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 12, 2013

Dilemma of Development

Priyanka Panchal the Vodafone Foundation's World of Difference Programme Volunteer with Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra continues her reporting of her work in Alirajpur -
What is the smallest village in terms of population that you have been to? 5000 people?? 2000? 1000? Okay. That’s great. But can you imagine a village which has 50 people? Yes, most part of this week was dedicated to exploring such villages on the banks of the River Narmada. Many families in India are bigger than that.
These villages have a unique ecosystem. The amount of hardships that they face to make sure they have a cooked meal in their house every night is astonishing. But I have shared this sort of experience last time.This time round, I will focus on the other side of this system. Our NGO, Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra, that is working so that they can bring a change in the lives of these struggling citizens of our wonderful nation
.During our village trips, we had to make a journey on motorbike à busàsmall rowboatàbig motorboatàwalking the final phase to reach the village. One day, when we reached Akdia village on the banks of the River Narmada by motorbike, we came to know that the motor boat which was to take us to Bada Amba village had been seized by some people since the boat owner had failed to pay them back. Sounds exciting, but that’s not what the story is about. The story actually begins from here. Considering where we were, we still had two boats to interchange and then walk about 5 Kms to reach the people we had committed to meet in Bada Amba. To fulfill that commitment, we needed a small rowboat to get us to another bigger motorboat. To get there, we have to find a boat. But how???
These are areas without any cell phone network. To arrange for another boat actually meant travelling another five kms on our self propelled two leggers to another village, Chilakda, where we MIGHT get a boat. Most of us would have called it a day. But not the activists of DGVK. They had committed to the villagers that we would be there for the meeting. And a journey back would have meant a failure on that commitment. The hallmark of a true leader is someone who doesn’t compromise on his commitment. We took the risk and the fortunes did favour the brave! We found a rowboat, reached midway in the river, changed  to a motorboat and finished the journey! All this happened just because we took the risk of going to the next village and not giving up.
At Bada Amba, the activists and I interacted with the women and told them to become aware of their rights and fight for them. The way the activists interacted with them and enthused the women to chalk out a programme of action was one of the most inspiring moments in this week. A fitting example that true leaders are born out of situations. That there are many books outside the books. The invaluable books of experience which we ourselves write, we ourselves understand.
After this we returned to Alirajpur and immediately left for Bhopal as we had to make a presentation with the employees of Vodafone in Madhya Pradesh for fund raising. I spoke to most of the employees personally and answered their queries about DGVK and its projects and how we as Vodafone can help. The MP team was so excited about the work that we are sure that we will raise a suitable amount for a noble cause.
I have now had reached Indore. The first day was spent in a visit to a slum where DGVK was conducting an awareness camp regarding women's health and especially gynaecological disorders. When there is such a big uproar in the country regarding women’s rights and freedom, I felt this would be a great chance to know the feelings of fellow women in Indore. Women are the bearers of the next generation. Women are the pillars of society. Women are the most important link of every family etc etc. The truth is that women’s health has been one of the most neglected areas of healthcare. Women’s health is one of the most ignored subjects by men. Women’s health is one of the darkest secrets of our society. The admirable work being done by DGVK is in its foresight. It has educated men about women’s health. It is a program that makes men more aware of what a woman goes through when she undergoes any gynaecologocal disorder. I spoke to a group of teenage girls about menstrual hygiene and the behavioral changes which they go through. Also spoke to their parents on how to help their daughters in managing these changes.
A third dimension to this week was the introspection done after visiting the villages on the banks of the Narmada. These are villages that have been affected by the Sardar Sarovar  Dam being built on the River Narmada. Considerable portions of these villages have been submerged. The people have been offered lands to go to and resettle. Some have gone but others have preferred to stay on. They currently live in an area which is about 200 kms from mainstream civilization, but to me, they live about 50 years away. Back in time. Not every time can we blame the Government for not implementing change. There is a lot of internal resistance. At what cost? Should we preserve the love for the land of the villagers or work for their Greater Good - we need to think about this dilemma of development.

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