Friday, December 26, 2014

Bureaucrats as Robber Barons

All over  the subcontinent the bureaucrat has a bad reputation. Files are always pending, money changes hands, there is too close an alliance between bureaucrats and politicians, women are  marginalised. When criminality is rampant, then bribes are seen as being only that ‘mild an event’ as tax evasion. Nepotism and clan loyalties are seen to be normal, as is favouring of friends and loyal subordinates.
Max Weber defined bureaucracy as that which entailed a system of rules, of codification, of accounting and ledger keeping, of objectivity, where time ruled, and measurement was the ultimate index of modernity. The contract is the best example of legal domination, as an aspect of bureaucracy.
 Bureaucracy is about types of legitimate domination. Domination is the probability (according to Weber,) that certain specific commands or all commands will be obeyed by certain persons. He says that obedience intrinsically implies consent. There is an ‘interest’ in obedience.  There is a mutual comprehension of the rules which are laid down. Authority and its order represents the organisation and its staff, which is present. This is a group which is specialised to carry out the commands and to execute specific policy. Material interest is not a sufficient criterion, nor is fear. Something larger keeps the organisation together, and these elements are emotion as well as ideal attributes. There is also the presence of custom and traditional habits, as well as the expectation of personal advantage. Tying it all together is the belief in its overall legitimacy.

Authority thus rests on consent, and it will be different in each location. The authority that the director of an organisation has over the clerks, is different from that which informs the relation between lord and vassal, or lord and slave. Satish Saberwal argued in Wages of Segmentation (Orient Blackswan) that bureaucracy in India is enmeshed in village and caste and clan loyalties, that because industrialisation was imposed on us in the 19th century, the real adaptative process never took place. Namely, the West had four hundred years to adapt to factory and laboratory, and in India, it was imposed on us from above, with no democratic or engaged discussion.
Weber states that there is an appropriate attitude, and a corresponding one in conduct.  Loyalty may be hypocritical or it may be opportunistic and marked by self interest. People may submit because there is no alternative, out of fear or helplessness. Because the type of authority exhibited is seen as valid, whether customary or legal,  the subjects confirm their submission.
Obedience means that the form and the content of imposition coincide and the command is the basis of any action performed for its own sake. What is registered, for Weber, is the formal aspect of consent, not the negotiatory attitude of the actor in relation to the value, or the lack of value, of the content of the command. One of the most classical examples of such an attitude is the case of Nazi brutality recorded by Hannah Arendt, where the bureaucrat is never responsible, for the order came from above. Weber also states that that the chief and his staff presenting themselves as servants to those they rule does not take away the aspect of domination.
The whistle blower therefore becomes imbued with charismatic power, and is welcomed by citizens, because he/she is fearless and able to communicate his version in opposition to that of the  partisan bureaucrat. 
Robber Barons use state machinery to get past laws in the contract by saying that 'the people need it' or 'want it'. They revel in saying that they break rules. This is obviously illegal. In the same way, the bureaucrat, in judicial positions can clear the actions of his  criminal patrons because there are no witnesses, and their families have been killed, neglected or silenced.
