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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Lack of Dignity of Labour

As a society we have to ponder over how physical labour is being devalued, whether it is in agriculture, industry or in services. Increasing automation and the advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence are now making even intellectual labour redundant and causing jitters to the middle class but the greater tragedy is that of the devaluation of physical labour and even more so for self employed labour. Not just in terms of emoluments but in terms of their self image. Crores of people in this country are engaged in physical labour and many of them are doing it on their own as freelance service providers, craftsmen, weavers or farmers. They are highly skilled and yet they do not take pride in their skills.
I have already in an earlier post written about how the fourwheeler vehicles of our organisation are maintained by stand alone mechanics who provide much better service than the authorised service centres whether they are of Tata Motors or Suzuki. Yet one of these mechanics, Iqbal, does not value his work as much as he should. He has a small rented place with some open space outside in which he plies his trade. He is a first class mechanic and due to his golden fingers our vintage 1998 model Maruti 800 not only runs beautifully but it still gives an average of 18 to 20 kilometers per litre of petrol. He has also worked on our Tata Safari car of which we are the sixth owners and made it trouble free over a period of time. Whenever, there is some problem he attends to it promptly. On many occasions he has gone to the school in Kakrana at the drop of a hat to repair the Safari which initially was in very bad shape. He has then patiently taught the staff at the school to do some elementary repairs themselves.
He started off as an apprentice at the age of fourteen and has been working ever since. For the past ten years he is on his own in his small garage after having worked for others for a long time. He is now fortyfive years of age. He has in turn trained many mechanics who have apprenticed with him and then gone on to join the bigger authorised service centres. These provide some amount of employment and income security as compared to being an entrepreneur with a small garage.
I have always had great respect for Iqbal ever since I first came across him two years or so ago for the dedication and skill with which he works. Yet the other day a phone call from him drove me into a deep gloom. He said that his daughter who is in class eleven and studying accounting and commerce with computers needed a laptop and he couldn't afford it so could I help her by getting one from somewhere. Iqbal is a self respecting man and has never asked for anything but his voice sounded abjectly pleading. Here was a man of great skill but he did not have the money to buy his daughter a computer, even a used one and that had broken his self respect. Normally girls in the slum where he lives in a dilapidated house are married off once they reach the teens. Iqbal, however, has broken that retrograde tradition and even fought with his community leaders to do so and continued to send her to school. However, now when her daughter needs a computer, he feels ashamed that he cannot afford one and has to ask me for support.

It wasn't very difficult to get an used laptop for the girl as just one post in Facebook did the trick. But what set me pondering is the fact that Iqbal does not value his profession and skills. He knows that I spend most of my time punching keys on a computer and that as a consequence I garner a lot of resources for philanthropy and that my activity is much more remunerative than his. This is the case with the many other such skilled workers that I interact with both in the city of Indore and in the villages. All of them work hard and well in whatever they do but they are able to garner very small amounts as compared to the resources that I manage to accumulate. Most of these people are beneficiaries of our projects and so give me a lot of respect. Iqbal was an exception and he carried himself proudly till a few days ago. But now he too has become obliged to me and his behaviour has changed consequently and this is what is bothering me. If the real hard workers in this country don't have self respect because they cannot earn enough from their work then there is cause for concern.
Iqbal has an elder son who is in class 12. He is not very good in studies but plays football well. When I went to deliver and set up the laptop to his house, Iqbal, asked me if I could not get his son a job in the Indian Railways under the sports quota!! I asked him why he did not induct him into his garage? He said that the boy was not interested in becoming a mechanic and anyway there was no secure future in this line.  That is what is happening in farming also as the rural youth of today don't want to work on the farms. Just because punching keys on a computer and being able to write well in English is valued much more than physical labour. When millions of hard working and skilled people have lost their self respect and the new generation is turning away from such hard work in large numbers, then there is certainly a cause for concern that we will only be aggravating by ignoring.

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