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, February 22, 2011

More About Impunity

Sudhir Katyar of the Int Bhatta Mazdoor Union in Gujarat, which is fighting for justice for the mostly dalit migrant labourers who work under conditions of bondage in brick kilns there, has sent in a note which further underlines the impunity with which capitalists and their lackeys in the government and administration continue to oppress the poor and disempowered -

Price of freedom in Kakosi
Brick kiln owners in Kakosi area of Patan district have been protesting against police, their own workers, and the Int Bhatta Majdorr Union for last two days. This is a historic first. Normally in most workers’ struggle, the police is accused of oppressing workers. Here it is the employers who are complaining of police harassment. This strange happening can be understood if we look at the modus operandi of a single case of Durga Ram.
Durga Ram belongs to Bavri caste, one of the Scheduled Castes. He comes from Pailkal village in District Nagore. Durga Ram along with a group of 12 families, came to work in the SK brick kiln of Dinesh bhai Prajapati around Kakosi village. The agreement signed by the labor contractor (attached with this report) said that the workers will be paid the rate declared by Mahesana and Kakosi association. Normally the wage rate for the season is declared during the mid season around Uttarain in brick kiln industry. At around this time, workers often stop working asking the owners to declare the wage rate for the season. The system of payment is that the workers take an initial advance, get paid subsistence allowance every week, and final wages are settled at the end of the season. This year too, the Mahesana workers went on strike in first week of February. The Mahesana owners declared a wage rate of Rs. 390 per 1000 bricks after three days of strike.
The Kakosi workers also stopped working sporadically around this time. They demanded the Mahesana rate. However the Kakosi owners declared a rate of Rs. 330 per 1000 bricks. This was not accepted by the workers who intensified the strike. As owners refused to budge, the workers decided to leave the kilns. On 15th February, two groups of workers filed application with SDO Patan under Bonded Labor Act. On 17thFebruary, a group of 101 workers filed an application at the Kakosi PS seeking release from illegal confinement. Durga Ram and his group also decided to leave. By this time they had made 11. 5 lakh bricks. The owner resisted the move. He calculated the value of work done at Rs. 290 per 1000 bricks. This was the wage rate two years back i.e. in 2009. He calculated an outstanding amount of Rs. 51,950 after deducting advance and subsistence allowance. However if the wages are to be calculated at the wage rate of Rs. 390, the owner needs to pay the workers Rs. 1.09 lakhs.
Durga Ram finally approached another brick kiln owner in neighboring Mahesana district who agreed to give him advance against a wage rate of Rs. 420 per 1000 bricks. On 19th January, he made arrangements to leave and got a truck to load his belongings that included even goats. He contacted the Union and informed of his plan. The Union asked him not to make any payment. By this time the truck was loaded. The owner did not allow the truck to leave the premises. The Union asked the Kakosi Police for help. The police reached the site but did not facilitate release of Durga Ram and his group. It merely took statements and came back. The Union in the meantime had a meeting with the District Superintendent Police Patan district. The DSP was convinced that these cases fall in the category of illegal confinement and asked the Kakosi police to help release workers who want to go home. By this time it was getting late. The brick kiln owner mobilized all the owners in the area. There was a crowd of 500 people surrounding the truck and threatening violence. The children and women started crying. So even as a police party was rushed again to the brick kiln, Durga Ram paid Rs. 51, 950 and made his escape. This was the price of his freedom.
The Kakosi police visited three more kilns the next day, SB, Ekta, and RBC from where complaints had come in. The owners put up a stiff resistance. Not a single worker was allowed to leave. Instead the owners are demonstrating at the Police Station in defense of their right to keep workers bonded and force them to work. They are being extended support by other brick manufacturers. Durga Ram and his group are not alone. Such sums amounting to lakhs of Rupees have been extracted from three more groups. In fact every year, a large number of groups of workers are forced with situations like this, and have to pay up money even after having sweated for six months or more.
The Bonded Labor Act was passed in 1976 for exactly situation like this. It promulgated that no worker can be forced to work against an advance. Such debt is null and void. Confinement of any person is illegal even under sections of IPC. The Union had approached the High Court of Gujarat last year. It too asked the administration to release the workers and send them home. However it seems that Kakosi is part of another world.

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