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, January 23, 2011

Poverty Reduction Strategy

What value does research have for policy making? The Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai was commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme to collaborate with the Madhya Pradesh State Planning Board to prepare a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper to assist the planning process in the state. Along with three others I worked on this project and wrote the chapters on agriculture, natural resource management and local governance. Eventually, however, the paper remained just another research document as the State Planning Board in Madhya Pradesh no longer directs development planning in the state, having been converted into a punishment posting for inefficient and corrupt bureaucrats. The paper can be accessed here. Researching for the paper it came home to me that the knowledge related to equitable and sustainable development is all there and the problem as always is the lack of political will power to use this knowledge.
The most important factor in good planning is the active participation of the people. This can be possible at the grassroots level at least through the Gram Sabha. At the moment the Gram Sabhas are held only as a formality and in most cases people aren't interested in them because nothing of consequence is discussed. However, if first the data collection with regard to planning is done through these Gram Sabhas and then on the basis of that local level plans are drawn up and then implemented then the scenario can change drastically. Presently data collection is the responsibility of the Patwari or the lowest revenue official who is in charge of updating the land records and all agricultural data. He is often jokingly called the Khatwari because he sits on a khat or cot in the village headman's house or in his own house in the nearest town and fills in all the data by talking to the people on his cell phone.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme provides an excellent opportunity for turning around the planning process in this country but the bureaucracy is loathe to give up its powers. Systems have been set in place to ensure collective action for natural resource management and revival of agriculture through MGNREGS but as always these are mostly on paper. The grievance redressal mechanism provided on the website of the NREGA does not work as no cognisance is taken of complaints registered there.
As always it is an uphill task.

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