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, May 2, 2010

Justice Denied, Democracy Jeopardised

A public walk or padayatra was launched on 15th April 2010 from Pangri village in the tribal dominated Ambagarh Chowki Block of Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh. The walk passed through 13 villages and ended in Mongra village on 21st April 2010. These villages are all situated near the Shivnath River and affected by a dam that is being built at Mongra. Pangri village is the headquarters of the mass organization Jurmil Morcha which means an organization to promote cooperation between people. The village is situated 80 kms away from the district headquarters at Rajnandgaon and does not have a motorable road in the final stretches. There is a health centre in Tatekasa village which is the headquarters of the panchayat in which Pangri is the fourth and last village but it has no staff. Neither does the government hospital in Chilhati some fifteen kilometers away have a doctor. The Jurmil Morcha and the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha had jointly organized this padayatra to highlight the huge injustice being wrought on the poor tribals of the area through the construction of the dam at Mongra.
The padayatris or public walkers asked the people to ponder on five questions regarding the Mongra dam –
1. Does the government have a rehabilitation plan for the oustees of the dam.
2. What are the criteria for determining compensation.
3. Who are to benefit from the water impounded in the dam.
4. Why is the water not being released for irrigation.
5. What is the kind of development that is appropriate for the region.
The dam was planned prior to independence but the actual design was done in the late 1960s. The implementation began in 1989 and 93 villages were earmarked for displacement. This attempt was stalled due to agitation by the people to be affected. Work in earnest started only after the formation of Chhattisgarh and especially after the coming to power of the Bharatiya Janata Party government in 2003 but on a smaller scale involving the displacement of just twenty odd villages. Once again there was an agitation but the political leaders managed to buy off some of the people and eventually the displaced people accepted paltry compensation at the rate of some Rs 16000 per acre and agreed to work on the construction of the dam for just Rs 50 as daily wages. For women the wages were even lower at Rs 40. Most of the oustees still have not received even this paltry compensation. The water impounded in the dam is being supplied to the Bhilai Steel Plant and to the Rajnandgaon municipality but is not being released for irrigation. The canal system to take the water to the farmers’ fields has not been constructed properly.
Yet another sorry picture of the government’s cheating of the poorest of its citizens and its opposition to people’s movements that fight for justi ce. If people are not heard when they raise legitimate demands in a democracy then there is bound to be violent unrest of one kind or another.

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