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, August 22, 2016


1. Rationale for Tribal Development
Tribal Development in India has been problematical from the time of independence. This has been due to a conflicting situation arising from the opposition between the traditional community based subsistence economy of the tribals and the modern market based growth oriented thrust of the mainstream economy. The challenge has been to integrate the tribals into the modern economy in a manner that was beneficial to them. This has generally not been possible because the tribals have lacked the requisite skills for this and the government system for equipping them with these skills has malfunctioned. Moreover, in order to save on the costs associated with modern development the tribals have often not been recompensed and rehabilitated properly for the displacement that they have had to face as resources have been extracted from their traditional habitats.
Not surprisingly this has led to dissatisfaction on the part of the tribals and its expression as outright political revolt and a further destruction of the natural resource base. The negative outcome of this is instability in tribal areas and a big loss to the nation in terms of natural resources destroyed. Thus, tribal development is necessary for social justice, political stability, economic redistribution and environmental sustainability. How is this to be achieved and what will be the gains? The answer is –
  1. Decentralised and local community controlled development has been acknowledged as a major desideratum for tackling tribal deprivation (Sharma, 2001).
  2. With the award of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences to Elinor Ostrom in 2009, it has come to be acknowledged that collective action is the best option for the management of common pool resources (Ostrom, 1990).
  3. The benefits accruing in terms of mitigation of climate change from such communitarian natural resource management in rural areas compensates for the emissions from the urban and industrial areas which cannot be totally nullified (International Institute of Sustainable Development et al. 2003).
2. Need for NGO intervention
However, the tribals being mostly illiterate and economically poor lack the capacity to counter the atomising influence of the centralised governance apparatus that tends to increase their deprivation through acts of omission and commission as we have seen. Consequently they need to be guided in their attempts to secure justice and development by trained social workers who can formulate appropriate strategies and supervise their implementation.  Thus, NGOs have to put in efforts along with the tribals to ensure collective action. One such NGO is the Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra and its sister organisation the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath which have been operating among Bhil Tribals in the district of Alirajpur in Madhya Pradesh since 1987. The organisation has promoted community based soil, water and forest conservation among the Bhil tribals resulting in augmentation of the natural resource base in 12 watersheds in the district. In the process 5000 hectares of land has been treated with a voluntary contribution of labour of 15,00,000 human days over a twenty five year period. Over the past three years the organisation has stepped up the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme by putting pressure on the government bureaucracy to provide employment on demand to the people. The practice of the bureaucracy is to discourage people from demanding work and then they provide work at their own whim and fancy. The Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra has mobilised the people to demand work formally and then pushed the administration to provide the work demanded which is much more than would have happened in the normal course of things. Thus, now thousands of more humandays are being invested in natural resource conservation.
3. Importance of Quantification and Systematisation
Just effecting mitigation of climate change and improvement of livelihoods is not enough as the gains must be scientifically quantified. Some of the work done thus far has been documented by the organisation as in the work in the Attha watershed (Banerjee, 2010). However, this documentation is only of the amount of work done and the increase in forest cover, irrigation and soil depth. For systematic quantification detailed measurment of the livelihood situation and the soil, water and forest resources is necessary both at the beginning of the intervention and at the later stages(Tiwari et al, 2011).  The need for rigorous quantification also arises because these eco-system services, as they are called, do not enter the market and so are not automatically valued in the economy in money terms like other services that are marketed (Behera et al, 2011).  However, given the importance of such services in the present global context of climate change, there are policy measures being adopted to pay the people, especially tribals and among them women who render such services. Consequently, a new organisation Mahila Jagat Lihaaz Samiti (The Society for Respect for Women and the Earth) has now been set up to specifically work on gender and environmental issues in a focused manner. Undre this a Climate Change Mitigation Centre has been set up in one village, Pandutalav, in Dewas district, to systematise the work in the spheres of livelihood enhancement, eco-system services and gender equity leading to climate change mitigation. The schematic representation of the work of this centre is shown below.
