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, February 1, 2013

Where will the Poor Go?

Cities in India are synonymous with slums. The bigger the city the more are the slums. They house anything between 30 to 50 per cent of the total urban population in about 10 % of the available land mostly in insalubrious locations near garbage dumping grounds and dirty streams. It is an irony that the most indispensable labouring population of cities in India have to live next to the solid and liquid waste generated by the more well healed citizens in huge quantities. That would still be tolerable from the point of view of the slum dwellers but in recent times even that has become problematical.  As land values have escalated enormously in cities, the once neglected fringe areas along the dirty streams and in the garbage dumping grounds have now become of prime value. So throughout the country the poor people are being displaced from the slums on these lands to make way for high value residential and commercial development and the Government is hand in glove with private real estate barons in this. Things have been compounded by the fact that since the financial meltdown of 2008 land along with gold have become the two most sought after investment instruments for the rich.
Consequently city after city is witnessing so called beautification drives and the most glaring one is that which took place in Delhi where the slums along the river Yamuna were cleared to make way for the Commonwealth Games village, the flats now having been sold to the rich. A huge drive is on in Mumbai too to clear the Golibar slums which are on private land and not on public land despite court orders restraining the Government from doing so.
Indore too is not to be left behind. Among the many hair brained schemes is one that plans to build a river side corridor along the two dirty streams that flow through the city carrying its stinking untreated wastewater. The plan is to clear the slums that are there along these streams and build roads with commercial and residential spaces. The waste water is to be channelised through sewers along the streams to a sewage treatment plant so that the streams become clean once again. Huge amounts of money are going to be spent on this and the poor slum dwellers are going to be displaced to locations some twenty kilometers away in the same way as was done for the residents of the Yamuna Pushta slums in Delhi.
Indore has a long history of struggle by slum dwellers against eviction and for better amenities. The Jhuggi Basti Sangharsh Morcha is currently continuing in this rebellious tradition and conducting a battle against displacement by the proposed Riverside Corridor. The organisation staged a sit in at the Indore Municipal Corporation office on 21st January 2013 and later took out a rally in Indore of over five hundred slum dwellers to press their demand that the Riverside Corridor scheme should be scrapped and instead the slums should be developed and provided with proper amenities. The people in the sit in at the Indore Municipal Corporation office are pictured below.
This so called beautification of cities is a process of gentrification which marginalises the poor and is being vigorously pushed by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and also the World Bank. The people displaced are provided with alternative accommodation of very inferior quality in distant locations far away from their places of work considerably inconveniencing them. If the rich continually use their power to displace the poor from cities where will they go?

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