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, April 18, 2014

Ensuring the Right to Work

The late Baleshwar Dayal, popularly known as Mamaji, the legendary socialist organiser of the Bhil indigenous people of western Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, who at his peak had ensured the victory of seven members of the legislative assemblies and one member of parliament in the 1960s, used to say that the greatest lacuna of the constitution was that it did not have the right to work as a fundamental right. Every adult human being should have the right to work as that was essential for ensuring all other rights. Without work and the income from it and a secure livelihood a person would not have the power to implement her fundamental rights of equality, freedom and the like. Well, after long struggles there is now a partial right to work for rural people in the form of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act  (MGNREGA) which guarantees one hundred days of work at a fairly high wage rate, though less than the statutory minimum wage, to those who demand it. Moreover, the work under this act is preferably to be done in conserving and augmenting renewable natural resources such as forests, soils and water.
However, as is the perennial problem in this country with most development schemes, there are many a slip between the cup and the lip. Consequently, the average number of days worked by people actually working is only about thirty or so and if the average is worked out on the total number of people eligible to work then it is less than twenty days. Additionally the workers do not get paid on time and sometimes the year turns round before payments are made. Then there are many ingenious ways in which funds are siphoned off. So in the end throughout the country except for a few states the partial right to work is a non-starter. Madhya Pradesh is one of the worst offenders in this respect.
The KMCS has from the inception of the MGNREGA waged a consistent battle to get it implemented as it does provide susbtantial income and natural resource support to the poor Adivasis. Getting work sanctioned,  implemented and then getting the payments made while ensuring that no leakage takes place has become a routine year in and year out. In the face of stiff resistance from the administration the KMCS has succeeded in getting work done consistently over the years. Every year there are many success stories. This year's exceptional and inspirational success story is from the village of Dudhvi.
The KMCS activists held a meeting in Dudhvi and told the people there that they could construct field bunds on their farms to conserve soil and water and get paid for it under the MGNREGA. For this they would have to fill the forms demanding work, attach records of the landholdings and submit them to the Panchayat Secretary and the Sarpanch. Immediately the trouble started. The Sarpanch, who resides in the other village which is part of this Panchayat, Karajvani, and the Panchayat Secretary visited the village and told the people that they had no right to demand work and it was their prerogative to decide where to start work and when. The people would face dire consequences if they tried to strike a path of their own. After this the KMCS visited Dudhvi again to be met with indifference by the people who said that they did not want to get into any trouble with the Government by demanding work. After much coaxing they agreed to fill the forms and these were then submitted directly to the Janpad Panchayat with the complaint that the Sarpanch and the Panchayat Secretary were refusing to open any work in Dudhvi village.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Janpad called the Panchayat Secretary and gave him a dressing down and ordered the engineer to go to Dudhvi village and survey the land and prepare a project for immediate implementation. The result was that the work was started and both men and women began working on the field bunds by bringing stones from the forests and gullies as shown below -
All eligible workers got one hundred days of work and as a result the farms of all these workers were bunded and will hence forward conserve both soil and water thus enhancing agricultural productivity as shown below -
The young man walking on this impressive field bund is Remsingh the full time worker of the KMCS through whose perseverence and support the people of Dudhvi could withstand the pressure from the local power holders and bring about this great implementation of the right to work. The presence of such dedicated full timers is crucial to the success of people centric development in this country but in the absence of institutionalised support for them they are few and far between. The villagers usually are too poor and powerless to be able to provide the financial and political support that such full timers need. In the case of the KMCS people like Remsingh are supported by a long history of struggle against tremendous odds and the financial resources garnered through projects by its sister NGO the Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra. 

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