The  partisan bureaucrat, when acting in a friendly and intimate fashion, can reorder reality by promoting the good of some people over the good of the citizens whom he  purportedly serves.  Since the process of going to the courts is a disruption of daily duties and obligations, the bureaucrat as robber baron, who has government employees as lawyers working for him, can create tremendous obstacles to the real issues surfacing. He/she is the government, and he/she acts on behalf of the State, but in reality, he/she projects a world view that is both unethical and illegal. Since bureaucracy and its contracts are linked with personages and with codified or inscribed materials, the robber baron bureaucrat is well able to relieve honest officers of their duty or to transfer them, where they cannot be of harm to him/her. Yet,even with digitalisation of files, all materials are up for scrutiny, and so opaque and self gratifying acts become visible to all, unless we are functioning in an oligarchy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Foggy Christmas

I woke up at 4 am, and looked through the grille door to see if the star I had put out was out. My daughter and son in law had bought it  for me, two months ago from Dastkar Dilli Haat, in an obscure metro- end- of- delhi site. It was red embossed paper work, and promised peacefulness to all where ever it was hung. Many of us, born in the 50s, are secular in disposition, which means celebrating all festivals equally. It also means we enjoy all the government holidays: halwa for guru nanak's birthday, oil diyas from the potter at diwali, kheer for Isaac and his brother Ishmael at Eid, and paper stars at christmas. Traders are generally secular in disposition, since they provide goods and utensils and ornaments at fairs around religious sites. Once the international companies joined the fray, then diwali became embossed in cards and gifts in crystal and gold, and equally new year and christmas got incorporated in new styles of merry making. The quiet of home became replaced with traffic jams and shopping. I missed all the new changes in festivities, because I basically stayed home, and never set out to do anything at all. I like the calm of being at home, and experience the joy of the festival, including making kheer on Eid, because nothing takes away the sense of being Here and Now. Sometimes, friends come over on Christmas, but quite often, there is only the children and me at home, sleeping late and generally enjoying the holiday, so the Good Governance day injunction has gone by without any discernible change in our life, rather like Haloween Day, which is now celebrated in Delhi, quite arbitrarily, where Death roves so free and without chains. I suppose the bourgeoisie, even in radical outposts like universities, feel at home in the world wherever they are, since their meals are always taken care of, and they have all the other seven attributes of the human rights charter. Can we make it easier for others? That's the question I always pedagogically ask my self.
The fog has made one wonder if climate change will result in snow one winter in Delhi. Like an artificial desert, we now have extreme climates, which leave one completely breathless, whether it is the sudden plummeting from 22 degrees to 4 degrees C, without warning, or in April, we suddenly let our bodies roast in 36 degrees, after a sudden shift from  blowing dust to white heat. And then it goes upto 46 degrees, and we run out early in the morning to buy cucumbers and melons and limes to see us through the heat of the day. Adaptation is the only trick we have up our sleeve, and while we freeze in winter, we just cannot remember the summer. The fog lifts, the sun comes out, the squirrels and the birds venture out, and so do we. When the sun goes away for two days, we think we are entering a tunnel without light, and hope for it to pass. Yet, when one wears coat and shoes and scarf, the winter is bearable, and the early morning glimmer of light at 8 a.m seems shockingly beautiful.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Corporatisation of Agriculture (also published in Financial Chronicle op edit page November 10 2014)

Corporatisation of Agriculture
One of the ways in which technologists and bureaucrats and politicians merge is to project the world in terms of their mutually supporting vision. This is a view that is imposed from above, and speaks of industrialisation as eo-equivalent with development. The unfortunate aspect of this, is ofcourse, that people’s movements are not taken into account. An elite group, which consists of policy makers decide that the only way to feed the masses is through industrialised agriculture. This is as much an ideological plank as organising communes for the peasantry in  early 20th century Soviet Russia. When two and a half acres per farmer is seen by the policy makers to be economically unviable, then the industrialising State decides that the peasantry should first be squeezed out from its holdings, rendered impoverished, and farming made out to be an anachronism. Once it has done this, by not setting up the infrastructure for the survival of traditional farmers,  and killing them off, it then plans that the country should be geared to colonise Mars. All this is the scientific vision of those who do not enjoy the fruits of the land, which the tiller does in an immediate way. The elite plan that the local haats or markets be done away with, and then multinational companies are called in to expedite the marketing of goods. Those who stand in the way of these technocratic policies are called  Gandhians, a fuzzy term which does not mean much any more.Once the decision to industrialise is defended as a shared vision, then the standardisation principle represents itself as a historical moment. “We must move towards the future”. Now this future is a fabricated one, as many in Europe and America have interestingly, returned to the dream of organic farming.
