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.

Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath

How It All Began
In 1984 a Bhil tribal, Lalia, was bleeding from his anus after having been brutally beaten up by a forest guard for not paying him a bribe for cultivating forest land. In a subsequent emergency meeting held by the people when they were hesitating to act in a concerted manner to demand cultivation of forest land as a right and take on the forest department, Lalia stood up painfully and said that he would commit suicide if no decisive action was taken as without the land he could not survive. That prompted the people to act cohesively and decisively leading to the formation of the trade union Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath (KMCS). However, it was decided that just fighting for the right to cultivation would not do and it must go with a campaign for communitarian natural resource conservation works so as to improve the quality of the environment to which access had been gained and so contribute to long term sustainability.The Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra (DGVK), which was created for the purpose of conducting a movement for natural resource conservation, and the people have together waged a long campaign for forest rights and natural resource conservation that has finally come to fruition through a conjunctive implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act 2006 and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. From the beginning this programme has had huge women's participation because land and forest conservation contribute immediately to the reduction of drudgery for women. This lengthy and sustained process of women's mobilisation has led to the reduction in patriarchal oppression among the Bhils.
Khemraj, Amit Bhatnagar, Shankar Tadavla, Rahul Banerjee and Khemla Aujnaharia went about formalising the two institutions - Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra and Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath. Later Chittaroopa Palit, Jayashree Bhalerao, Bernadette D'Souza, Vidya Shah, Ashwini Chhatre, Amita Baviskar, Narendra Patil, Deshdeep Sahadev, Kemat Gavle and Ravi Hemadri too have played important roles. The subsequent development of these organisations has been a collective effort of these initial activists and the people of the area with everyone having made important contributions to the way in which the work has evolved to the present. Thus it is a collective innovation without any sole individual innovator. The combined effect of this communitarian innovation has been to uniquely synthesise the traditional anarchistic and environmentalist cohesiveness and cooperation of the Bhil tribals with the centralised liberal democratic rights based framework of the modern Indian political system. This is in fact the biggest challenge confronting humanity.
Financial innovation is also a characteristic of the functioning of these organisations. Seeing that the contributions from the people themselves and from well wishers was not sufficient to efficiently conduct a mass based rights programme the practice of doing funded research projects on the work being done on the ground was introduced. This not only built up the research capacity of the organisations but also led to better performance on the ground due to continuous analytical critiquing and review of the work being done. There are few mass rights organisations that have produced so much in house research as the Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra and Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath.
To create a wider support base for the organisations  a branch office has been set up in the city of Indore which is equipped with a library, computers and internet connectivity. This office is housed in a green building which treats and recharges all the waste water and storm water and also the solid wastes and uses them to grow creepers that provide a green covering for the building and keep it cool during the summer. This reduces the energy consumption of the building. The video on this exemplary urban conservation effort of the organisation can be viewed here -

Unique Modus Operandi
The Bhils of KMCS have not only fought in an organised manner, both locally and through networking at the provincial, national and international level to get access to and control over natural resources but have also cooperated to conserve these resources, improved the quality of their agriculture and enhanced their livelihood opportunities. Simultaneouly this conservation has contributed to mitigation of climate change through an increase in forests and availability of water which has then been tapped using traditional water harvesting systems leading to a lesser use of artificial energy for irrigation. All this has been achieved by adhering to the prevailing legal system and also by networking with other organisations to bring new legislation in the form of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act and the Scheduled Castes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights Act (Forest Rights Act) to formalise these communitarian and conservationist efforts on a larger nationwide scale. The uniqueness is increased by the whole hearted participation of women in these efforts thus doubling the social energy involved in them. Women have also succeeded in reducing the patriarchal oppression that was traditionally a part of the Bhil tribal society through their greater participation in social, economic and political activities. This mobilisation effort thus synthesises the traditional small community cooperation of the Bhils with the legal, political and economic systems of a modern democratic state to evolve a liberating framework of action and conservation that is both equitable and sustainable.
The uniqueness therefore lies in synthesising traditional tribal communitarian modes of action with modern political modes of action while simultaneously challenging the traditional patriarchal structures to bring about a new paradigm of development that is socially, economically and politically equitable and environmentally sustainable.

Gender Rights
Women took a leading role in the organisation process from its inception because they were suffering the most due to lack of access to forests and their continuous degradation. The most inspiring story is that of Raijabai of Kakrana village on the banks of the Narmada River. The people of that village had begun protecting their forests but people of nearby villages would come at night to cut the trees. Thus it was necessary to have someone police the forests at night also. Then Raijabai took the brave decision to stay in the forest itself and she and her husband constructed a hut there and went to live in it with their children. Whenever they saw somebody trying to cut the trees at night they would raise the alarm and then all the people from the village would come rushing. Even then on a few occasions the timber thieves attacked and injured them. Nevertheless undaunted Raija has gone on living in the forest which has now become a resplendent one.
Another example is that of Retli Ajnaria. She gave up her job as an anganwadi worker under the Integrated Child Development Scheme of the Madhya Pradesh government to become a full-time activist with the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath. Earlier Retli had devoted her energies to organising women in self help groups of ten or twelve members. She tried to introduce them to the idea of micro-credit, but their extreme poverty meant that they could save very little. Things changed drastically with the introduction of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Retli organised the women to apply for work and then made sure that work was provided. Apart from the employment it generated, it also helped create water and soil conservation structures, which have in turn resulted in higher agricultural productivity. This has meant more agricultural work for both men and women. She says “This scheme allows women to apply for work in a group of their own and then the payments are made directly into their bank accounts. With one stroke women get the work they want and also
the money without the involvement of any intermediaries. This gives them a tremendous sense of power.”
Jashmabai of Darkali village who has got work under MGNREGS due to the organisational abilities of Retli and other KMCS activists candidly explains why she likes the present situation, "Our men are wastrels, spending their time drinking or looting someone. So we decided to do something about it and found work here.”
This woman from the Bhilala tribal community speaks for many other women like her living in extreme poverty in a drought-prone region. They had few livelihood options. The land cannot
support most families here, because the soil in these small, fragmented homestead plots is poor and unproductive. The mahua trees and toddy palms that dot the region only serve to provide the local men with ample sources of liquor. Poverty and alcohol form a lethal cocktail in Darkali, which manifests itself in crime and violence. Women, as always, emerge from such a situation as the worst sufferers.
That is why it is the women who have been most enthusiastic about the implementation of this programme. Gamtibai, also of Darkali village, comes straight to the point, "The biggest advantage
for us is that men have now got some work to occupy themselves and keep them from fighting and looting each other. Only last year there was a murderous fight between two groups in our village and many men got seriously injured and landed up in jail. Now they
are all working together happily on the same earthen dam."
The path to this relatively happy situation was by no means smooth. Initially, local officials like sarpanches and panchayat secretaries actively dissuaded people from making applications for work schemes. Recalls Jashmabai of Darkali, "The local sarpanch, Ugarsingh, refused to accept our application for work, as did the panchayat secretary, Chandarsingh. Then we went, along with Retli-bai, to the local office to file our application there."
Even after the work was officially sanctioned, the sarpanch refused to initiate it. That was when Retli decided to go to the work site with the women, and start the work herself by carrying the soil dug out from the site on her head, along with the other workers. After three days of working like this, the sarpanch had to concede to the demand of the women. Now the situation has settled down, and all the wage payments barring the final instalment for the last fortnight of work which has just been completed have been made into the bank accounts of the workers. They even succeeded in getting a creche to look after the children of the women workers, with two women being paid to look after them.
Development projects in rural India have long been a source of corruption, with funds being regularly siphoned off at various levels by bureaucrats and politicians. The MGNREGS has tried to address this by instituting checks like social audits and making it mandatory for wages to be paid directly into bank accounts. But corruption still seeps in, with those in charge sometimes devising ingenious ways to cheat poor workers of their dues, either through personal intimidation or by manipulating registers. Here the vigilance of the KMCS and its activists like Retli along with the villagers ensures that the benefits do accrue to the people.

