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, August 19, 2014

Toilets and Inequality

The only concrete programme to be enunciated by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in his more than an hour long extempore speech on the occasion of the Independence Day, on August 15th, which was otherwise peppered with homilies, platitudes and promises, was that of building toilets in each and every school in this country within four years. He exhorted the Corporates to contribute to this effort and make it possible as the Government on its own would not be able to achieve this. Given the fact that the lack of toilets in schools is a major reason for girls dropping out of education after reaching puberty, this is indeed a very laudable programme for ensuring gender equality apart from its contribution to sanitation.
However, it is not enough to just build toilets. The public toilets that are there in this country are mostly in a very bad shape. Primarily because they are not taken care of. The entrenched caste system, over thousands of years, has drilled it into our heads that it is the business of the Dalits to clean toilets whether private or public. Since the Dalits have revolted against this and only a few now remain who are prepared to take up this vocation because they have no other alternative, there is a serious shortage of people to clean public toilets. Therefore, most public toilets in this country stink to high heaven and are also often packed with faeces. So even if all the schools in this country have toilets, the problem of cleaning those toilets will remain a serious one. Considering that Gandhi had first tried to solve this problem by shifting the burden of cleaning toilets away from the Dalits and making it the responsibility of all, more than a century ago and yet it still remains a problem, it is clear that the main obstacle is social rather than technical or financial. Our country now has enough resources and the technical ability to mechanise toilet or sewer cleaning but since there is this mentality that one particular caste should do the work and their labour is available cheaply, so they are still forced to do the work as shown in the picture below and since the number of people from among their community who are prepare to do this degrading work is dwindling, the net result is that toilets, sewers, rivers and ponds have all become full of faeces and urine. Only in some crowded places where it is viable to run public toilets by charging people are these in a relatively better shape but this is not going to be the case in schools where the children do not have money to buy copies and pencils let alone pay for using toilets.
Consequently, girls' inequality with regard to receiving education after they reach puberty is tied up with the inequality suffered by Dalits who are forced to clean toilets and sewers as nobody else is prepared to do so as the upper castes are not only not prepared to clean toilets but are also not ready to expend public resources in mechanising the cleaning of toilets.
A public toilet to run properly needs a considerable amount of water and also a system to dispose the waste water. The best solution therefore is to have a decentralised treatment and recycling system wherein after an initial supply of water, the waste water is treated and recycled continuously for flushing and some of it is treated to the level where it can be used for washing also.The teachers in the school have to take the lead in running this system once it is installed with the help of all the students, regardless of their caste, instead of looking for a Dalit to clean the toilets and failing to find one, letting them stink to high heaven and eventually become unusable or keeping them locked up unused as shown in the picture below of a toilet in a primary school in a village in Alirajpur district which incidentally does not have a roof!!

I doubt whether Prime Minister Modi, who also spoke of himself being a Prime Servant, has thought all this out before announcing grandiosely from the ramparts of the Red Fort that as a Prime Servant he was proud to talk of toilets on Independence day for the first time in the nation's glorious history.  Many greater men have found their programmes for a sanitised India biting the dust before him and Modi's too will meet the same fate, unless he can ensure that toilet cleaning becomes the primary aim of each and every one of us in this country and does not remain as an albatross around the necks of the Dalits only.

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