The technologists’ dream exists only in the minds of the elite cadres, who want more electricity to fuel this dream. They already wear acrylic clothes, eat imported foods, drink expensive wines and genuine Scotch, live in airconditioned hotels and homes. Nothing about their lifestyle matches the lives of 80 percent of the population. Though they promise this vast rural based population all kinds of things, during the elections, in reality they remain emotionally estranged from the people. Regardless of political party, the technologists, bureaucrats and politicians are people who are hand in glove with one another. Their very perspectives are outlined by the way in which they engage with the people. Intellectuals become the bane of this group because they continually disturb the equilibrium of the status quo. Why are the BJP and the Congress so similar, we may ask in their actions to the Minorities, to Education, to De-Militarization? What was the sum allocated to the Education Budget and the Defence Budget? These are the rational questions that are posed to the Ministries and to their incumbents but we get no answers.
Agriculture is a way of life. It is about seasons and rituals, about the incandescence of hope and fulfilment. There  are  equally, lean periods and losses, famines and excesses. The seeming rupture of tradition, because of globalisation, creates new avenues of work and new forms of consumption. The people are socialised into new mores and look for education as the way in which they may be liberated from the crises in agriculture. The paradox of industrialisation  being wedded to traditional ideologies produces  a new worldview. Out of these come the normlessness of the wandering hordes, that homeless and rootless, become a growing menace to societies. Manuel Castells, the Mexican Sociologist in the 1980s, called it that disorder, which is the “order of capitalism”. Arising from the disruption of the countryside, lies the rise of urbanisation and the service sectors, the last of which provide domestic and occupational services to the inhabitants. Smart cities can arise only from dispossessing the people of what they have in the rural hinterlands. The World Bank will support the multinational and the State’s call to industrialisation because that is what they are financially trained to do. So they will turn a deaf ear to the farmers who do not want their rivers dammed. These are farmers who believe that the rivers are sacred, and seek to protect the rights of riverine civilisation. Ideologically, the river is host to farmers, fishers, men and women from different parts of India and the world. By damming the rivers, for electricity production to the cities, the flora and fauna are destroyed, and food growing, as much as fishing, as much as ritual and tourist activities are threatened. Sludge from the dams, and the expressive authoritarian control of the running waters causes great damage to the ecosystem. Are the malls and the consumption needs of 21st century urbanites really necessary at the cost of the genocide of the peasantry?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Climate Change and Adaptation

Climate Change and  Adaptation

Farmers usually understand seasons not just in terms of the rhythm and regularity of these, but also dramatically in terms of what is required of them, when the world changes. This often means that when rain fall patterns change, but then also regularise over a decade, the adaptation is more than a habit. It is self conscious. It means that the farmer has accepted the natural disaster when it first occurred, calculated the costs of its destruction, made sense of fate and mortalities, and now needs to think of the next step, which is recovery.
This recovery is often painful, as the families of cotton suicidees in Maharashtra, or rice farmers in Palakkad communicated, when they could not repay bank loans. In the villages around Leh city, Ladakh, the farmers were more resilient. They showed that their losses, personal and collective were part of the way in which they understand the Buddhist fate. Muslim farmers communicated that they were indeed well looked after by the local council and by neighbours and the army, though one widow said no one came to help her, which would be in keeping with census information that rural widows are often left to fend on their own.
