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, November 26, 2015

Was Our First Constitution Such a Big Deal?

Today, 26th November, is being celebrated as the Constitution Day because it was on this day that the first Constitution of independent India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly in 1949. Prior to that even after independence in 1947, India was being governed by the colonial Government of India Act of 1935 enacted by the British Parliament. However, the first Constitution instead of being a radical new statute in tune with the aspirations of the masses was actually a continuation of the Government of India Act of 1935 with 250 of the 395 articles being verbatim copies of the same articles in the former. Therefore, contrary to the eulogies being mouthed about the greatness of this Constitution there is a need to critically review it.
The Constituent Assembly that adopted the Constitution after debating the draft articles which were prepared by a team of bureaucrats led by Sir Benegal Rau of the Indian Civil Service was itself not a truly representative body. It had been constituted under the Government of India Act of 1935 through indirect election of the representatives in 1946 from among the elected representatives of the provincial assemblies in British India and the representatives of the princely states and consisted mostly of people from the richer sections of society as instead of universal suffrage there was only limited voting rights given to the propertied classes.
Even though the chapter on fundamental rights was included to give the citizens rights and the assurance of rule of law, which are two of the fundamental principles of liberal democracy, nevertheless this was only of a partial nature because of the following lacunae -
1. The right to education and health were not included in fundamental rights and were relegated to the non-justiciable Directive Principles of State Policy. This absolved the State from providing free education and health services to the population which was largely without education and health services in the colonial period. An educated and healthy population leads to huge dividends in terms of development of a country and so India has missed out on development in a big way due to this initial blunder.
2. The right to employment with a living wage too was denied as a fundamental right and put in the Directive Principles of State Policy. Thus, a huge population that had been reeling under the depredations of the British, which had gone up especially in the last years of their rule when they funded their war efforts across the world by extracting more and more from the Indian masses, were denied a decent livelihood and instead they were subjected to more depredations as the Indian State and the ruling classes that controlled it embarked on a policy of primitive accumulation to extract their labour for building up a capitalist economy.
3. The right to property was included in the fundamental rights sections and this created serious problems for development as the landed and propertied classes resisted legally in the courts the attempts of the Government to initiate land reforms.
4. The colonial centralised bureaucratic system of governance was retained and local self governance was relegated to the Directive Principles of State Policy thus stifling the political aspirations of the masses to govern themselves.
5. The bureaucracy was given protection from legal prosecution ostensibly to prevent frivolous litigation against them but in reality this led to impunity on the part of the bureaucracy and especially the police who have used this protection to engage in repressive and corrupt governance that has vitiated the human rights of the masses.
6. Even though affirmative reservations in political representation, education and government employment were provided to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, these were not extended to the far more numerous Other Backward Classes and so for a considerable time after independence, India continued to be dominated by the numerically miniscule upper castes who have largely worked for their own benefit and continued the millennia old oppression of the lower castes.
7. The grossly anti-people colonial statutes like the Indian Forest Act, Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Land Acquisition Act, etc, were provided legal currency in the post independence era by the Constitution and they have collectively contributed to the oppression and dispossession of the masses in pursuit of capitalist development for the benefit of the ruling classes.
8. The electoral system that was adopted was the first past the post one for each constituency where the candidate who got the most number of valid votes polled won the elections regardless of the proportion of the votes polled. This resulted in the Indian National Congress gaining huge majorities in terms of seats won in parliament and the state legislative assemblies despite it never getting more than 40 per cent or so of the votes polled and this enabled it to rule unhindered for about two decades without much opposition and push through anti-people and capitalist friendly development. More importantly, it marginalised localised people's movements which could not aspire to political representation through elections because they had small mass bases in pockets. The socialist and communist parties which initially had a fairly good mass bases, slowly lost these as they could not attain power and implement their people friendly policies.
9. The exercise of power has been tilted overly towards the central government at the expense of the state governments and so initially there was a weak federal structure which further undermined the political autonomy of the masses.
10. Reservations were not provided to women in political power, education and government jobs and there was no specific mention of the huge gender imbalance of power or provisions to correct it.
All these lacunae have over the years been addressed to a greater or lesser extent through over a hundred amendments but the betrayal of the aspirations of the people was so great in the initial decades that the socio-economic scenario currently is a very unjust and oppressive one as far as the majority of the population is concerned and the far right has been able to exploit the frustrations of the masses to come to power as a result of a fractured mandate by winning seats far in excess of its vote share and even threaten what limited provisions for plurality there are in the Constitution.

1 comment:

maya said...

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