The term gender bender applies to those who behave in a way that is different from the gender assigned to them at birth and generally applies to men who behave like women and women who behave like men in physical and sexual terms. However, the term could also be extended to include those who rebel against the social roles assigned to them by a patriarchal social system. Women like Retli are defying the restricted role given to them by society and taking advantage of new legal provisions under the Forest Rights Act, Panchayati Raj Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to ensure greater mobility and rights for women. Actualising Women's Resource Zones is the next step and requires higher skills. Such WRZs have to be implemented and from this experience I am sure a workable model will emerge.
While greater participation by women in the public sphere does improve their status in society and some women like, Retli, Vina and Daheli have indeed become quite powerful vis a vis their own husbands and the males as a whole they are still handicapped by the gender division of labour. Women still have to do the care work and also domestic work like cooking and wahsing. This takes up a considerable amount of time of the women and often they have to forego public work. This is in fact a problem that most women are faced with and in the case of poor Bhil women it is even more acute as they tend to have at least three or four children if not more. The solution of course is that men should take on equal responsibility for care and domestic work but given the patriarchal taboo against men doing such work this is very difficult. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has tried to do something in this regard and the village leaders and tribal activists at least do put in some work at home in care and domestic work but there is still a long way to go.

Problems, Actions and Impact
  • The main problem in tribal areas is that even when rights to forest land are granted, tribals are unable to protect these forests and the soil cover of the agricultural lands to which they have gained access leading to adverse effects both on the environment and on their livelihoods.
    This problem is compounded by the fact that the government agencies tend to discourage the people from taking communitarian action on their own to conserve soil, water and forests. The market economy too encourages people to further extract resources for sale and immediate economic gain disregarding long term sustainability.
    Additionally in the context of Bhil society its inherent patriarchy puts a greater burden of the ill effects of these problems on women who have to exert themselves more to cope with poverty, lack of fuel wood and potable water.
    Finally the ignorance of the formal legal systems of a modern democracy handicaps the Bhils severely.
    All these problems combine to give rise to a situation of inequity and unsustainability from the economic, environmental, social and gender points of view at the local level and feed in to the problem of adverse climate change at the global level.
    The Bhil tribals of Western Madhya Pradesh were treated as sub human by the non tribals and were the victims of exploitation and marginalisation in the late 1970s. Once they began organising with the help of the Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra and formed their own trade union they succeeded in getting recognition as equal citizens of India and as a result the many government schemes that were there on paper in their favour began to be implemented properly. Thus education and health services improved, development grants also were properly utilised. Most importantly the Bhils through their rights actions in coordination with other mass organisations throughout the country were able to get such legislations as the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act 1996, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 and the Forest Rights Act 2006 enacted. Since 2006 the organisation has been actively using these Acts along with the Right to Information Act 2005 to direct resources to the Bhils. Immediately in Alirajpur and Jhabua districts the work of the organisation has considerably enhanced the social, political and economic power of over one million Bhil tribals. One example is that of the villagers of Amba and Doobkheda on the banks of the Narmada river. The appproach to their villages is only by boat along the river as the roads have been submerged under the reservoir of the Sardar Sarovar Dam. Thus no development works were being done there. The villagers with the help of activists of Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra made an application to the CEO of the Janpad Panchayat at Sondwa for work to be started under the MGNREGS and within fifteen days the engineer came to this remote village by boat and started work on a big earthen dam that employed 300 people and had a sanctioned cost of Rs 450000. The organisation has started a movement for forest conservation which has led to people of more than a hundred villages in the district using social protection to regenerate degraded forests.
    The organisation from its inception in the early 1980s has organised the people and especially the women members to form small groups that undertake forest protection and soil and water conservation measures. An NGO named Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra was formed to implement these. From 2006 onwards, after statutes were enacted to make these actions state supportable the campaign has intensified. Using the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to garner extra funds for communitarian natural resource management has become a standard policy of the organisation and every year over Rs 20 million is expended through this scheme in the villages where the organisation is in strength.
    The major challenge is now to use the MGNREGS funds to conserve the natural resources on the forest lands to which the communities and individuals have gained rights through the Forest Rights Act. Here the main obstacle is the forest department which is even now opposing the use of MGNREGS by the communities to work on this land to which they have gained rights. So a major campaign is being conducted at all levels from the local to the central to implement MGNREGS on forest lands.
    The most visible result is the increasing involvement of people in communitarian natural resource management. From this year the organisation has begun a campaign for the implementation of the Bhumi Shilp Yojana under which MGNREGS funds can be used to do soil and water conservation work on private lands also. Since the agricultural plots in the forest areas to which people have got rights under FRA are now private lands these have become eligible under this scheme. This year on a tentative basis this scheme will be implemented in fifteen villages. Apart from this the general MGNREGS work will expand considerably to newer villages. Word has got round that the Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra facilitates the job application process by directly contacting the CEOs of the Janpad Panchayats and so many people come to it for help. Gradually over the next three years these campaigns will result in a widespread implementation of the MGNREGS for natural resource management and mitigation of climate change. A heartening aspect of this mobilisation is that women take part in it in large numbers and this has an impact in reducing patriarchal oppression under the leadership of Retlibai.
    Modes of Organisation
    The reason why Naxalism has spread in tribal areas is that it has some things in common with the anarchism of the tribals ( by Anarchism i refer here to the political belief system that true democracy is only possible in small groups as centralised states invariably marginalise the majority despite the best of rules and laws). The tribals have traditionally led a communitarian life in small groups and so they do not like the idea of being part of a vast centralised system. This dichotomy between the traditional tribal lifestyle and centralised modern society was recognised by the British colonialists egged on by anthropologist administrators like Verrier Elwin and Grierson and later the members of the Constituent Assembly who framed the Constitution of independent India and so special provisions were made in the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Indian Constitution for appropriate governance in tribal areas in accordance with their traditions. These provisions have been hailed by Dr B.D. Sharma as a "Constitution within the Constitution" specifically for tribals. However, the biggest tragedy of independent India is that these provisions have never been implemented and instead not only have the tribals been displaced wantonly from their habitats in pursuit of modern development but they have also been deprived of the fruits of this development in the form of better economic, educational and health opportunities and been left to fend for themselves in a hostile world.
    Not surprisingly there is a lot of resentment among the tribals and they do not have a very good opinion of the state machinery and in many instances they do not baulk at revolting spontaneously against the injustice meted out to them. As the current Home Minister of India recently stated there is a "trust deficit" among the tribals with regard to the state. The Naxalites preach that the liberal democratic Indian state cannot solve the problems of the masses and so it should be violently overthrown. This strikes a responsive chord in the hearts and minds of the tribals who have been defrauded by the Indian state and its staff and so they join the Naxalites even though they may not understand or agree with the centralised model of governance and development posited by the latter.
    The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath's uniqueness lies in trying to synergise the traditional anarchism of the Bhils with the provisions of the modern Indian Constitution that are in their favour rather than provoking the Bhils to rebel against the state and try to overthrow it as the Naxalites want to do. Thus, the KMCS has always used legal means to push for justice for the tribals and has been able to make its tribal members understand the complexities of the modern political system and the ways in which they can gainfully participate in it without resorting to violence. Thus, one of the most important strategies of the KMCS is to go to the courts to challenge the illegal actions of the government and its staff. The KMCS has frequently petitioned the High Court and the Supreme Court to ensure the rights of the tribals. Attmepts by the state to brand the work of the KMCS as Naxalism too have been challenged successfully in the Supreme Court. Consequently the KMCS has been able to establish that it is an anarchist organisation that believes in the "Rule of Law" and uses the various avenues open to it under the centralised liberal democratic constitution to promote the traditional small community anarchism of the Bhils. Today with laws like the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act and the Right to Information Act, which all support the paramountcy of the Gram Sabha or the village general body in deciding the path of local development, it is possible for the KMCS to ensure the rights of the Bhils in an effective manner.
    There are many forces that oppose the coming together of people. The government and the administration do not like people getting together to voice their legitimate demands and so invariably they foist legal cases on the members of the organisation and sometimes try to crush the organisation through the use of brute force. Before 2005 this was a serious problem in India. After that things have improved because of the passage of legislation like the Right to Information Act, Forest Rights Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. However, even after that things are not easy but innovative use of the Right to Information Act has certainly helped the process of mobilisation immensely.
    Being a small organisation and believing in staying small we have restricted our focus to the Bhil tribals who number about 6 million. However, we have also been collaborating with other organisations to increase people's mobilisation in other Tribal areas. We have worked with the NGO Other Media in Delhi to conduct trainings and research in the North East. One of our full time workers Shankar Tadwal is a Child Rights and You Fellow and he takes part in trainings and workshops for other CRY Fellows in Madhya Pradesh and India. Another worker Magan Kalesh is an Action Aid Fellow and he too frequently visits other tribal areas in Madhya Pradesh to help with the mobilisation process there. Apart from this workers from other tribal areas come to work as interns in our area to learn the ropes. I myself conduct trainings and workshops for tribal workers in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
    Mobilisation for formal eonomic cooperation is a different cup of tea altogether from mobilisation for rights. The Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra has done it on a small scale by forming Self Help Groups of women which carry out savings and credit at a minimal level. A small cooperative retail outlet was also opened for sometime. However, the problem with running such a retail outlet or a cooperative is that it requires trained staff with a high level of accounting and management skills. These are difficult to find among the Bhils in Alirajpur primarily because the Bhil tribals have traditioinally been non trading communities. Given the principle that all work of the organisation should ideally be done by Bhils the DGVK has refrained from setting up elaborate cooperatives whose management will have to be done by non-tribals. In fact the government run cooperatives are also mostly managed by non-tribals and these cooperatives have to be given a subsidy to stay afloat. The Milk Cooperatives run under the brand name of Amul have the advantage that their members are much better educated and skilled in running cooperatives and the operation is managed by professional managers. Consequently the KMCS also has a parallel programme wherein Bhil children are being educated in a residential school and the graduates are sometimes supported for higher education in an effort to build up a broader base of educated Bhils who may in future be able to run a cooperative successfully. Thus, at present the stress of the DGVK and the KMCS has been on ensuring that the government cooperatives function properly. There are also various laws to control usury which have been effectively pursued by the KMCS and many moneylenders have been sent to jail. It is better to let non-tribals do the trading which they are much better at and ensure that they are regulated properly rather than go around searching for Bhil tribals who are capable at this. Individual Bhils are encouraged to begin small businesses and this has been quite successful. There are innumerable members of the KMCS who are running shops, cycle stores, jeeps, flour mills and the like.