The integrated nature of the village, the support of neighbourhood, monasteries, army and Kashmir government were recognised by the cloud burst flood victims of 2010. As the nation watched aghast on their television screens, houses crumbled and fields and forests were flooded. The memory of that terrible time, a consequence of climate change is thus entrenched in the minds of their inhabitants. They remember how they had to run to the mountains with the little that they had, how cold it was and how they waited all night before the army arrived. They saw the work of the years demolished, and the pile up of silt, and worse, the large rocks and boulders which the water brought in its path from the hillsides. The question of primeval river beds being revived through the ravages of the flood were known or told to them by visiting Scientists, but they did not consider it to be repetition or a pattern of events. They sincerely believed it was a one time event, a freak event, relating to their karma. The role of geologists has been to educate the farmers, and to communicate the seriousness of the event, as falling into a sequence of natural events.  However, to the consternation of the visiting Social Scientists,  nobody really believes that they can get hit twice. This seems an anomaly, but Indians zone in on their religious beliefs to be cotton wooled from disaster. Maya, destiny, fate: all of this seems to be the way in which they continue to live in seismic zones and tempt fate. This is where they were born, this is where they may die, should there be a cloudburst, an earthquake, war, flood, famine.
More complex however is that the State builds dams across rivers which are sacred, ecologically sensitive or supportive of agriculture and communities in the name of a progressive rationality. Kashmir is punctured by dams which have created the kind of problems that we associate with the third world, where the Greens Movement faces the obstacle of State silence over people’s needs. There is no consensus over what is a democratic principle in nation building.
Since politicians have varied opinions on what they see as a primary right of citizenship, the people are integrated only by the love of their land. This is not an unusual state of being, and it comes with local responsibilities, legends and affections. In Kerala, naad or country refers to the way in which local principalities, much after Merger with the Indian State in 1947, still appear as worldviews in themselves. Naad can mean home, country, village: each of these resonates with the individual,with the sense of belonging. Medieval though it’s connotation may be, we have to understand that memories, affections, longings, nostalgia and rights are all inherent to the understanding of what naad may mean.
In  parts of the Himalayas, people are waging lonely battles against the State, which regardless of political affiliation of it’s  incumbent members, moves towards industrialisation as a world view. Industrialisation requires generation of power, and so when rivers are dammed, the water outflow is controlled by the needs of the dam, not the communities who have for generations lived by the river. The net out put is considered to be the gains of development. Development in the 21st century means the fulfilling of the hedonistic requirements of city dwellers. The promise that the cities will fulfill all human needs, makes the demographic momentum transform into an artificial machinery that draws workers in to the city. However, the post modern city does not provide for the needs of these new urbanites. It shifts away from the idea that people produce food or artisan goods for the local market, and to fulfil their own needs; to a new space, unknown in the history of the third world, though Weber describes it as the escape from feudal tyranny in medievalism, where people arrive in the city with no thought about where they will live and  how they will work. What are these jobs they may procure? This is a curious circumstance of the new postmodern metropolis, which is devoid of an agricultural hinterland.
As a result, a lumpen proletariat emerges which sees rape and murder as common ways of expressing its collective dehumanisation. The contexts in which the land mafia, or the nouvea riche also represents the pathological symptoms of its excessive and lurid desires becomes the moral landscape in which people live and work. Genocide of the peasantry is not a long drawn out process. The people are first drawn out from the countryside, as they are led to believe that climate change and dearth of water have made agriculture impossible. If there is dearth of water, then why is there no dearth of dams for generating electricity? The electricity that is harnessed goes to decorate the streets and hotels and shops of the cities, and the profligate nature of consumption is more than visible. It is necessary in this context to understand that artificial economies built on the rapacious desires of the ever growing middle class in India, which represents itself as a bourgeois without capital, but imitative of it’s tastes, is dependent on the State’s urge to be like the West. Sociology grew out of the demeaning contexts of industrialisation and the problems associated with it. The  early history of Capitalism may have been based in the regulation of desires, but it splayed itself in India through the rampant desires of people who had been led to belief that crass consumption was the only stake in the short run, and in the long run everyone dies.

