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.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Money, Money, Money, its a Rich Man's World!!

The British faced with militant protests from Adivasis all over India against their policies of intruding into the latter's territory to appropriate the abundant natural resources there, were forced to back pedal in the twentieth century when the national freedom struggle was also gaining ground. So in the Government of India Act of 1935 the British introduced some provisions to safeguard the rights of the Adivasis in the North East and also in Central India. These provisions were later included in the Constitution of independent India as the Fifth and Sixth Schedules. The Sixth Schedule is for the special governance of the Adivasi areas in the North East and the Fifth Schedule is for the special governance of the Adivasi areas in eastern, central, western, northern and southern India in the states of Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh. The more important provisions in the fourth and fifth sections of the Fifth Schedule are as follows -
4 (1). Tribes Advisory Council - There shall be established in each State having Scheduled Areas therein and, if the President so directs, also in any State having Scheduled Tribes but not Scheduled Areas therein, a Tribes Advisory Council consisting of not more than twenty members, of whom, as nearly as may be, three-fourths shall be the representatives of the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly of the State: Provided that if the number of representatives of the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly of the State is less than the number of seats in the Tribes Advisory Council to be filled by such representatives, the remaining seats shall be filled by other members of those tribes. 4 (2). It shall be the duty of the Tribes Advisory Council to advise on such matters pertaining to the welfare and advancement of the Scheduled Tribes in the State as may be referred to them by the Governor.
5 (1). Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, The Governor may by public notification direct that any particular Act of Parliament of of the Legislature of the State shall not apply to a Scheduled Areas or any part thereof in the State or shall apply to a Scheduled Area or any part thereof in the State subject to such exceptions and modifications as he may specify in the notification and any direction given under this sub-paragraph may be given so as to have retrospective effect.
5 (2).The Governor may make regulations for the peace and good government of any area in a State which is for the time being a Scheduled Area. In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such regulations may –
a) Prohibit or restrict the transfer of land by or among members of the Scheduled Tribes in such area;
b) Regulate the allotment of land to members of the Scheduled Tribes in such area;
c) Regulate the carrying on of business as money-lender by persons who lend money to members of the Scheduled Tribes in such area.
5 (3). In making any such regulation as is referred to in sub-paragraph (2) of this paragraph, the Governor may repeal or amend any Act of Parliament or of the Legislature of the State or any existing law which for the time being applicable to the area in question.”
Thus, theoretically it is possible for the Governor of a State, on the advice of the Tribes Advisory Council consisting mainly of the Adivasi Members of the Legislative Assembly of the state, to prevent the application of or repeal of such inimical statutes as the Indian Forest Act and the erstwhile Land Acquisition Act which have been the two most harmful laws for the Adivasis after independence. The most important aspect of these provisions is that the Governor may implement them so as to ensure "peace and good government" in Adivasi areas as the framers of the Constitution felt that this could be possible only if the Adivasis were allowed to develop according to their own laws and customs. However, this has never happened because it is not a binding provision and only a suggestion which finally has to depend on the executive for its implementation.
Consequently, there has been neither peace nor good government in Adivasi areas. The history of the past seventy years or so after independence is replete with innumerable struggles of the central Indian Adivasis against the injustice meted out to them by the Indian state through the ruthless implementation of the Indian Forest Act and the Land Acquisition Act and the cynical non-implementation of the Fifth Schedule mainly because the Adivasi MLAs belonging to the mainstream parties have never stood up for their people and have instead gone along with their immiserisation.
However, a new dimension altogether was added to this sordid history recently in Madhya Pradesh. Some Adivasi MLAs moved a resolution before the Tribes Advisory Council that the law that prevents Adivasis selling their land to non-Adivasis be repealed. Their argument was that due to this law in Adivasi areas the price of land was depressed below what it should be because Adivasis were mostly not in a position to offer high prices for land as compared to non-adivasis. This demand from the MLAs has arisen mainly because in Adivasi areas the towns and market places are expanding and rich non-Adivasis are coming in to these market areas but are unable to buy land. So they have to take possession of the land under lease. Since they cannot own the land, the non-Adivasis pay a lesser sum to the Adivasis from whom they have taken the land on lease. These Adivasis residing near the towns and market places are mostly those who have become rich either by getting permanent jobs in government or by becoming contractors, traders, bootleggers, gunrunners and corrupt politicians. These are the Adivasis who are the most articulate and also the leaders of their people. However, their interests are totally at variance with those of the poor majority who are desperately trying to hold onto whatever little land they have and have been helped in doing so to a large extent by the law preventing alienation of Adivasi land by non-Adivasis. Mostly they have suffered at the hands of the State which earlier used the Land Acquisition Act to dispossess them unjustly by offering pittances as monetary compensation. However, now with the Land Acquisition Act amended and the new law having stringent provisions for land acquisition the price of Adivasi land has gone up significantly and the land sharks among the Adivasis who are also MLAs want to cash in on this opportunity regardless of what it will mean for the vast majority of their people. Eventually the resolution was negated in the Tribes Advisory Council because the Chief Minister, who is a non-Adivasi incidentally, was advised by his legal staff that such a repeal of the law providing against land alienation was constitutionally not possible and would be immediately struck down by the Courts as being unconstitutional. 
This episode succinctly underlines how the power of money has overwhelmed the Adivasi leadership and they have lost complete sight of the welfare of their poor fellow Adivasis. The Tribes Advisory Council in Madhya Pradesh, instead of moving a resolution to repeal laws like the Indian Forest Act has instead moved one to repeal the law that prevents Adivasi land alienation!! Another episode recently drove home to us the huge obstacles that money has created to Adivasi mobilisation for Rights. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has been able to maintain a presence in these sordid times because of the hard grassroots mobilisation put in by the full time activists in the early years in the 1980s and 1990s. However, these activists have all now reached middle age and it is not possible for them to do the same kind of daily mobilisation work in the difficult hilly terrain any more. Only on some special occasions are they able to undertake  rigorous treks across the hills as in the picture below which shows Shankar and Subhadra climbing up a hill on their way to the Jungle Mela in Chilakda in 2014.

Try as we might we have not been able to develop a new generation of activists from among the Adivasis because the youth prefer to go away to Gujarat to labour in the farms and construction industry where they earn anything between Rupees three hundred and nine hundred a day depending on their skills. In the early years we had worked on shoe string budgets unlike now when we have some funding but even so we cannot pay the full timers the kind of money that can be earned in Gujarat. Mostly we now have part timers who put in a few days of work in the field for the organisation at about Rupees three hundred to Rupees four hundred per day. As a consequence the mobilisation work is going on in fits and starts and lacks the kind of consistency that it requires.
To get around this problem we decided to hike the rate to Rupees five hundred a day and sent out a call for applications for an activist to stay in our field headquarters in Vakner in the Vindhya hills bordering the River Narmada and work full time from there. Initially there was a good response both locally and from applicants from other places as far as Bhopal and Gwalior. However, when we said that the selection process would involve a hike in the hills to a village that does not have road, electricity or mobile connectivity the number of candidates who eventually landed up for the interview were just three - two non-Adivasis and one Adivasi!! After the trek to Khodamba and various village meetings all the three candidates said that they would not take up the post as they would not be able to live and work full time in the remote fastnesses of Vakner. The culture of earning easy money and spending it on consumerist goods and services has become so rampant that the hard thankless work of mobilising Adivasis for their rights and entitlements does not find any takers among today's youth. The huge amount of money moving around in the global economy and being used cleverly by the rich and powerful to entice people into pursuing consumerist lifestyles has significantly reduced the potential for bringing in a more equitable and sustainable socio-economic paradigm.

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