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.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rehabilitation Woes

One of the saddest stories resulting from modern development in India is that of those who have been displaced from their lands for some development project or other without adequate rehabilitation and resettlement. In most cases the Government which is supposed to take care of those displaced has short changed them with paltry monetary compensation using the colonial Land Acquisition Act of 1894 which is a grossly unjust law. The biggest sufferers have been the Adivasis who not only reside in areas that are the richest in natural resources that are crucial for modern industrial development but also are the easiest to cheat given their ignorance of the modern state and economic systems. In the case of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the River Narmada because of the fact that the displacement was to take place mostly in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award on the sharing of the benefits and costs of the project made detailed provisions regarding rehabilitation and resettlement of the people to be displaced which included land for land, house plots, civic amenities, education and health services. After a long struggle that is continuing many of those displaced from Alirajpur have been rehabilitated fairly well in Gujarat.
However, there are still some that haven't done too well. A case in point is that of the Nayaks of Kakrana village who were rehabilitated in Rameshwarpura in Vadodara district. The Nayaks, even though they had agricultural land, relied more on fishing in the River Narmada. They were indifferent farmers taking only a single crop in the Kharif season. During the peak of the struggle against the dam, the people of Kakrana village took part actively in opposing it. However, later a large section of the villagers decided to opt for rehabilitation and resettlement in Gujarat and the Nayaks also agreed to this. Each family was given two hectares of agricultural land in Rameshwarpura and there houses were transported there from Kakrana. However, basic amenities like water supply, electricity, schools and health centres were not provided. The Nayaks being illiterate could not make sure that these were provided. Moreover, the land that they got in Gujarat was of a heavy black soil variety requiring sturdier bullocks than they used in Kakrana for their light soils. The Nayaks who were anyway not very good farmers found themselves unable to cultivate these heavier soils. They consequently leased out their lands to the rich non-Adivasi farmers and instead began doing agricultural and other labour. With time their economic condition has deteriorated and today they are destitute living from hand to mouth even though on paper they are in possession of good agricultural lands. In all these years they have neither picked up the Gujarati language nor has the next generation been educated. A case of a gross cultural misfit. The Nayaks have a glorious history of rebellion against the British and have generally lived more by gathering, hunting and fishing than by agriculture. Special attention needed to be given to their needs while resettling them but that did not happen. Unfortunately, they separated themselves from the Narmada Bachao Andolan and decided to opt for whatever the Government was giving them. After all these years when finally some activists of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath came to know of their plight it is very difficult to intervene on their behalf as they are now in Gujarat. Attempts to get a few organisations in Gujarat to take up their case did not succeed because they said that they do not have the resources to put in the initial mobilising efforts and the subsequent long drawn intervention. The fact that the Nayaks themselves have been reduced to penury and not able to even agitate given their hand to mouth existence has made things even more difficult.

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