4. Agro-processing, Marketing and Credit Support
Given the low per household private and common land availability in tribal areas, even after the best forest, soil and water conservation work cannot ensure sustainability of livelihoods without added incomes from value addition in agro-processing and subsequent marketing (Banerjee, 2003). This requires cheap and easy access to capital and credit support which is rarely available from institutionalised sources. That is why there is a need to initiate thrift and savings groups among tribals and link them with banks for leveraging their meagre savings for greater capital and credit support. Various cooperative value addition and marketing methodologies can then be explored to diversify the household income base. An added advantage of this is that the women can be made the main actors in these programmes leading to women's empowerment and greater gender equity.
5. Watershed Plus Pilot
The above scheme of systematic livelihood augmentation and climate change mitigation combined with agro-processing has first to be tried out as a pilot in one watershed. Experience of decentralised watershed management has shown that the optimal size for this is a milliwatershed defined as being of size between 1000-10000 ha area (Tideman, 1996). The process of climate change mitigation and livelihood augmentation has to start with a rigorous baseline survey of the watershed to determine its present characteristics. Once this is done, this data can then be used to design the detailed interventions required and the time frame in which they have to be made. The villagers and especially the youth will have to be involved in this baseline data collection. Apart from this the data regarding the geo-hydrological status of the underlying rock structure will have to be collected with the help of a geo-hydrologist. Remote sensed images of the watershed will also have to be studied. Once all the data has been digitised and analysed it can be entered into a GIS and superimposed on a remote sensed image of the watershed for further analysis. On the basis of this a detailed intervention plan can be drawn up involving soil, water and forest conservation measures, changes in agricultural practices, generation of renewable energy, micro-credit programmes, gender sensitisation, processing and marketing of farm produce and primary health services.
5. Resources Required
The village level data collection and data entry should cost about Rs 2,00,000. The geo-hydological survey in a remote area could cost Rs 1,00,000. The GIS analysis and plan preparation including detailed design of conservation structures will cost about Rs 2,00,000 including the purchase of remote sensed images. Another Rs 1,00,000 would be required as administrative, travel and coordination costs. The total baseline survey and project planning cost is thus Rs 6,00,000. The rule of thumb climate mitigation costs in hilly terrain are about Rs 15000 per hectare and so for a watershed of about 1000 hectares the cost would come to Rs 1.5 crore over a period of about five years. Another Rs 0.5 crore would be required to implement the renewable energy component for a total investment of Rs 2 crores. Thus, the total baseline survey and project planning cost is around 3% of the total project implementation cost.  A rigorous plan developed along the lines described above is a must as it would be able to quantify in monetary terms the benefits that are to accrue from eco-system services offered and thus justify the investment in the watershed. Moreover, as explained earlier, systematic quantification is also necessary for establishing the project as an example to be replicated.
Banerjee, R . Status of Informal Rural Financial Markets in Adivasi Dominated Regions of Western Madhya Pradesh, Working Paper No. 2. Mumbai. Department of Economic Analysis and Research, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, 2003.
Banerjee, R. The Importance of Activist Mediated Collective Action for Tribal Development. Delhi. Indian Statistical Institute, 2010 (
Behera, B., Mishra, P. & Nayak, N.C. Payments for Environmental Services: Issues and Implications for India. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLVI No.20.
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), International Union for Conservation of Nature andNatural Resources (IUCN) and Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). Livelihoods and Climate Change: Combining Disaster Risk Reduction, Natural Resource Management and Climate Change Adaptation in a New Approach to the Reduction of Vulnerability and Poverty, Canada: International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2003.
Ostrom, E. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge U P, 1990.
Sharma, B. D. Tribal Affairs in India: The Crucial Transition. Delhi: Sahayog Pustak Kutir Trust, 2001.
Tideman, E. M. Watershed Management: Guidelines for Indian Conditions. Delhi. Omega Scientific Publishers. 1996.
Tiwari, R.,Somasekhar, H.I., Ramakrishna Parama, V.R., Murthy, I.M., Mohan Kumar, M.S., Mohan Kumar, B.K., Parate, H., Varma, M., Malaviya, S., Rao, A.S., Sengupta, A., Kattumuri, R. & Ravindranath, N.H. MGNREGA for Environmental Service Enhancement and Vulnerability Reduction: Rapid Appraisal in Chitradurga District, Karnataka. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLVI No. 20.

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