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.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Actualising Adivasi Self Rule

Local Self Governance mediated by the Adivasi Gram Sabha in small close knit hamlets which makes direct democracy possible is the best way to ensure just and sustainable development at the grassroots. The Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act as amended to accord with the provisions of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act provides for the establishment of separate Gram Sabhas in each Adivasi hamlet even if it is part of a larger Panchayat consisting of several hamlets or villages. Once this separate Gram Sabha is established and recognised by the administration after a due process of enquiry to establish that it is bona fide, all the funds meant for rural development through various schemes will be routed directly to the Gram Sabha of the hamlet and it will decide on how these funds are to be spent. Thus, theoretically this provides the Gram Sabha with immense powers. Combined with the provisions of the Forest Rights Act which too empower the Gram Sabha in the hamlet and give it extensive powers to control the land, forests and water in its domain this will usher in a radically new decentralised governance paradigm.
However, as always there is a big slip between the cup and the lip. The KMCS has started a campaign since 2012 to establish these Gram Sabhas and many have been formed by the hamlets passing the requisite resolution and the applications have been submitted to the District Administration. However, the administration is dilly dallying on implementation. Initially the administration said that there was no such provision. When the law was read out to them they reluctantly began the process of verification for one or two hamlets. However, since then the matter is stuck and in all probability will require legal intervention in the end.  To improve awareness of this provision and build up support for it among the people a PESA Yatra was taken out in the months of November and December covering many villages of Sondwa Block.  A picture of the Yatra is shown below. A team of men and women waving green flags of the KMCS  went from one village to the next and held meetings there. Then a team from that village would set off for the next village and so on. The picture below shows the advance women's part of a KMCS team going from one village to another.

The meetings held in the villages discussed the legal provisions in detail and the way in which the administration was refusing to expedite the process of registration of the Gram Sabhas. The result of these meetings was that the people decided that first a big rally should be taken out in Alirajpur and legal notices served to the administration asking it to implement the law, failing which the KMCS would be forced to approach the higher courts. A composite picture of one such village meeting is shown below.
The experience of the KMCS over the past year in trying to implement this radical provision of PESA Act shows how difficult it is to get Adivasi Self Rule actualised on the ground. 

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