    The story of the KMCS is the story of many, largely unsung, everyday heroines and heroes who have spoken truth to power and put themselves in harm's way in order to empower subaltern communities and democratize their relationship to the state, and that commands respect.
    The KMCS developed and pursued is that it took aim at the heart of one of the most significant problems that adivasi communities in the area faced: the workings of a genuinely de facto undemocratic local state.
    Anyone who spends any time talking to people from the adivasi communities in this area about their lives prior to the coming of the KMCS will learn that low-ranking state officials - the police constable, the forest ranger - invoked a tremendous fear among villagers. People lived in fear because they were subject to constant demands for bribes, for example if they accessed and used the forest for pasture, for collecting firewood and building material, or, as is customary, to clear plots of land and farm in the forest. These demands for bribes were closely intertwined with threats and actual use of violence - beatings were common, often after having been taken into police custody.
    What is striking is that this profoundly undemocratic relationship to the state - "everyday tyranny" is an apt description - had come to be accepted - accepted not in the sense that it was something that people approved of, but in the sense that it was something that people felt that they could not change due to the immense power of the representative of the state. Added to this, it seems, was the fact that the local tyrants were representatives of an institution that local people knew little about and were therefore not capable of accessing and relating to in an active and assertive manner.
    In my view, one of the most crucial things that the KMCS did was to start the process of reversing this relationship. By challenging the corrupt and violent practices of the local state officials - be it the forest guards or the police - and not least, by winning certain "small victories", such as an admission from higher levels of the state that local forest guards were breaking the law, the suspension or transfer of culpable officials, or, according to some stories apologies from forest rangers that had misbehaved, the KMCS showed that
    (a) it was possible to resist everyday tyranny, and
    (b) that such collective challenges could succeed and gain significant concessions/improvements for the communities in the area.
    It is also worth noting that this process was also very much a process characterized by the "learning-by-doing" that makes up such an important and integral element of activism. When I spoke to one particular activist of the KMCS, he told me that his participation in the organization had meant that "I learned how to speak". By this he meant that he learned how to articulate his demands and make rightful claims on the state, and to rebuke officials who would make unlawful claims for bribes and so on. Others have said how their participation in the organization has meant that they have become familiar with the workings of the state and their rights as per the constitution; in other words, they have gained the knowledge necessary to relate to the state in an assertive and informed way, thereby enabling people to at least extract whatever entitlements are theirs by right.
    Hence, one of the crucial impacts and contributions of the KMCS has been - to enable people to become active citizens, rather than the subjects or subordinates that they once were. There are those on the left - very orthodox Marxists, very radical Anarchists - who would scoff at this and say that all this amounts to merely an induction into the illusions of liberal democracy. As a result of this kind of strategy, people will become dupes and fail to challenge underlying structures.
    In a condition such as that in which the KMCS germinated, it is hard to imagine any other strategy than the one developed by Rahul, Amit, Khemraj, Khemla and others. And in such conditions - conditions of de facto tyranny - demands for democracy are in fact profoundly radical! Let us not forget that when liberal democracy arrived as a political form on the historical stage, it was a form that only encompassed white men of property. Whereas the world has not been turned entirely upside down since then, it is nevertheless the case that democracy today is more encompassing in certain respects. And this change is due to the fact that subaltern groups - women, slaves, colonized peoples and oppressed ethnic minorities, workers - have fought for such basic things as the extension of the right to vote and the extension of citizenship from the formalism of liberal ideas to the more comprehensive notion of social citizenship.
    Moreover, going back to the local context, those who would criticize the KMCS for inducting people into the illusions of liberal democracy should bear in mind that one of the most profound things that happened to the people that participated in the organization was that they lost much of their fear of the state and its representatives. This is a crucial first step in developing a capacity for collective assertion and community empowerment, regardless of the form it may take in the future.
    However, the question of the system and wider structures of power that are today operative in the immiseration and disenfranchisement of adivasi communities does not simply go away. The KMCS became embroiled at an early stage in the people's struggle against dams on the river Narmada. This was a struggle that challenged the very edifice of development upon which the Indian state rests. There are many things that can be said about this struggle but here it would suffice to point out two things:
    (i) it was in connection with the Narmada struggle that the KMCS faced some of the harshest repression from the state, and
    (ii) the struggle against dams on the Narmada, led by the Narmada Bachao Andolan, did, despite its many important achievements ultimately fail.
    When we speak of sustainable, community-based resource management, we have to be aware that this is not uncontroversial. When communities start to claim control over the resource base upon which they subsist and the ways in which this resource base is to be used, they implicitly or explicitly start to challenge a fundamental aspect of the state - an entity which tends to see to it that resources are controlled and used in a way which is oriented towards the production of commodities for sale on the market, which in turn benefits propertied and politically powerful groups in society. And this in turn comes with wider implications, for it is one thing for the state to be faced with a movement of adivassi who say that they are fed up with the corruption and malpractice of low-level state officials - rectifying such cases of misbehaviour won't shake the foundations of the state - but it is quite another to be faced with a movement of adivasis who say that they want control over their forest, waters, and land: this does shake the foundations of the state. And when these foundations are shaken, that is when the state is most likely to put into operation its considerable machinery of repression. It happened to the KMCS, and has happened, perhaps to an even greater extent, to other community movements of adivasis in Madhya Pradesh and elsewhere in Central and Eastern India.
    This leads to a question which it is necessary to discuss, and that is: if we want to make community-based resource management a developmental edifice, then we are challenging the state, and the state won't let that just happen: so what do we do? Is the political and organizational format of the "Sangathan" enough for the challenges that this will entail, is the "Sangathan" capable of pushing beyond the democratization of local state-society relationships and towards more lasting structural change? Or do we need something else, some other political instrument or vehicle?
    The tension between a centralised state and economy (whether liberal democratic or socialist) on the one hand and decentralised anarchist communitarian living on the other is an old one that has exercised thinkers and activists alike from the eighteenth century onwards. As the state and the economy have become more centralised and also globalised the scope of decentralised communitarian living has correspondingly gone down. However, the human race is now at a critical juncture where the ill effects of centralisation are beginning to threaten the very existence of life on earth. It has become imperative that some new kind of economic and political organisation is necessary that optimises the good points of centralisation and decentralisation so as to ensure a more just and sustainable use of resources and distribution of the products and services. It is a complex project that is not easy to plan and implement. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath is trying to improvise and implement the decentralisation end of the spectrum and also attempting to spread this experiment to more and more areas. Those involved in centralised governance and economic activity will have to think about how they can accommodate the demands of the tribals so as to bring about a more just and sustainable social order.
    Also it is a trifle misleading to pose the NGO sector and the Government Sector as opposing each other. This is a false dichotomy because in reality both cant do without each other. Precisely because the NGOs cannot ever hope to achieve universal coverage or mobilise the requisite resources their work is restricted to providing examples for replication that have to be taken up for wider implementation by the government. All governments today recognise this and so welcome NGOs to contribute in their own way to social and economic development. The Forest Rights Act is an apt example of this. It was due to the pressure built up by NGOs and people's organisations that the government had to legislate this Act and now once again it is NGOs like Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra who are mobilising people on the ground so as to ensure that its provisions are implemented properly.
    Moreover, it is now well recognised that Corporations have to expend part of the profits they earn in social causes as the taxes that they pay to the government may not at all times be directed for the benefit of the marginalised sections of society. So there are many foundations set up by Corporations that provide grants to non-profits to implement social development projects. This is necessary because the poor people most of the time find it difficult to contribute sufficiently for their own development or to pay for the livelihood needs of the full time workers. That is why the Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra has accessed funds from grant making foundations. But these funds are a miniscule proportion of the aggregate contributions made in time, labour and cash and kind by the members of the KMCS.
    The liberal democratic political framework which is followed by most countries in the world today hinges crucially on property rights. Without property rights citizens in such democracies are effectively powerless to protect their other rights. However, this system is at variance with the traditional tribal communitarian democratic system in which there is minimal private property and the common property too is equitably utilised. In fact there is the famous potlatch system in most indigenous societies in which the surpluses earned by individuals are given away in feasting to the community so that there is no significant accumulation of private property. But this tradition of property less ness resulted in the lack of surpluses for trading and investment and consequently a lack of any incentive for literacy and numeracy. So when such societies were integrated into the modern centralised liberal democratic system they could not adjust to them due to a severe handicap in economic, political and technological spheres. They were converted into property less and so powerless citizens and this in turn led to a loss of dignity and identity. The Forest Rights Act in the Indian context seeks to redress this historical injustice by restoring to the tribals their control over community forests and land and also giving them individual property rights to land so as to increase their level of economic and political participation. The uniqueness of the work of the DGVK and KMCS lies in synergising the traditional communitarian sharing of the Bhil tribals with the modern political system based on individual rights. The KMCS has always pressed for the implementation of the various statutes legislated in favour of tribals and has also campaigned vigorously for the introduction of laws such as the Forest Rights Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. In the process the self belief of the Bhil tribals has been bolstered. Thus both the individual and the community identity and independence of the Bhil tribals has been re-established through a process that has been anchored by the fight for rights to forest land and the effort to conserve these resources. The KMCS members have been conserving the forests and soil in and around their land for over twenty years now even though they have only now got legal rights to it. This they have done by reviving their traditional customs of labour sharing and this has further bonded them and strengthened their identity. This work is now being carried forwarded by using the MGNREGS to further improve the quality of the lands and forests.

