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.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Link between Profits and Violence

The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) which is a government owned entity has built the two dams of Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar on the Narmada River and is running the hydro-electric power stations there. In the process the corporation has not adequately compensated and rehabilitated the people who have been displaced by these dams. Consequently it has been taken to task by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) both at the grassroots level through mass mobilisation and in the High and Supreme courts through litigation. It so happens that due to a dispute between the riparian states over the distribution of the water of the Narmada River a tribunal was constituted to arbitrate on this. The Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) not only resolved the dispute over water but also made excellent provisions for the rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced persons. The most important provision is that every affected family would be given a minimum of two hectares of irrigated land and if the family also had adult sons then they too would have to be given two hectares of irrigated land. This is where the NHPC economised in order to reduce costs and did not provide this land to the displaced persons. After a long legal battle the NBA won an order from the High Court that the NWDT award must be implemented in full and close to 12000 people still without proper rehabilitation must be given two hectares of irrigated land and other facilities.
When this order was ignored by the NHPC and the Government of Madhya Pradesh, the NBA launched an agitation by over ten thousand men and women affected by the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dams on the 28th of October 2009 in Khandwa. The Khandwa police in an unprecedented action has arrested all the key activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan from their offices and the dharna site, in front of the Khandwa Collectorate.
On 29th evening the demonstrators were cane charged brutally and Chittaroopa Palit and 18 other activists were arrested and on 30th October without any provocation police came in a Vajra vehicle and locked NBA’s office alleging anti-state activities. They arrested six of the activists, including senior activist Alok Agarwal, present at the office around 5:15 pm and then locked the office. After some time five policemen came and without any search warrant and probably copied files from the computer and took some documents from the office. After some time they released 5 people and unsealed the NBA office but kept Alok Agarwal in custody without mentioning the charges under which he had been arrested.
Now the NHPC over the last three years or so has earned a profit of over 1200 crores from its operations. The cost of implementing the order of the High Court should not be more than 700 crores given the prevailing cost of agricultural land in the region. So the NHPC can easily implement the order but it is not doing so because of the logic of making profits. In all dams built in this country there are two things in common - non rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced people and non completion of the canal network. Instead the money so saved by neglecting these crucial aspects of a dam are invested in making more new dams without rehabilitation and without canal networks. This has two negative consequences. First the ousted people settle down in the catchment area of the dam and especially around the rim of the reservoir and so aggravate the soil erosion in the catchment leading to higher silt loads and shorter life of the dam. Second the designed irrigation potential is grossly under utilised so much so that over the past decade or so despite new dams having been built there has been no addition to the irrigated acreage in India. The dam builders earn short term profits but in the long run there are huge social, economic and environmental losses that are borne by others. The cumulative injustice of such profit making then manifests itself in protest. The state responds by coming out in favour of the profit makers by using force to unjustly subdue these protests and lays the seeds of its illegitimacy in the eyes of those denied justice. Not suprprisingly such unjust violence by the state is increasingly begetting retaliatory violence both spontaneous and organised.


Bhaswati said...

What is disturbing is that the electronic media completely glosses over such reports, yet can devote multiple hours in a day covering Shahrukh Khan's musings on his birthday. Sigh.

Rahul Banerjee said...

The reason is once again a rush for profits! airing shahrukh khan will get the electronic media TRPs but giving news on people's movements will turn the well heeled public who matter to the advertisers away.