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, May 13, 2015

Why Governments Promote Alcoholism

The Madhya Pradesh Government auctions the licenses of liquor shops all over the state. The financial year 2015-16 has seen the government garnering Rs 6406 crores which is a whopping 33% increase on what it had collected in 2014-15. In Alirajpur district which has a population of about 800,000 the auctions yielded Rs 138 crores against the reserve price set by the Government of Rs 54 crores. Assuming an average price per litre for alcohol of Rs 200, given that 80% of the alcohol consumed is country liquor priced about Rs 120 per litre, also that roughly 30% of the population is drinking alcohol and that the licensees will earn at least a 20% return on investment which includes an administrative cost of 10% in addition to their licence price, we arrive at the average figure of 40 litres of alcohol per year per drinker. This is quite high consumption and is bound to have deleterious effects on both health and income of the poor Adivasis. Actually the licensees earn much more because Alirajpur being on the border with Gujarat, which is a dry state, is an entry point for liquor smuggling into Gujarat. Thus, the high auction value almost three times the reserve price is because the bidders have factored in the earnings from bootlegging liquor into Gujarat. The Government not only encourages drinking but also bootlegging in a blind rush to garner resources.
The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has waged a long battle against both legal and illegal sale of liquor which drastically eats into household incomes and also is the cause of much violence especially gender based violence. However, given the Government's relentless promotion of both legal and illegal sale of liquor the campaigns against alcoholism have not made much headway even though the KMCS has tried to use the powers given to the Gram Sabha in Scheduled Tribal areas to control the sale of liquor. Now some villages have banned the sale of liquor during marriages and festivals and have also stopped the practice of gifting huge amounts of liquor during marriages. This is still an incipient campaign and it remains to be seen how long it sustains because in the past too many such campaigns have been launched only to fizzle out.
It would be edifying, however, to investigate why Governments generally promote alcoholism and garner huge amounts of money from the sale of liquor. The annual budget estimates for 2015-16 of the Madhya Pradesh Government show that the taxes to be raised by it are Rs 43,448 crores. In addition to this it is to receive Rs 30,450 crores as its share of the taxes raised by the Central Government. Thus its total tax revenues are Rs 73,898 crores. Whereas, the revenue expenditure on non-plan items, which are mainly the salaries paid to Government staff, law makers, ministers, judges and the like, administrative, travel and maintenance expenses are Rs 68,106 crores. The revenue expenditures on plan items which again are concerned with the salary, administrative, maintenace and travel expenses are Rs 40,729 crores. Thus, the cumulative revenue expenditures are Rs, 1,08,835 crores resulting in a revenue deficit of nearly Rs 35,000 crores in meeting the salary bill and other regular expenses of the government. The capital expenditure on the other hand is only Rs 19,040 crores leading to a cumulative deficit of about Rs 54,000 crores. This deficit is made up by central grants and loans, the latter being another albatross around the Government's neck. Since these are not sufficient to make up this deficit, the Government has to rely on non-tax revenue of which the proceeds from the sale of liquor licenses constitutes about 70%. This is the reason why the Government promotes the sale of liquor and it also gets another benefit in that the people drown their sorrows in liquor and so don't think of rebelling against its anti-people policies.
There is of course the matter of poor services being provided by the government staff, lawmakers, ministers and the judiciary despite so much expenditure on their salaries and allied heads. Capital expenditures are only a fifth of this huge revenue expenditure bill and so not much infrastructure is being developed by the Government. Unless the State is made more accountable to the people there is little hope of any worthwhile development taking place. Unfortunately, the moment a movement begins gaining in strength for demanding accountability from it, the Government uses its might to crush it. It remains to be seen how the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi can improve matters in this regard. 

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