    Supremacy of the Gram Sabha
    The provisions of the PESA Act make it mandatory for the government to hold Gram Sabha meetings in the villages and take the sanction of the members regarding any development project that is to be initiated in the villages in areas notified as Scheduled Tribal Areas under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. Alirajpur district happens to be one such area. There was a proposal hanging fire for quite some time to establish a Wildlife Sanctuary in the Katthivara Reserve Forest in this district. However, during the month of September 2010 when Gram Sabhas were held in the villages that were coming in the proposed sanctuary area the members unanimously rejected the proposal. So now the State Government has declared that the proposed Wildlife Sanctuary will not be set up. This marks a significant victory for the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath.
    The story is a long one. It all started with the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the river Narmada in Gujarat. Large areas of forests and along with them the wildlife inhabiting them will be submerged in Madhya Pradesh as a result. So one of the conditions for the environmental clearance given to the project in 1987 was that alternative wildlife habitats in the form of wildlife sanctuaries should be notified. The Narmada Valley Development Authority in Madhya Pradesh put up the proposal for setting up two such sanctuaries in the Mathwad Reserved Forest and the Katthivada Reserved Forest in Alirajpur district. The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in Dehradun was asked to prepare a feasibility report for the setting up of these two sanctuaries. The WII in its report rejected the Mathwad Reserved Forest for having a very high concentration of tribal population and sparse forest area but recommended the setting up of the sanctuary in Katthivara. The Forest Department immediately publicised this in 2007 and said that very soon the state government would notify the area as a Wildlife Sanctuary. Immediately after this the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath became active.
    The KMCS activists first visited the affected villages to find out the awareness levels of the people there. While all of them had heard of the proposal and were totally against it they categorically said that so far they had not been officially contacted by any government officials whatsoever. They also said that they had seen some people from outside moving around with the forest guards surveying the flora and fauna in the area but these people too had not conducted any meetings in the village. Thus giving the lie to the WII claim in its report that they had conducted village surveys also and taken the opinion of the people.
    The first thing that the KMCS activists told the people was that under the provisions of PESA it was necessary to hold Gram Sabhas in each and every village and take their consent before the Wildlife Sanctuary could be notified and land acquisition proceedings begun. The people were taken on a tour of the Bori Wildlife Sanctuary in Hoshangabad district where villagers had been displaced from the core areas and resettled in colonies outside the forest area. The sorry situation of the oustees of the Bori sanctuary in their new habitats where they had not been provided adequate agricultural land and other amenities convinced the people that rehabilitation was not a favourable option. This was confirmed by the generally bad situation of the oustees of the Narmada project also with whom they had a meeting.
    After this on several occasions the affected people joined with the other members of the KMCS to take part in rallies in Alirajpur and press their demand that the Wildlife Sanctuary should not be established in Katthivara. The representations made to the authorities clearly laid out the legal constraint imposed by PESA that a Gram Sabha had to be conducted first before notifying the establishment of a wild life sanctuary in a Scheduled Area.
    Finally when the mandatory Gram Sabhas were held the people with one voice rejected the proposal for a sanctuary and so the power of the PESA and the Gram Sabha was proved.

