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, November 14, 2016

The Scourge of Kalodhono!!

A new devil, as malevolent as any of the others that make their lives difficult, now plagues the long suffering Adivasis of Alirajpur – Kalodhono. He is so potent that he has for the time being eclipsed all the bounty in the form of a plentiful harvest that has resulted this year from the munificence of their rain god Kalorano. What is this Kalodhono which has suddenly made life so difficult for the Adivasis? These are the demonetized rupees five hundred and one thousand denomination currency notes!! In their typical way with all Hindi or English words, the Adivasis have picked up the Hindi word for black money, Kala Dhan, which is being bandied about on television channels frequently as being the target of the demonetization, altered its pronunciation suitably to accord with the phonetics of the Bhili dialect and have named their latest nemesis with this phonetically altered word.
The Adivasi household economy in Alirajpur these days is heavily dependent on migrant labour in the agricultural fields and construction sites in Gujarat. This migratory labour goes on all the year round and more than ninety percent of the households in Alirajpur have some people engaged in migrant labour. Many had just returned with money paid in lumpsum to them after a month or more of labour just before Diwali to celebrate their own Diwali which is held at different times in different villages. Many Adivasis have bank accounts these days but they don’t use them preferring to handle cash instead, as accessing the bank accounts is a pain given that they are situated at great distances from their homes. These bank accounts are accessed only to receive payments from the government for various schemes like Indira Awaas Yojana, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the like. Since most of these schemes are not being funded properly by the Government, in many cases the people are not getting any payments and these accounts are in disuse for a long time and so blocked by the banks as per the Reserve Bank of India regulations, to prevent the use of many bank accounts intermittently for laundering black money. Therefore, many Adivasi households are now sitting on thousands of rupees in demonetized notes without any easy way to deposit them and get the new notes. They will have to open new bank accounts or reactivate their blocked bank accounts and this will only happen after the huge rush of depositing notes and withdrawing money in the banks eases somewhat in about a week or ten days. Thus, most Adivasi households are without any cash at the moment and will remain so for at least another two weeks.
Given this situation and the dire need for cash of poor Adivasi households at a time when the harvest has not yet been winnowed, it is not surprising that via media have popped up in the form of middlemen who are ready to exchange the demonetized notes for one hundred rupee notes for a commission ranging from 10 to 20 percent imposing a heavy tax on some of the poorest people in this country. Not surprisingly Kalodhono has emerged as a major blight on the Diwali festivities of the Adivasis and they are running from pillar to post to exorcise it.

(Photo by Javed Iqbal,
Given that it is not possible to deposit more than 50,000 rupees of demonetized notes at a time without a Permanent Account Number from the Income Tax Department and more than Rs 2,50,000 in all without coming under the scanner of the Income Tax Department and being taxed and penalized to the cumulative tune of 90 percent of the amount deposited if one cannot furnish the details of where one got the money from and also exposing oneself to the possibility of property searches later, it is unlikely that the really big holders of unaccounted cash are going to deposit the same and will prefer to lose this cash altogether as in most cases it is a small proportion of the accumulated black income that they hold mostly in the form of real estate, gold and financial instruments. Since new Rs 500 and Rs 2000 notes are being issued, the unaccounted property of high income people is not being traced and the generation of future black income is not being prevented through the compulsory introduction of cashless transactions, it is indeed doubtful as to how much of a deterrent this one time demonetization will be against the creation of black money and whether the huge costs being borne in the form of the temporary disruption of the economy of both the country and of poor households like that of the Adivasis of Alirajpur will be offset by the destruction of the stock of black money instead of its being deposited and so taxed and penalized by the Government. If the Government had the guts, it should instead have put all the human power at its disposal into tracing the property holdings of citizens. It is the people with high property holdings that are under reporting their incomes in a big way and it is they who should have been tracked and penalised instead of launching this ill planned demonetization exercise which is turning out to be a Tughlaqian farce!!

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