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, November 24, 2015

Between the Devil and the The Deep Blue Sea

The recent Bihar assembly elections have shown the deep extent to which politics in this country has moved to the right of the political spectrum. The parliamentary left parties, which fought as a united front, could manage only 3 of the 240 seats and 4 per cent of the total votes polled. A situation that leaves the masses between the devil of the far right and the deep blue sea of the centre right. Even though the centre right is certainly much better than the scary domination of the far right, which latter has gone overboard with its sectarian agenda since coming to power at the centre, it does not have any solution for the problems of the masses arising from a destructive capitalist development model that is devastating both the population and the environment and especially agriculture which still is the mainstay of the livelihoods of close to 65 per cent of the people of this country. This is because the left in this country, whether parliamentary, revolutionary or new in nature and including people like us who are part of the anarcho-environmentalist fringe, has not distinguished itself in recent years and has failed to project any alternative that seems meaningful and viable to the masses.
While the parliamentary left, which by far has had and still has the biggest mass support among all left entities, has contented itself to play the game by the rules determined by the capitalists, the revolutionary left has followed the obsolete and impractical Maoist path, the new left has remained confined to theoretical debate and the anarcho-environmentalist left has concentrated on mainly opposing displacement in isolated project affected areas in a fire fighting mode with larger alliance building processes of only a rudimentary nature. Even though the anarcho-environmentalists have a vision of an alternative developmental model and society, they do not have the resources to carry out pilot implementation of this model so as to convince a large enough section of the masses to join them in the fight to pose a credible challenge to the current development model.
There are many aspects of this domination of capitalism, which has made the left irrelevant in this country, that have to be considered if a viable challenge has to emerge to it in the future. But what seems to me to be the major problem is the reality of the huge casualisation of employment and seasonal or circular migration. Today, Bhil adivasis from Alirajpur can be found as far afield as Chennai and Kashmir as labourers in industry, services and agriculture, while the dalits from Chennai and Muslims from Kashmir can be found similarly labouring in Madhya Pradesh. The only rigorous econometric estimate based on data from government surveys done in 2009 by Deshingkar and Akter on circular migration, puts the number of such migrants at the national level at 100 million people and their contribution to the GDP at 10 per cent. The authors say that this is a conservative estimate and the actual numbers are more but even if we were to take this number it would mean that around 15 per cent of the population in the working age group of 15 to 59 years is engaged in circular migration. Given that the work participation rate is less than 100 per cent mainly due to many women not being part of the workforce the proportion of circular migrants to the active labour force is likely to be close to 25 per cent. Along with this casualisation of employment has increased and about 95 per cent of the workforce are either daily wage workers or in insecure employment. Thus, trade unionism which constitutes the basic institutional framework for mobilising the workers has been severely affected because it is difficult to get workers in sufficient numbers in any work place and due to insecurity of livelihoods they are unable to make any contributions from their earnings to sustain this institutional framework for securing their rights as labourers. In fact trade unions of workers with secure employment in the organised sector too are continually threatened with irrelevance because managements are outsourcing more and more functions to contractors and also using automation and computerisation to reduce the number of permanent workers.
Thus, conscious mass bases supported by robust autonomous resource bases are difficult to build up. How will the full time activists of such organisations sustain themselves at a time when both the costs of living and of organisation and especially the cost of legal battles have become astronomical. The parliamentary left, which had the most militant trade unions, has been attenuated by this situation and even more so due to the stoppage of the funds it used to receive from the erstwhile Soviet Union. The revolutionary left has found it difficult to withstand the increased armed actions of the State against it and has lost much of its rural base and is equally strapped for numbers and resources. The new left who are mostly academics in government universities are finding that their secure jobs may come on the line if they become overly radical. That leaves us in the anarcho-environmentalist fringe who have always struggled for resources and have had to rely on funding from NGOs and institutional donors, often of a dubious nature. So not only is there an attrition in the number of the older generation of activists or their effectiveness has been reduced but a newer generation of activists is not coming forward in sufficient numbers to carry on the fight at the ground level. There doesn't seem to be any solution in sight and those of us who are still in the field are mostly marking time.   

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