    Bhil Tribal Identity
    The Bhil tribals have a tradition of cooperation in cultural economic and social spheres. The greatest thing about them is that they have communitarian system of entertainment linked to their livelihoods and their religion. In the celebration of the Indal a family gives a feast to the community in which it expends all its surpluses. The whole community gathers together to celebrate in song and dance and offer praise to the God Kansari who is the symbolic representation of the staple cereal sorghum. In this way surpluses are not accumulated and the egalitarian nature of the Bhil society is maintained. However, with the advent of the market economy and the penetration of populist entertainment through videos this culture is decaying.
    The Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra has tried its best to revive and rejuvenate the traditional cultural forms. There is a community form of the Indal festival. With the increasing poverty of the tribals the individual Indal festival has become a rarity. So the DGVK has mobilised people to get together to celebrate the gaon gondlia indal or community Indal. Moreover the orally recited epics of the Bhils or gayanas have been recorded and transcribed and are in the process of being published. In this way even if the traditional bards slowly pass away their epics will still remain. These epics and their songs are used creatively to create new songs that are a major attraction of the political movement for rights. Songs have been composed encouraging people to save the forests and their land and water. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath also organises a jungle mela or forest fair in which traditional culture and traditional tribal economy are highlighted.
    The DGVK and KMCS recognised the importance of networking for small organisations very early on. The DGVK initiated a process of bringing together like minded NGOs in Jhabua and Alirajpur districts as early as
    1991 under the federation "Jhabua Jodo" or unite Jhabua. The intention was to create a forum in which NGOs could discuss their problems and also launch common programmes. This federation was very successful and is active even to this day. Many new social workers were enthused to set up NGOs and begin working for the betterment of the livelihoods of the Bhil tribals.
    The KMCS has been even more active in networking because that is the only way in which rights based actions can be made fruitful in the face of opposition from vested interests in society and the government. The KMCS collaborated with the Narmada Bachao Andolan from 1985 onwards to fight for the rights of the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar dam being built on the River Narmada and that collaboration continues to this day. In 1988 the KMCS initiated the process of bringing together all the various rights based mass organisations of western Madhya Pradesh under the federation Jan Mukti Morcha. Public rallies and workshops were conduced under the aegis of the Jan Mukti Morcha so as to build up a wider organisation. Later the KMCS joined the even larger federation Adivasi Ekta Parishad (AEP) in 1994. The AEP is a federation of tribal rights organisations in the four states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and has a mass base of lakhs of tribals. The KMCS has organised big demonstrations and public meetings under the banner of AEP in Alirajpur and Jhabua districts. The KMCS has also aligned itself with international organisations for the rights of tribals like the Survival International. Thus networking has been used effectively to enhance the impact of the work being done.
    Finally the KMCS has also promoted other tribal rights organisations in the region to broaden the mass base of rights actions. Activists from the organisation went to Dewas and Khargone districts in 1995 to set up the Adivasi Morcha Sangathatn and Adivasi Shakti Sangathan respectively. A separate organisation called Kansari Nu Vadavno was set up to fight exclusively for the reproductive health and rights of Bhil tribal women.
    Given the integral part that music and dance play in the lifestyles of the Bhil tribals no process of mass mobilisation can be successful without incorporating these into the overall strategy. The KMCS has from the beginning used the traditional song couplets and even the longer epic gayanas to convey messages inspiring the people to struggle for their rights. The nature friendly lyrics of the traditional songs have helped in propagating a message of natural resource conservation. In fact a separate organisation named the Adivasi Riti Badhao Tola or Forum for the Promotion of Adivasi Culture has been formed and it has as its aim - the formulation of a new framework for adivasi cultural renewal as a tool for their socio-economic development that can not only rejuvenate the living conditions of the Bhils but can be gainfully replicated for the development of other adivasi cultures in the short run and for the reform of non-adivasi cultures in the long run.
    Historically the two broad prevalent modes of developmental intervention for the improvement of the socio-economic condition of the adivasis in particular and the rural population in general among NGOs, social movements and the government are that of service delivery and political empowerment. The interventions in the cultural sphere, mainly through the use of audio-visual media like street theatre performances and video shows, for the purpose of information, education and communication (IEC) have not been independent developmental interventions but have subserved the above mentioned two modes. The methodology of the Adivasi Riti Badhao Tola is thus a quantum jump both horizontally and vertically from current practice. Horizontally it makes the original assertion that the creation of a new living culture of the Bhils by synthesising their traditional folklore with modern political thinking is itself a new and major developmental intervention. Vertically this intervention has resulted in considerably improving the content and style of the mobilisation campaigns which are a necessary part of the prevailing two modes of intervention.

    The Struggle Against the Sardar Sarovar Dam
    The struggle against the Sardar Sarovar dam on the river Narmada raised the battle of the adivasis of Alirajpur to a higher level. While the struggle for access to forest lands could be fought locally and won in terms of getting de facto if not de jure control of the land very soon by the late 1980s the struggle against the dam was a different proposition altogether. In this case the battle initially was for a just rehabilitation in accordance with the provisions of he Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979. However, it soon became clear that the governments of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashra were not prepared to abide by these provisions. Moreover, there was wanton non-compliance of several environmental conditions and also the cost benefit analysis was faulty and instead of being less than unity it was more. That is why after lengthy discussions the Narmada Bachao Andolan decided on a no dam stand. But by 1991 the mass movement against the dam was unable to succeed and the government too improved its rehabilitation programme and so many adivasis affected by the dam decided to opt for rehabilitation instead. In this whole process the adivasis not only learnt more deeply the way in which larger forces control their destiny they also took the battle to these forces by agitating in cities like Mumbai and Delhi.
    In the end the dam could not be stopped but most of the adivasis did get fairly good rehabilitation. In fact many adivasis got more land and of a better quality with irrigation as compared to their landholdings prior to displacement.
    Those who have not accepted rehabilitation in Gujarat and have stayed on in Madhya Pradesh to fight for land in this state are continuing the struggle and have succeeded in stalling the construction of the dam which cannot go ahead without their rehabilitation. The struggle against the dam has inspired many others throughout the country to question involuntary and unjust development resulting in many legal and policy provisions being made for the future. Even though the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has not been active in the struggle against the dam since most of its members opted for rehabilitation it continues to provide full support to those still struggling against it.

