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.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Difficulty in Implementing the Rule of Law

Liberals generally like to think that the fact that justice, liberty and equality are promoted through a recognition of rights in the statutes and the administration of these statutes so as to ensure the rule of law makes the liberal democratic system the best form of governance. However, the reality is that the "Rule of Law" does not operate in practice. The executive consisting of the council of ministers headed by the Prime Minister and supported by the bureaucracy is supposed to act according to the law. If they do not do so, then they can be pulled up by the legislature, the judiciary and the media. However, in reality this separation of powers does not really benefit the vast majority of the poor citizens of this country. Primarily because it is very time consuming and expensive to get the attention of the judiciary, legislators and the media over small every day issues of the malfunctioning of the executive. Here I will give two examples from the work of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
The NHRC had issued a recommendation in November 2010 that the Gujarat Government should pay a compensation of Rs 3,00,000 to the kin of each of the 238 Bhil tribals from Jhabua and Alirajpur districts who had died due to silicosis contracted while working in stone crusher units in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat Government after initial dilly dallying sent notices to the kin of the deceased that their complaints had been registered under the ESI Act and that they should come with all documents to the designated court to fight the case for compensation. This was in gross violation of the original basis of the Supreme Court order to the NHRC. The Supreme Court had reasoned that it was a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the Gujarat Government not to have regulated the stone crusher units as it should have under the law and so it had a moral responsibility to compensate the kin of the illiterate and poor tribals who had died due to this governmental negligence. The NHRC has now stated that it will go back to the Supreme Court saying that the Gujarat Government is refusing to comply with its recommendations. A delegation from the KMCS also visited the Labour Secretary in Ahmedabad requesting him to comply with the NHRC recommendations but they too were fobbed off with the plea that the government had registered cases in the courts and that the victims should seek redressal there.
The NHRC had also recommended that the Madhya Pradesh Government should design and implement a rehabilitation package for the 304 tribals who are affected with silicosis but are still alive. The MP Government too has not complied with this and has instead listed the benefits given to some of these tribals under ongoing social welfare schemes as its rehabilitation package.
The NHRC had also issued notice to the Superintendent of Police of Alirajpur regarding the beating up of a tribal woman by a Head Constable without any rhyme or reason. The police had to then conduct a thorough investigation and the conclusion was that the Head Constable had illegally beaten up the woman. However, after that the police tried to put pressure on the woman to retract her complaint. The KMCS had the media do an investigative story on this underhand pressure of the police and the Superintendent of Police said that action would be taken against the guilty policeman. A similar letter was sent to the NHRC. Subsequently the NHRC closed the case saying that the police had taken action against the guilty policeman and the KMCS must also have got relief for the woman from the State Human Rights Commission and the State Woman's Commission. The KMCS has now filed a complaint with the Inspector General of Police in Indore regarding the inaction of the Police in Alirajpur. Eventually the KMCS will have to approach the High Court if justice is not done.
This underlines the difficulty of getting the rule of law implemented for the poor who are resource less in many senses of the term. The KMCS has continually fought right from the grassroots level up to the centres of power in Delhi employing both political lobbying and legal action but even so it has not been really able to achieve much. This brings to the fore the weakness of liberalism as a practical political programme. The huge concentrations of power in centralised systems invariably distort institutions and laws put in place to ensure liberty, equality and justice especially for those who are the most powerless. There has to be an appreciation of the importance of decentralisation and work has to be done to actualise devolution of power rather than just undertake formal measures.

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