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.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Fire is Extinguished!!

The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana has been launched with great hype across the country and there are a number of beneficiaries in the Bhil homeland in western Madhya Pradesh also. Initially the beneficiary women had to deposit some amount for getting the Liquid Petroleum Gas cylinder and stove but later even that was done away with and everything was given free. So there were many Bhil women who were for the first time cooking on gas stoves and were thus freed from the ill effects of smoke and greater waste heat that they have to suffer when cooking on wood stoves.
However, the problems soon started as they do with most government schemes which do not address the deeper social and economic aspects of the many problems that beset our country. The gas cylinders have to be taken for exchange with a refill to the town or market village where there is a distributing agency. This depending on the terrain may be anything from ten to thirty kilometers away. Moreover, the price of a refill cyclinder is now Rs 817. Therefore, if one factors in the price of the petrol spent on carting the cylinder by motorcycle and the time spent in going for the refill then the effective immediate cost is Rs 900 per cylinder. Of course Rs 300 of this will be deposited in the woman's bank account as a subsidy but that will happen only after some time. Since, in most cases in rural areas in the Bhil homeland, the money for the immediate payment and also the time and labour involved in getting the refill cylinder all have to come from the men, they are generally reluctant to give these resources to their women and say that it would be better if they continued to use wood stoves instead!!
There is also the problem of garnering Rs 900 every twenty days or so. Since Bhil homes have a lot of cooking to do, a cylinder lasts only about twenty days. Time and labour expended by women for home work like fetching water and fuel wood have no monetary value and so they are "free" as compared to cash which has to be earned through labour for money by both men and women. Thus, even if women have found cooking on gas stoves a relief, they find it easier to collect fire wood and suffer the smoke and heat of wood stoves rather than spend their hard earned money on gas refills.
So the old malevolent combination of patriarchy and poverty has put paid to the Ujjwala scheme in the Bhil homeland where mostly the gas stoves and empty cylinders are lying idle except for a few homes which have sufficient money incomes and assertive women to get the refills done. So the cooking gas fires that the Prime Minister so enthusiastically lit are extinguished for now in the Bhil homeland!!

4 comments:

Swapan Bhattacharjee said...

One way out would be subside the transport by the dealers to the villages periodically, say every two weeks with filled cylinders to specified locations. The days can be like every alternate, say Sunday, The dealer collects the empty cylinder and delivers the refilled ones. This may still not be the best way because user may have to wait as long as 14 days T times if the cylinder gets over immediately after the delivery day. Still it will gradually be learnt how to manage such issues eventually.

Swapan Bhattacharjee said...


The way out may be to subsidize the delivery system itself. The distributor can refill, that exchange for empty ones, brought by the user to a nearby specified point, once every two weeks on specified day, or even a home delivery. The user has to SMS to register for the exchange. This may still be inconvient because sometimes the cylinder ma exhaust immediately after the delivery day. Eventually, I guess, they will optimise the system of delivery. If the user saves some money, a second cylinder may be used as is common in urban areas.

n subba said...

Oh, BS Rahul.

Lets set up a small fund on a pilot basis to "subsidize" the "Aadhar subsidy" to make LPG more affordable for the people in select areas of Bhil country and give them a small incentive to refill on an as needed basis. If it works on a pilot basis, word will spread... No sense in people wasting time cutting down lakdi, women forced to work in atrocious conditions, and deforestation (with resulting denudation) to make cooking affordable!

I still haven't given up on the idea of organizing a trailer-truck Propane tank for a pilot community BTW (despite regulatory hassles). Folks in rural America are doing exactly that - where there's no piped gas. Of course, there are going to be allocation issues (i.e., who's consuming how much and why should I pay for someone else's consumption) but those tiffs can be worked out by the community over a period of time. No?

n subba said...

Swapanda - You've just got yourself a new mission!