    Sustainable Agriculture
    The KMCS has been able to survive and grow over such a long period of time because it has always reinvented itself when faced with challenges. When it became clear that despite good forest, soil and water conservation work the productivity of agriculture was not increasing enough efforts were made to tackle this problem. This was also the time when the problem of Climate Change came to the fore in a big way about five years back.
    Agriculture is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (14%). The main sources are methane from livestock, nitrous oxide from agricultural soils, and carbon dioxide - primarily from energy and fuel use. Importantly, these emissions often also represent the loss of valuable resources from farming systems - and therefore opportunities for enhancing productivity and livelihood opportunities. The main sources of green house gases arising from modern agriculture are as follows -
    1. Carbon dioxide emissions from the heavy use of gasoline-powered agricultural machinery that modern techniques require.
    2. Carbon dioxide emissions from the deforestation and burning of land to convert it for intensive agriculture.
    3. Loss of soil and forests as carbon sinks. Natural vegetation acts as a huge reservoir, soaking up atmospheric carbon, as does the soil. Destruction of the plants and the disruption of the soil that occurs when land is converted to agriculture decrease the available of these sinks, meaning more carbon is left in the atmosphere. Conventional farming techniques also increase soil erosion and the leaching of soil nutrients, which decrease the use of soil as a sink (Ref. 6). Rough estimates are that man-made changes in land-use have produced a cumulative global loss of carbon from the land of about 200 thousand million tonnes.
    4. The use of synthetic fertilizer releases huge amounts of N2O – it is the single largest source of N2O emissions in the world. The application of fertilizers accounts for 36% of the total emissions of N2O. According to the IPCC, if fertilizer applications are doubled, N2O emissions will double, all other factors being equal. Since regular applications of fertilizer are an integral part of modern farming, and as the developing countries adopt more of these industrialized agricultural practices, this is a realistic situation. Remembering that N2O has over 300 times the warming potential of CO2 and can stay in the atmosphere for about 120 years, the effect on global warming could be devastating.
    5. Methane released from animals and manure piles. Manure storage and treatment systems equal 9% of total CH4 emissions and 31% CH4 emissions from the agricultural sector. Most of the CH4 emissions come from the liquid-based manure management systems that are commonly found in modern livestock farms with large populations of animals.
    Apart from this the indirect contributions of modern farming are even greater. The manufacture of synthetic fertilizer is one of the most intensive energy processes in the chemical industry, which itself is a primary energy user globally. Add into this the need for the fertilizer to be transported to the farmer, and we find that synthetic fertilizer is the largest producer of CO2 emissions in the agricultural industry – even considering all the tractors and equipment belching out exhaust fumes. The use of synthetic fertilizer tends to acidify the soil, which then requires the application of lime to balance the pH; manufacture of lime also produces CO2 emissions. Finally, synthetic fertilizers suppress the soil’s natural micro-organisms that break down methane in the atmosphere, which leads to higher levels of methane than otherwise. The soil micro-organisms are largely responsible for controlling soil temperature and water run-off, production of vitamins, minerals and a host of plant hormones, not to mention that soil micro-organisms provide much of a plant’s immune system so reducing their population is harmful. Thus modern agriculture is unsustainable from the point of view of its harmful contribution to global warming.
    Sustainable internal input agriculture on the other hand is more energy efficient and results in lower greenhouse gas emissions than modern external input agriculture.
    Research has shown that organic arable production is about 35% more energy efficient, and organic dairy production about 74% more efficient per unit of output than non-organic production. Organic farming, by definition, prohibits the use of synthetic fertilizer, using instead a limited amount per hectare of organic matter and knowledge of soil biology. Since the pH of the soil is not disrupted by organic farming techniques, the use of energy–intensive lime is also minimal or non-existent; again contributing to lower CH4 and CO2 emissions compared to modern external input farming techniques. The use of organic matter also increases carbon content in the soil, storing up to 75 kgs of carbon per hectare per year. Organic farming uses nitrogen-fixing plants as cover crops and during crop rotation, which help to fix nitrogen in the soil rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. And finally, organic farming techniques maintain soil micro-organisms and so help in oxidizing atmospheric methane. The combined effect of all the different benefits of organic farming produces a Global Warming Potential of 36% that of modern external input farming.
    Simultaneously this sustainable system is labour intensive and respectful of nature and so is integrated with social and environmental well being on a larger scale in a holistic manner. A programme of sustainable agriculture involving communitarian cooperation and natural resource management will take care of the problems of livelihood creation and conservation of natural resources and create an “economy of permanence” as outlined by the Gandhian environmental economist Kumarappa. This system respects both nature and the human being and prioritises leisurely decentralised communitarian living based on the collective local consumption and husbanding of renewable resources over the frenetic non-renewable resource guzzling pulls of globalised market led modern agriculture.
    The KMCS has been popularising organic farming among its members over the past few years and already many farmers have switched to this mode. A Climate Change Mitigation Centre (CCMC) has been set up by the Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra in village Gulvat on the road from Sondwa to Bakhatgarh. This institution will give research, implementation and advocacy support for the establishment of an environmentally, economically and socially just regional system of agriculture and natural resource management that will also address the problem of global warming. Schematic representations of sustainable agriculture and the work of the Climate Change Mitigation Centre have been uploaded onto the Media section.
    The most popular modus operandi for mitigating climate change at the moment no doubt is Cap and Trade - put a legally binding cap on the carbon equivalent emissions that a country will be allowed so as to ensure that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere globally is less than 350 parts per million and allow countries and corporations to trade carbon credits which are equivalent to one tonne of Carbon released into the environment. Countries that have more credits than the carbon they are emitting can sell these surpluses. Also groups like that of the tribals who are conserving forests and land and are creating carbon sinks can be paid for this service under this arrangement. However, there are many problems with this primarily centred around the cap limit to be decided for each country because that will limit energy use and so development and growth and also involve huge investments in research and development of cleaner energy technologies. There is a clear developed and developing country divide here as the latter are saying that the former should bear the costs of having historically pushed up the concentration of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with less efficient technologies in the past. There are also concerns about the transparent working of the Carbon trading markets which even in their incipient forms have been exposed to speculative scamming of the kind that brought down the financial markets in the recent past.
    Thus, there is another school of thought that questions the energy intensive path of development that the world is following at the moment. Energy and transport constitute the main contributors of green house gases and most of this is due to the way in which the world economy is organised - raw materials available in one place are transported to another place to be processed and then the finished products are again transported to another place to be sold. A lot of energy is thus wasted in transport. The production itself is done with more energy using machines because the price of energy does not include the cost of the pollution it is causing. Since such production and distribution is necessarily of a centralised nature it leads to huge disparities in the distribution of the wealth created leading to social and political strife and more wasteful expenditures on military hardware and wars. Consequently the argument is made that first an audit should be conducted to see which is the best way to organise production from the point of view of least use of energy, least creation of disparities in assets and income and so least possibilities for conflict while making a decent standard of living possible for all people on earth. The indigenous people of the world especially are against the move to monetise forests and forest conservation totally bypassing their traditional rights as expressed recently in a conference -
    However, given the dominance of the centralised market economy it is very difficult to bring about such a radical change in the way business is being done today. In the interim, therefore, since some kind of a cap and trade mechanism is what is going to emerge from United Nations Climate Change negotiations, it is best to explore the possibilities that this offers for putting a communitarian foot into the developmental door. One such opportunity is the United Nations Programme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries known popularly by the acronym REDD. This envisages transfer of funds to developing countries for reducing deforestation and also in reforesting of already degraded forest lands. Since mostly indigenous people reside in forest areas around the world this then turns the focus on them. Consequently if the funds being transferred to developing countries were to be given directly to these communities then they would benefit greatly by being rewarded justly for their conservation efforts. At the moment however, no such arrangement exists and it is mostly the government agencies or private corporations in the developing countries that are appropriating the funds transferred under REDD. In the case of the KMCS the forests and streams that have been regenerated legally belong to the government and so it is the government that has to make an application for carbon credits. The funds gained from selling these credits will also be paid into the government's account. The government will not transfer these funds to the Panchayat let alone a non-governmental entity like the KMCS. At the moment the KMCS is campaigning for the government to transfer funds to the panchayats which have done this exemplary conservation work. But there has been no headway in this regard as it required setting up of a machinery to make this possible. The whole question of certifying that indeed conservation has taken place is a complex one and like other regulatory functions of the government this too will invariably become riddled in corruption. This is primarily the reason why indigenous people's organisations are up in arms against such centralised control of their habitats. The KMCS, however, believes in pursuing a reformist path and so instead of opposing REDD lock stock and barrel it has been insisting that mechanisms should be set in place to transfer these funds to the communities that are actually engaged in collective action for natural resource management.

