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, November 9, 2012

Another Life at the Margin

Aladibai and Rukhria Bhargav are another pair of Barela tribal farmers from village Jamasingh in Dewas district who have adapted as well as they could to the changing agricultural scenario. They have just one hectare of land in two small plots. They have three sons who are all married with their families and all of them live together on this small tract of land. They are standing together below on the plot of land near their house which stands cleaned of all crop residue in summer ahead of the monsoons.

Obviously four families cannot survive on so little land. So this couple was part of a movement of tribal farmers which not only demanded more land from the government but also that it should promote organic farming with subsidies and stop giving these subsidies to chemical farming as it is doing. Unfortunately this movement was crushed ruthlessly by the government and Rukhria had to spend many months in jail and also run to the courts loaded under by false criminal cases.
Now they have had to reconcile themselves to making do as best they can. One son and his wife now works as a farm hand on an experimental organic farm owned by a rich city based businessman. Aladibai is an active member of a micro-credit group which not only tries to make the best of their meagre savings but also has the responsibility of providing the mid-day meal to the children studying in the government primary school.
They have some irrigation in the plot near their house on which they are standing above from a tank nearby. The government sanctioned a grant for the digging of a well in this plot despite this area having a poor shallow aquifer. The well does have some water but not enough for irrigating the field once the water from the tank dries up. The biggest economic risk they took was to try and sink a deep tubewell in the other plot of land in 2010. The first try did not yield any water. Then they tried again and got some water at a 100 meter depth. Later they rebored this hole to a further 20 meters depth and only then they had sufficient water for the plot of about half a hectare. They ran up a huge debt by their standards of one hundred and fifty thousand rupees. The son and daughter-in-law who are farm hands are now bearing the main burden of the repayment of the loan. Their children are looked after by Aladi and Rukhria while they get their cereals from their land. They give most of the money they earn for the repayment of the loan. But given the small holding even with irrigation it will never be able to support four families. Rukhria who is about sixty years old has been suffering from stress related physical breakdown for some time now.
Smallholder agriculture is the most productive in this country because the farmers put in a lot of hard work on their farms but it lacks any support from the government and so the farmers do not earn a decent livelihood despite producing most of the food of the nation. In fact even to build this simple house below Aladi and Rukhria have had to pay a hefty bribe to the forest department officials. The wood for the house was collected in the heyday of their rebellious organisation. But after it was crushed they could not build the house. Finally they had to pay the bribe. Life at the margin is really tough and there seems to be no way in sight to make things easier for people like these.

Long years of grassroots mobilisation in the western Madhya Pradesh region have not been able to change things for the better despite huge sacrifices in terms of repression borne by those who have fought for their rights.

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