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.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Establishing The Rule of Law

One of the most important achievements of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in its quarter century long struggle for bringing justice and sense into water resource development in the Narmada Valley is the establishment of the "Rule of Law". It is a fundamental principle of liberal democracy that laws must be obeyed not only by the ordinary citizens but also by the rulers and government servants. However, in a situation in which most citizens are unaware of the laws and rights and it is extremely expensive and time consuming to challenge their violation in courts of law, the powerful sections of society and government servants mostly get away with unjust and illegal actions that harm the poor ordinary citizens. This is where the NBA has made a significant dent.
Initially the NBA relied mostly on mass mobilisation and direct action to try and stop the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada at Navagam in Gujarat. But later when it became clear that the government would not relent and the mass mobilisation began to wane the NBA was forced to file a writ petition in the Supreme Court against the violation of many statutes, constitutional rights and the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award and succeeded in getting a stay on the construction of the dam. While eventually the Supreme Court allowed the construction of the dam to go on it put a rider that the provisions of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal regarding rehabilitation of the oustees would have to be implemented before the dam could be built. This has now proved to be a major plank for the NBA. Not only has it been able to stall the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam at the 121 m level it has also been able to stall the construction and operation of other dams upstream because the oustees are not being rehabilitated in accordance with the provisions of the NWDT award.
The government is in a fix because the provisions of the NWDT award include giving land for land and this is an extremely expensive proposition. Moreover, in the case of the Maheshwar dam the oustees have challenged the very public purpose of the dam in the court of the collector under section 5A of the Land Acquisition Act and the government has not been able to counter their arguments in this regard. If the public purpose is not established then land acquisition cannot take place and the High Court has decreed that private acquisition is illegal without provision of alternative land.
The fight for good water governance and just water management has to be fought in many forums and at many levels. The NBA has done this and it has excelled in its fight in the courts which is at present sustaining its struggle. This has given heart to a number of other movements across the country and there is now a veritable avalanche of petitions against environmental profligacy and injustice. All this has snowballed into the recent rejection by the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the proposal of the Vedanta Resources Limited to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa by displacing the Dongria Kondhs and thus despoiling a pristine forest and a perennial water source. Blog Action Day should thus stress on legal activism also as a means of ensuring just and sustainable water use.

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