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.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An Important Role

The village of Mahabadia is situated 17 kms from the city of Bhopal on the Kolar Road. It is a village dominated by influential rich landowners who own most of the land. The majority of people in the village are from the Other Backward Class (OBC), Dalit and Adivasi communities who are landless and have to work on the farms of the influential people for paltry wages. They also do backbreaking labour in stone quarries and brick kilns nearby which makes them ill.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is supposed to provide each poor rural household in this country with 100 days of work annually. However, the reality is that in 2009-10 only three households out of the total of 162 households received a total of 42 days of employment in the whole year. This works out to 14 days of work for each of the three employed households. What is even more of a concern is that if the 159 households who did not get any work are taken into account then the average work offered per eligible household comes to only 0.25 days. (Calculated on the basis of data on the MGNREGS website).
When this is the level of apathy of the government to the plight of the poor despite laws and policies in favour of the latter, then civil society has to step in. That is exactly what an NGO Ahambhumika (the name translates as - An Important Role) has done by acting as a conduit to link the poor women of Mahabadia village to the privileged sections of Bhopal city. A few government servants have given their spare time to set up this NGO which collects clothes, grains and pulses from the affluent households in Bhopal and then distributes them to poorer households in the slums and villages nearby. But what is really innovative about their effort is the new Grain School that they have started.
It is well known that poor households can overcome their poverty only when the women become educated. The Grain School is aimed at doing just this. Ahambhumika has set up an adult literacy centre for women in Mahabadia village. Given their need to work during the day and also take care of the domestic responsibilities arising from patriarchal social pressures, these women do not have time to study. That is why the Grain School provides them with 20 kgs of wheat, 3 kgs of rice and 1 kg of pulses per month to study. The village ASHA worker under the National Rural Health Mission is given 50 kgs of wheat, 10 kgs of rice and 2 kgs of pulses to teach these women. A total of twenty poor women- 14 from the Daroi adivasi community, 1 from the Korku adivasi community, 4 from the Other Backward Class Banjara community and 1 from the Muslim community are studying in this school. The school has commenced from 15th November 2010 and is running well as shown below.
The important part is that students from elite schools in the city have been mobilised to contribute the grain for this centre to function. The students of the following schools in Bhopal have together contributed 20 quintals of grain and pulses to fund this effort -
1. Delhi Public School - 4 quintals
2. St. Theresa's Girls School - 4 quintals
3. St. Xavier's School - 1 quintal
4. Billabong High School - 1 quintal
5. St. Paul's School - 4 quintal
6. Bonnie Foi School - 1 quintal
7. St. Thomas School - 1 quintal
8. Queen Mary's School - 4 quintal
The plan is to first teach these women to read, write and do arithmetic and then continue the school as a study circle where they learn various other skills relevant to improving their livelihoods. It has been rightly said that development should mean giving someone a fishing rod and teaching her to fish rather than giving her fish to eat continually. This is precisely what the Grain School is doing by teaching the poor women of Mahabadia the skills that will enable them to put their precarious livelihoods on a sustainable footing.
The great thing about this effort as mentioned earlier is that it has roped in the children of privileged sections of society to contribute to the development of under-privileged women who are leading a precarious existence. Where the government has failed to fulfill its mandate to provide welfare services to the poor and is so doing a great injustice to them, civil society has stepped in to fill the gap in a commendable way. This is increasingly becoming an important role that has necessarily to be played by civil society in these days of globalisation promoted by the heartless financial kleptocrats who effectively control all the strings and not just the monetary ones.

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