sarpanch and Panchayat Secretary and not from the NREGS funds. Thus the government maintains that unemployment allowance was not paid. The process is quite simple - people first demand work and then keep pestering the Sarpanch and the Block administration for work to be started. When this does not happen then by law the administration has to provide unemployment allowance. The crucial thing here is that the people should be organised and persistent.