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.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Whither the Republic

Subhadra and I spent the last weekend threshing the red gram from the small two thirds of an acre farm of Subhadra's in Pandutalav village in Dewas district about 50 kms from Indore. We beat the red gram stalk bundles on the ground that had been smeared plain with cowdung, so that the seeds fell out of their pods from the pounding and then winnowed the assorted leaves and seeds in the gentle breeze that was blowing. There were five other people who worked with us off and on, all the sons and daughters of the farmer from whom Subhadra had bought the land and who did most of the work on the land. Earlier we had spent another weekend cutting the stalks when the pods had ripened and tied them into bundles for them to dry and be hard enough for the pods to break when beaten on the ground. This small piece of land and an adjacent half acre of forested hillock had taken Subhadra's fancy when the red gram on it was still very green and bedecked with yellow flowers as shown below and so she bought it.
 The farmer sold this piece of land because he wanted money to sink an open well and install a pump so that he could irrigate the rest of his land. This need for water became clear to us soon, as with the lesser amount of rains this year the soil moisture soon dried up and the lush red gram crop and its beautiful yellow flowers did not bear as many pods. Eventually, after almost four days of labour by four people on an average for cutting, threshing and winnowing, we could get about 70 kilos of red gram seeds from two thirds acre of land which works out to about 250 kilos per hectare while the national average is about 650 kilos per hectare. At the going rate of Rs 50 per kilo the price of the output works out to Rs 3500 only and if we add the monetary value of the stalks and the leaves for use as fuel and fodder, then the total income is Rs 4000. Whereas the cost of seeds, fertilisers and pesticides was about Rs 1000 and about twenty person days of labour has gone into the cultivation and harvesting. So the daily wage works out to only Rs 150. The farmer himself got a much lesser yield of red gram and also other crops that he had sown because his other land of about one and a half hectares was even less fertile than the one he has sold to Subhadra. He and his whole family also tend to goats and chicken and some of his sons are working as daily wage earners in construction work in the city of Indore and that is how they somehow scramble through.
This is to be compared to the crop of turmeric that Subhadra has harvested from the small garden of 30 square meters in front of our house in Indore as shown below.

 About 90 kgs of raw turmeric were produced which works out to an yield of about 30000 kilos per hectare which is the upper level of yield at the national level. This huge difference in yields is because of the deep clayey soil in our garden which has been enriched with organic compost over the years and the regular watering of the plants.
This starkly underlines the deep problems that beset this country of ours on the occasion of our 67th Republic Day. While we who are not farmers have the resources to enrich our small piece of land and farm it well just to satisfy our whims of doing agriculture, those who are farmers and till the land for a living do not have the resources to make their land productive. The farmer from whom Subhadra bought the land is very enterprising and is into horticulture in addition to farming of food crops. However, he does not have the requisite resources to make his land productive enough for him to earn a decent living. Even though he has sold a small piece of his land to Subhadra, he still feels that he has gained because Subhadra will put in money into developing the water and organic manure availability of his remaining land along with her own which is abysmal at present. He has been suffering from arthritis of the knees for quite some time and has to hobble around but he just did not have the money to see a qualified and reliable orthopaedic doctor. We brought him to Indore today for a check up and the doctor became very angry with us for having brought him so late. Both the knees had degenerated to the extent that only through costly knee replacement surgery could the farmer's mobility be restored. Obviously this was beyond his means and so eventually we paid for some injections and medicines that would offer temporary relief. He is also a long time sufferer of acidity which too is now being cured by us with the use of ayurvedic medicines.
There is a deep livelihood crisis in rural areas with farmers just not earning enough to feed and care for themselves let alone invest on their farms. So the productivity of the farms is going down continuously and weather shocks like droughts and floods are further aggravating the situation. The poverty that results, prevents the farmers from bearing heavy medical expenses in the absence of a functional public health system and so in the end life in rural areas is in deep crisis. I have written so much about this intellectually over the past decade but it is only after doing work on Subhadra's farm and comparing the minimal monetary value of that with the huge monetary value of the same labour time that I spend in doing vacuous consultancies, that this vicious anomaly has got driven like iron into my soul. This Republic is not for farmers.

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