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.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Limits of Liberal Democracy

The enactment of the Right to Information Act in 2005 was hailed by social activists as a major victory for transparency in governance. The Act is indeed a very powerful law which has improved the level of transparency in governance and made government information easier to access. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has used this Act to great advantage and elicited crucial information on several occasions. The most important of these has been the certified copies of the orders passed by the District Level Forest Rights Committee on the applications forwarded to it by the Gram Sabhas regarding  recognition of the rights of Scheduled Tribes to the forest lands they have been cultivating prior to 2005. These copies showed that the orders had been passed without any serious consideration. It is only mentioned in the orders that the applications have either been accepted or rejected and no reasons have been put down as to why this has been done.
However, on many occasions  the Public Information Officers who are the first recipients of the applications for information wilfully refuse to provide the information. Then one has to file a first appeal against this violation of the RTI Act to a designated higher authority. If the applicant does not get the information even after the first appeal then she has to file a second appeal to the State Information Commission if the public authority is one constituted under the State Government and the Central Information Commission if the public authority is constituted under the Central Government. While there is a thirty day time limit within which the Public information Officer has to provide information and a maximum of fortyfive days within which the first appellate authority has to dispose of the appeal, there is no time limit on the State or Central Information Commissions to dispose of the appeals before them.  So appeals remain pendiing at this level. Moreover even though it is clear that the Public Informtion Officer has not providede the information asked for withing the stipulated time rarely is a penalty slapped on him.
What happens in the matter of information applications depends on the kind of information asked for. If the information asked for is innoccuous then it is given easily. However, if it is uncomfortable then problems arise. Especially if questions are asked about why a particular action stipulated in relevant laws or rules is not beng performed and why punitive action is not being taken against the recalcitrant officers then invariably answers are not given.  In such circumstances if the State and Central Information Commissions punish the erring Public Information Officers without delay then there will come about a sea  change in the performance of government departments in this country.  However, this never happens.
In fact there are many good laws in this country but for all of them there is this problem that they are not implemented properly. In fact if they were then there would not be any need for an RTI Act. This is the basic limitation of liberal democracy that even though on paper it is law and rule based and citizens not only have rights but they can also seek redressal if these rights are violated, in reality this rarely happens. So not surprisingly the RTI Act to is not being implemented properly and is only providing some partial relief. Thus, in the final analysis justice and freedom which could be ensured for the majority of citizens by the rule of law are jeopardised to protect the interests of the powerful few.

In the final analysis these are the limits that liberal democracy will have to transcend if it is to become truly equitable in practice. Given the fact that centralised systems are inherently undemocratic regardless of whether they are capitalistic or socialistic in nature it is important that the common citizen should have the means for quick and cheap redress of grievances. This would ensure that the development path that is chosen is both sustainable and equitable. The libertarians and the anarchists have to strive to make civil rights and direct democracy more strongly entrenched in centralised governance systems.

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