    Economic Cooperation
    Mobilisation for formal eonomic cooperation is a different cup of tea altogether from mobilisation for rights. The Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra has done it on a small scale by forming Self Help Groups of women which carry out savings and credit at a minimal level. A small cooperative retail outlet was also opened for sometime. However, the problem with running such a retail outlet or a cooperative is that it requires trained staff with a high level of accounting and management skills. These are difficult to find among the Bhils in Alirajpur primarily because the Bhil tribals have traditioinally been non trading communities. Given the principle that all work of the organisation should ideally be done by Bhils the DGVK has refrained from setting up elaborate cooperatives whose management will have to be done by non-tribals. In fact the government run cooperatives are also mostly managed by non-tribals and these cooperatives have to be given a subsidy to stay afloat. The Milk Cooperatives run under the brand name of Amul have the advantage that their members are much better educated and skilled in running cooperatives and the operation is managed by professional managers. Consequently the KMCS also has a parallel programme wherein Bhil children are being educated in a residential school and the graduates are sometimes supported for higher education in an effort to build up a broader base of educated Bhils who may in future be able to run a cooperative successfully. Thus, at present the stress of the DGVK and the KMCS has been on ensuring that the government cooperatives function properly. There are also various laws to control usury which have been effectively pursued by the KMCS and many moneylenders have been sent to jail. It is better to let non-tribals do the trading which they are much better at and ensure that they are regulated properly rather than go around searching for Bhil tribals who are capable at this. Individual Bhils are encouraged to begin small businesses and this has been quite successful. There are innumerable members of the KMCS who are running shops, cycle stores, jeeps, flour mills and the like.
    Precisely because economic cooperation cannot provide sustainability on a reduced per capita resource availability the adivasis in Alirajpur have to rely heavily on seasonal migration to make ends meet. Migration is both a boon and a curse for the Bhil tribals. It is a boon because it provides an income stream to the poor tribals who have little livelihood opportunities in their residence places. Thus, the incomes from migratory work help them to avoid the clutches of moneylenders. So over the two and a half decades I have been working among the Bhil tribals I have seen that they have been able to free themselves from the moneylenders and in many cases they have built up capital also. However, the conditions in which they work are abysmal. They have to stay in the open without sanitary and drinking water facilities. Often they fall ill and have to pay through the nose for treatment. Sometimes they lose their lives through accidents. Their children suffer as they cannot attend schools. In the case of the people who have died due to silicosis contracted by working in the quartz crusher factories in Godhra the tragedy is even more horrifying.
    The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has tried its best to intervene on the behalf of the migrant tribals but is hamstrung by a very weak legal system. The Inter State Migrant Workers Act does not have any provisions for the protection of the rights of individual migrant workers and only makes provisions for those migrants who are recruited by a contractor. Even these provisions are not being implemented by the concerned state governments. In fact the governments of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan which are the source areas for migration do not have any policy in place to help the migrants and neither do they have any data regarding them.
    In the case of the tribals from Alirajpur the matter is compounded by the fact that the nearest labour court is in Ratlam all of 250 kilometers away. Thus, even if the KMCS does try and register cases under the Workmen's Compensation Act the victims do not want to do so because they feel that Ratlam is too far.
    Nevertheless the Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra is conducting a programme of awareness building and advocacy to put pressure on the Madhya Pradesh Government to provide support to the tribals. The KMCS has also filed a petition in the Supreme Court in association with other NGOs to get justice for the silicosis affected tribal families.
    The long struggle of the KMCS in cojunction with other tribal organisations has resulted in the Forest Rights Act which gives a sound legal basis for demanding rights to land in reserved forests that tribals have been cultivating for generations and using as community forests. Similarly a long struggle is required to amend the Inter State Migrant Workers Act to make it stronger in the support of tribal migrants. The KMCS in association with other organisations like the Dakshin Rajasthan Mazdoor Union is part of a national campaign to bring this about.

    Legal Framework of Action
    In centralised systems democracy has perforce to play itself out through election of representatives as it is not possible to have all citizens participating in decision making. However, at the level of the village this is not necessary and it is quite possible to have direct democracy with the general body or Gram Sabha meeting to deliberate on village affairs say once every month. The Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act provides for this by empowering the Gram Sabha. The KMCS has been working to implement the PESA provisions. These have now been bolstered by the provisions of the Forest Rights Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. So the KMCS does not give much importance to Panchayat elections for the posts of Sarpanch or village head and panch or ward member because it is possible to pressurise these people to work by mobilising the Gram Sabha. While members of the KMCS do get elected to these posts in the villages in which the KMCS is strong but they do so in their individual capacity and not as members authorised by the organisation. The KMCS also succeeds in exerting an influence on the lawmakers by conducting campaigns and mass rallies and taking legal action.
    The tension between centralised governance and local self governance becomes more pronounced in huge democracies like India. Luckily from the time of the freedom struggle India has had a strong movement for local self governance led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Even though initially Panchayati Raj was included only in the directive principles of state policy under article 39 in the Indian Constitution it became a mandatory third tier of governance with the 73rd constitutional amendment in 1993. However, tribal self governance was a part of the constitution right from the time of the British and it became an integral part of the Constitution at the time of independence in the form of the Fifth and Sixth Schedules. Thus, tribal self governance has always been a possibility in independent India. Unfortunately the centralised Indian state has wilfully ignored these provisions and created problems. But now with the enactment of the Forest Rights Act, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act it has become much easier for mass organisations working at the grassroots to implement direct democracy. The legal framework as it stands at present is very well suited for the evolution of a new democratic practice that optimises centralised and decentralised governance to provide for sustainable and just development. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has through its practice has done its bit in bringing about this favourable legal framework and is continuing to implement it.
    As Bumble in Dickens' novel Oliver Twist so aptly said the law is not always favourable to the poor and especially tribals. Even if it is it requires tremendous amount of litigation to get the rule of law established as in many cases those administering the law are not well disposed towards the tribals. Thus to get justice the KMCS has had to fight many court cases from the lowest to the highest courts of the land. The important thing here has been that the activists of the organisation, even though none of them are qualified lawyers, have read up the statutes and the case law extensively to assist the lawyers in these battles.
    There are innumerable cases that the KMCS has fought but here I will briefly describe only two cases fought in the Madhya Pradesh High Court and two in the Supreme Court that have been reported -
    1. The activists of the KMCS were arbitrarily jailed by the Alirajpur administration under preventive sections of the Criminal Procedure Code in 1991. The KMCS successfully challenged this in the Madhya Pradesh High Court and not only were the jailed activists released forthwith but also strictures were passed against the administration for acting illegally.
    2. A member of an affiliate organisation of the KMCS was murdered by forest department staff. Under the law his widow should have got compensation but was not given this. The KMCS helped the widow to petition the High Court of Madhya Pradesh and after a long battle of ten years the compensation was granted.
    3. The activists of the KMCS were beaten up, tortured, paraded in handcuffs and jailed once again in 1993. The KMCS went to the Supreme Court challenging these actions of the administration and once again succeeded in getting strictures passed against the administration for acting illegally
    4. The KMCS petitioned the Supreme Court for compensation to be paid to the minor dependants of tribal workers who had died after contracting the deadly disease of silicosis after working in quartz crushing factories in Gujarat. The Supreme Court ordered the National Human Rights Commission to fix a quantum of compensation and get the Governments of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh to provide it to the affected tribals.
    The organisation is now collating evidence regarding the non-implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forestdwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act and will shortly approach the High Court for directions to the administration to rectify its unjust approach.
    The main problem with liberal democracy is that the implementation of laws is dependent on the people in power. The rule of law does not hold in practice because those in power do not find it profitable to implement laws that are favourable to the marginalised sections. Thus, even if these downtrodden people organise themselves and succeed in creating enough pressure for beneficial laws to be enacted like the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (Act) which is popularly known as PESA, the government and the bureaucracy will not necessarily implement them. So enactment of a beneficial law is only a part of the solution. The equally important part that comes after is to continually strive to get the law implemented. The KMCS has continually tried to get the PESA Act implemented especially the autonomy of the Gram Sabha or village general body and its paramountcy in decision making with regard to village matters. A counter force to the highly centralised systems of economics and governance that we live in today has been created. The challenge is to expand the influence of the KMCS further. Only today villagers from a village came to the KMCS office in Alirajpur saying that there was a move afoot to acquire their lands by the government for the creation of an industrial township. We told them that in a scheduled tribal area the government first has to hold a public hearing in front of the Gram Sabha presenting the purpose for land acquisition and the details of the project. Unless the Gram Sabha concurs land acquisition cannot take place. Thus, the KMCS has established itself as a centre of resistance and people come to it for solutions to their problems for which it has answers. The future course in this particular case will involve legal action and mass mobilisation which both will considerably increase the difficulty of the government and administration to act arbitrarily.

