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, March 29, 2009

Near Best Practice in Communitarian Natural Resource Management

The month of March is coming to an end heralding a very hot summer to come and across Madhya Pradesh streams and wells have gone dry. Yet the stream Kara running through the villages of Gendra and Attha in Alirajpur district is still flowing with water as is clearly visible in the picture below.

The man standing smiling in the picture is Chatarsingh who is one of the architects of this water conservation wonder. Many years ago the people of Gendra and Attha villages decided to conserve the fast diminishing forests which were there in the catchment of this stream. They would prevent grazing in the monsoons when new seedlings of the trees sprout and then after the rains they would cut the grass and distribute it among themselves paying for it. The money thus collected was given as salary to a few people who took regular responsibility of guarding the forests and Chatarsingh is one of them. The forests have become luxuriant and in combination with some good soil conservation measures has led to the greater recharge of rain water into the groundwater aquifers which contribute to the return flow in the stream throughout the year and even in a bad rainfall year like the present one. As many as eighty farmers in these two villages have been drawing water from the stream for irrigating their farms like Makansingh in the picture below and yet this has not exhausted the flow in the stream.

The secretary of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath, Roopsingh, has taken three crops beginning with the monsoon maize, followed by wheat and now there is a luxuriant bajra or pearl millet crop in the midst of which he stands frowning giving a stern warning to the acolytes of centralised modern development that unless decentralised communitarian and nature friendly development is widely adopted the human race is doomed to suffocate in its greed.

Despite this exemplary water conservation effort that has also increased the productivity of their lands the people of Attha still cannot make ends meet because the per capita agricultural land availability is as low as 0.3 hectares. This is primarily due to the population explosion brought on by a patriarchal social structure that forces women to bear more children so as to ensure enough surviving male progeny. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has never tackled patriarchy in any concerted manner and so the conservation success has not been able to make the people economically self sufficient. Thus the work done in the Attha-Gendra watershed is still a little short of best practice natural resource management.
As a result every household has some members migrating to Gujarat to supplement their incomes from their lands. Consequently there has to be some added bio-mass and agricultural crop based value addition in the villages and a sustained campaign against patriarchy for this watershed to become sustainable in every way. This requires greater investments in money and time to build up the capacity of the people in this regard.
In fact this manifestation of the ill effects of patriarcy reminded me of a legend regarding this stream that is current among the Bhils of the area. It appears a brother and sister couple named Kara and Kari decided to visit the Narmada river and they sat down for rest on a ridge. The brother then fondled the sister's breasts. This angered the sister and she said that she would not continue her journey with the brother and told him to go his own way to the Narmada. So while Kari started off towards the South from the ridge her brother Kara went North. Kari reached the Narmada sooner in Bhitada village which is just 13 kilometers from that ridge. While Kara had to traverse more than two hundred kilometers through Gendra, Attha and many other villages in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat to reach the Narmada. Incidentally the people of Bhitada too have conserved their forests and so not only is the stream Kari flowing with water at present but also the people there have used an unique system of gravity irrigation called paat to take a winter crop on their lands.
I had gone to Attha to take part in the funeral of an old stalwart of the organisation, Nansingh. Nansingh was one of the first people to respond to the exhortations of the non-adivasi activists and rise in revolt against the tyranny of the forest guards all of three decades ago. Even though I had gone to Attha with a heart heavy from the loss of a courageous comrade in arms the sight of the stream in flow and the glowing smile on Chatarsingh's face made me return with a renewed anarchistic resolve to fight the depredations of centralised development.


anish said...

so true! relentless regeneration is a way out. realistic work without losing hope. very inspiring. thank you for sharing.

Rahul Banerjee said...

There are many instances of successful communitarian natural resource conservation efforts throughout the country. What is galling however is that the government does not provide sufficient support that encourages such efforts and helps them to scale up and proliferate.

Adharshila Learning Centre said...

probably the success of Attha was because it was a purely people's effort and would have been spoilt with govt. support.
it grew inspite of Govt. opposition.
i remember that people had rejected the forest dept. nursery's plants and made their own nursery.

Rahul Banerjee said...

the people's movements must muster up enough power to shape government policies because on their own such examples cannot bring about societal change on a large scale. the character of the government itself has to be changed so that unlike now the touch of the government does not remain poisonous.

Adharshila Learning Centre said...

The example is important bcoz it shows a way for the future. Especially in times when it is believed that nothing can happen at the community level without the intervention of NGOs and funding agencies.

People's initiatives and institutions should remain free of govt. intervention and control. The Govt. agenda is always to control the people howsoever progressive it might seem.

Rahul Banerjee said...

That is a classical anarchistic statement. How I wish that the adivasis could indeed be left alone to develop according to their own genius. Unfortunately the modern capitalist world has penetrated into the remotest regions and so anarchistic solutions are very difficult to implement on a large scale. The imperative therefore is to try and engage with the modern centralised social, economic and political systems and see how they can be made to respect communitarian decentralised living and not to ignore the central state apparatus altogether.