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.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Deep Divide

I have just finished writing two reports. One on the implementation of the Panchayat Provisions Extension to the Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) 1996 in Chhattisgarh and the other on a strategy to reduce poverty in Madhya Pradesh. PESA basically provides that in scheduled tribal areas governance should be such that there is respect for and recognition of the special lifestyle and culture of the tribals which is traditionally resource conservative and not resource extractive like the mainstream industrial civilisation. Most importantly this statute stresses that the management and development of all natural resources within the area of a particular village will be done in consultation with the gram sabha or village general body consisting of all the adult voting members of that village. However, since natural resources are increasingly becoming scarce for the resource guzzling globalised industrial and consumerist economy it is very difficult for the state to respect the provisions of PESA. Thus there is a deep divide between the ideal provisions of PESA and the reality of industrial development. Consequently there is rampant violation of PESA going on in Chhattisgarh where mines and industrial plants are being set up in a hurry with scant concern for either the tribals or the pristine forested habitats in which they reside.
In discussions with my other colleagues in the team that has been constituted by the United Nations Development Programme and the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, we came to the conclusion that the strategy to reduce poverty in Madhya Pradesh was known to everybody but it was precisely this deep divide between the ideal of sustainability and the reality of indiscriminate resource and surplus extraction that was preventing it from being adopted. There is a pathological governance failure arising from this failure to align development with social and environmental sustainability.
The question then arises as to what is the relevance of writing such reports which we know are never going to be taken seriously. One of my colleagues said that it is important to record our views. Record also the details of the small experiments in decentralised governance and development that we are carrying out. In the hope that some day the limits to this ongoing madness of over consumption will be reached and then there will be something to fall back upon.

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