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.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Displacement Dissected

The major problem of economic development in India currently is that of involuntary displacement. Whether it is construction of highways and industrial and urban nodes adjoining them, airports, mining projects, dams or industrial plants, everywhere land is needed and so people living on that land have to be displaced mostly against their wishes. This month has been full of such incidents which have unfortunately not got the same kind of media attention that Baba Ramdev or Anna Hazare have got. There was the clash in Bhatta Parsaul village in Uttar Pradesh where people were protesting against acquisition of their land by the government for the Noida Expressway. Then there was the police action to evict the people living in the Golibar Slums in Mumbai to make way for urban development by a private developer again helped by the government. The Orissa government tried to move its police forces into the villages of Gobindpur and Dhinkia to acquire land for the POSCO steel plant. Finally Swami Nigamanand died while fasting against the quarrying along the River Ganga which was causing loss of livelihoods for the people living alongside the river due to environmental destruction. In between the Supreme Court passed some strictures on the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) for allegedly giving wrong information in its petition regarding the displacement of tribals due to the Omkareshwar dam on the River Narmada.
In all these matters the government and the administration have continuously ignored the social and environmental costs of industrial and urban development and used the Land Acquisition Act 1894 and various other draconian laws to crush dissent. The judiciary too by criticising the NBA on wrong grounds has shown scant respect for justice and favoured the government and shown support to industrial development sacrificing the rights of the people who are being displaced. The reason is that giving the displaced people the true value of their land or alternatively resettling them pushes up the cost of the project so much that it becomes either economically unviable or reduces drastically the profit margins because of the interest on the increased capital cost.
Matters have come to a head, however, as it is no longer possible to steam roll protest in a democracy in which the electorate has begun voting in large numbers and throwing out visibly corrupt and repressive governments wherever there is an alternative available. Thus, the Maharashtra government had to agree to the demands of the slum dwellers who were being helped in their battle by the National Alliance of People's Movements and Medha Patkar. The Orissa government has had to recall the massive police force it had deployed to clear the two villages for the POSCO project faced with resistance from children, women and men. The Uttar Pradesh Government has had to come out with a new Land Policy which gives the farmers a better deal. This shows that determined resistance can push the government back. In this context an alternative rehabilitation bill has been drafted by a group of social activists that provides for the Gram Sabha or Mohalla Sabha to be given all the project details and only if they feel the project is necessary should it go through with proper rehabilitation and resettlement. This bill can be accessed here.

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