    Impact and Sustainability

    The work of the organisation has led to much better implementation of the Forest Rights Act and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Alirajpur district than would have been possible otherwise. The organisation is now preparing a detailed petition for filing in the High Court for better implementation of FRA. This has provided crucial empirical support for these two legislations which are hotly opposed by the elite in this country who argue that they will lead to greater environmental destruction and waste of scarce fiscal resources of the state. Moreover the huge participation of women in the campaigns of the organisation and in the Panchayati Raj institutions have meant that the public policy of reservation for women in panchayat elections has been given tremendous support.
    The organisation also effectively uses the provisions of the Right to Information Act to force information out of the normally secretive administration and also make the latter act on legal demands being made by it.
    Thus overall the project seeks to strengthen grassroots democracy for natural resource conservation and livelihood enhancement which is the basic thrust of a rights and needs based development policy. At a global level the United Nations programme for achieving the Millennium Development Goals will also be facilitated by the implementation of this project. Especially the goals relating to reduction of poverty and hunger, environmental sustainability and gender equality.
    The most important policy impact in the present context is in establishing the viability of communitarian natural resource management by tribals as one of the best methods of climate change mitigation. In fact the organisation is campaigning for resource transfer to the tribal communities for their exemplary contribution to natural resource conservation under such facilities as the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.
    The organisation Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra is a very small local NGO with only five full time staff while the trade union Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath is a totally membership based Bhil tribal organisation. So these organisations have to depend heavily on partnerships. The most important partnership is that with the people of the area who put in a considerable amount of voluntary work to implement the campaigns of the organisation and also contribute in cash and kind to various programmes. The district administration has fully cooperated with the campaign to implement the MGNREGS and the FRA whenever pressure has been put on it from the people. This is crucial because people's campaigns tend to flag after some time if results are not visible. The immediate response from the administration to complaints of mal functioning yields results and keeps the campaign alive. Various NGOs and people's organisations at the provincial, national and international levels participate along with the DGVK and the KMCS in larger advocacy campaigns without which it is not possible to sustain this work for a long time. The most important such grouping is the Campaign For Survival and Dignity.
    The Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra has a full time staff of five persons whose salaries are met from grants sourced from funding agencies such as the Sir Dorabjee Tata Trust, Child Rights and You, Action Aid and the Edelgive Foundation. However, the brunt of the work is done by the villagers themselves through voluntary labour and contributions of cash and cereals. Moreover, from the time that the MGNREGS implementation has begun in earnest since 2008 the people have built up community funds by contributing from their wages. These funds are used to pay for the time spent by some of the villagers on community organisational work which is crucial to sustaining the momentum. Thus going into the future the work of the people's volunteers will be expanded and funded from the funds created at the village level from the MGNREGS wage contributions. The salaries and other associated expenses of the full time Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra staff amount to only about Rs 500000 per year and this small amount has been easily sourced by the organisation from funding agencies so far. In fact at present the funding of the DGVK is around 1.5 million a year for organisational and research work. Going into the future the stress will be on more and more training and mobilisation of village workers who will be funded for their time by the village groups themselves. The number of full time workers of the DGVK will thus remain the same and so the financial demands also will remain at the same minimal level. Given the quality of the organisational and research work being done by the organisation there will always be funds available for this.
    The revenue model is thus a unique hybrid one. While the main source of funds will be the MGNREGS accessed by the people themselves directly, the catalytic input of the full time activists will be funded by funding agencies based on research and implementation work. The applicant Rahul Banerjee who is a trustee of the DGVK is a well known consultant and he sources funds for the work on the basis of quality research reports prepared on it.
    Moreover, with the increasing importance of forest conservation and the possibility of transfer of resources to communities for this purpose there can also be a revenue stream from carbon credits gained from such conservation. For this the rather complicated process of registration for carbon credits will be pursued.

    Sustainability is an important issue and KMCS has been concerned with this right from the beginning. There are two aspects of sustainability - economic and political. The economic sustainability involves the garnering of funds from the local people to carry on the organisational work. The main problem with the Bhil tribals is that they are very poor and so cannot make monetary contributions of a high order. So while the members of the KMCS have contributed their time and agricultural produce, monetary contributions have been low. As the work progressed the costs of travel and fighting legal cases increased and these could not be met by the tribals. Moreover, the personal expenses of the full time activists also increased as they began raising families and these too had to be arranged for. At this stage a debate ensued within the organisation and the upshot of it was that there are some functions that cannot be funded totally by poor people and have to be cross subsidised by the rich. For instance it is universally acknowledged that education has to be funded from public funds at all levels from the primary to higher. While at the primary level education should be completely free there has to be scholarships for the poor at the higher levels. Similarly full time activism for the rights of the poor has to be subsidised to a greater or lesser extent. That is why the DGVK was formed to access funds from funding agencies. Even though initially the experience was not very good later the ropes of running an NGO were learnt and at present the DGVK is able to access the minimal funds required for legal action, travel and full timers' salaries quite easily. But it has been decided to access only that much funds for expenses that cannot be met from the contribution of the members. This ensures that the activists are always on their toes and working efficiently as otherwise the fund flow will stop.
    The more important aspect being raised by Vidya is about political sustainability in the face of the prevalent corrupt mainstream political culture. The KMCS addresses this by holding political workshops for the youth and village activists so that a second line is always available to back up the full timers. Moreover, the KMCS also runs a residential school for children so as to produce better educated and committed tribal youth than the government schools which are mostly non-functional.
    The most crucial thrust of the KMCS is in reviving the traditional communitarian culture of cooperation of the Bhil tribals. This had begun to decay because of the spread of the martket economy and competitive electoral politics. However, the KMCS has reconstituted the hamlet level committees and these hold meetings regularly to decide on various courses of action. This lively grassroots mobilisation and cooperation is at the root of the vibrancy that is displayed in the working of the KMCS.
    Finally there is a larger mobilisation of tribals who are employed in government jobs so as to strengthen the Bhil tribal identity and create a political environment in which radicalism can thrive. The most inspiring achievement in this regard is the campaign to establish that the main Bhil festival of Bhagoria is not a love fest as publicised by the media and the non-tribals but a celebration of the bounties of nature. The KMCS has conducted a counter campaign to show that the elopement of young couples during the Bhagoria festival is only a marginal activity that has been perversely projected by the media while downplaying that fact that the festival is actually an expression of joy by the tribals for the rich support they get for their livelihoods from nature.
    Traditionally the tribals lived in small communities which were largely excluded from contact with trade except for some items like salt and cloth. Thus, they developed a system of cooperation wherein they pooled resources to live their lives. There was no interest earning loaning also as the members used to give interest free advances to each other to tide over exigencies. They also had customs that ensured that surpluses that were individually accumulated would be distributed among the community through celebration and feasting. In this way they were able to continue for centuries living at a subsistence level. There was no market economy in the modern sense of the term and so no question of economic viability as costs and surpluses were shared.
    However, currently the situation is very much different because the Bhil tribals live in a complex market economy that is global in character. Since this economy is not a steady state subsistence one like that of the tribals but is surplus driven and growth oriented there is pressure on the tribals also to be economically viable in their livelihood arrangements. But the drive for surpluses by the powerful players of the modern economy has led to the natural resource base of the tribals being taken away from them at a pittance without accounting for the social and environmental costs involved in this decimation of forests. This has not only shattered the subsistence economy of the tribals but has also rendered them helpless to effectively participate in the modern economy in which they are present mostly as debt ridden economic entities.
    Modern communitarian organisation under the aegis of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath attempts to revive the natural resource base and agriculture while at the same time increase the collective bargaining power of the tribals in the market economy. This organisation also helps the tribals to access better the various development services that the Indian State provides as part of its welfare obligations as a liberal democratic state charged with the responsibility of ensuring transfer of resources from the privileged to the under privileged. It is true that given the forces of economic marginalisation the tribals are not able to wholly meet the economic costs of the organisation process and so some grant funds have to be accessed for meeting the livelihood expenses of the full time activists whose work is crucial to the sustainability of the organisation. But even if this communitarian effort is not viable in standard market economic terms in the sense that the costs are not being wholly met by the beneficiaries, if the positive externalities of the immense social and environmental benefits accruing from this effort to society as a whole are properly accounted for then the benefit/cost ratio is definitely going to be positive because these benefits to society hugely exceed the minimal costs that are being borne from external grant funds. In fact the two organisations Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath and Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra have gained considerable credibility in effectively leveraging external grant funds for achieving immense social and environmental benefits for society in general and the Bhil tribals in particular.
    The KMCS has sustained itself for twentyfive years now because of its wide and active mass base and there is no reason why it will not continue to do so in future given the fact that its modus operandi has now become quite well established.