Agriculture has it’s seasons and it’s modes of production.  Yet canal systems of irrigation can change the way communities think about irrigation has Jyothi Krishnan has so powerfully shown in her book Enclosed Waters, which is a study of pond irrigation in Palakkad and it’s enhancement by canal irrigation supplemented by water pumps. We may presume that water from artificial glaciers may bring about revolutionary modes of irrigating a cold desert. Potato farmers in  Sabu village, near Leh understand that the hard work involved in  agricultural production can no longer limit itself to family labour, and has to employ local or migrant labourers, since the productivity of first generation farmers is very high. Since the Army is a ready procurer, there is no difficulty in transportation. For those who do not sell to the Army, they have to take their produce to Leh town. Part of the problem of growing things is making out the difference between the costs of production, and the value that is put on a commodity.
 Climate change has brought in a new occupation in the last two decades, in Ladakh, yet we know that farming is related to tourism in very specific ways, for organic foods are the key index to the discerning customer of what is most desirable in the exotica of travel. In Kerala, the state provides agriculture several kinds of support: rice lands may not be sold for construction, organic farming is supported, terrace gardening and intensive gardening will be given every possible support. Agricultural societies are the spine of the tourist industry, including dependent artisanal and fishing and sea related activities receiving the same kind of assurance of state attention. In mountain regions, the problem that Chhering Tandup has always asserted is that of movement of goods. How do we ascertain that the farm produce from Leh reaches its metropolitan outlets, such as Chandigarh and Delhi?
There is a problem here. As many as the trucks that arrive in Leh, the greater the degree of pollution. The greater the loss of the natural habitat, and the extent of damage will be difficult to assess. If geologists say that whatever glacial damage or melt is due to activities that occurred 7 million years ago, then we may rest assured that the sending in of trucks to Leh from Chandigarh and Delhi would mean the erosion of these very new and constantly developing mountains faster than 7 years. When the Coimbatore-Palakkad pass, developed into a conduit for vegetable marketing, a consequence of the market gardening from Tamil Nadu reaching Kerala, the forests in that area disappeared in a short period of time.  The Tamils, because of colonial intervention and the splicing of rivers in their favour became excellent farmers. The Malayalis who were dependent on slave castes to irrigate and sow and harvest lost their motivation to farm because of professionalization and the Gulf migration, since that was more lucrative than growing pepper or rice, plantains or areca nut. With the shift to information technology,  in cities like Cochin and Trivandrum, Kerala has become cosmopolitanised to the extent of rampantly overbuilding for new workers and their automobile needs. With the promised coach factory, the low profile town of Palakkad will become even busier and noisier.
In 2006, Palakkad had verdant woods, visible from the highway, but by 2014, the snaking chain of lorries made the road barren and impossible to commute, so a second road for those travelling to the Coimbatore airport was built, which cut  through paddy fields, and country houses, with sporadic signboards of Arrack on the way, since it was customary for workers to be alcohol - dependent on toddy between spells of work. What industrialisation can mean is that local consumption of food and beverages is replaced by alcohol and drug abuse, which is always blamed on migrant labour, or on tourists. The work of a new generation of scholars, such as Sumera Shafi and Tashi Lundup for Leh show how increased wealth from tourism has brought about substantial changes in  world view of the youth.
Why  agricultural practise in the surrounding villages of Leh is extremely interesting is because it is new, and instinctive, since with the planting of trees by the Army precipitation is conclusive a symptom of new world policies. The soil is alluvial and very rich.  Interior colonialism, including constantly, the emphatic presence of the Army,  since 60 percent of the army is stationed here, is not seen to be a cultural colonialism. Protection from China, and assimilation into China is not desired by Ladakhis. Unlike Kashmir, where the Army is deeply resented for it’s very visible coercive arm,  Ladakhis have a tolerant and supportive relation to the presence of the Indian army of which they too are a part. Employment in the Army is a definitive occupation for Ladakhis.
Agriculture sustains the Army, whether it is apricots, potatoes, beans, asparagus, grapes, apples, tomatoes or leeks. Tourism and the Army are two of the stable institutions of the Ladakh region. Kashmiri merchants now face the inherent space of competition from Ladakhi craftspeople and merchants. That pashmina is manufactured in Leh was in doubt, until a new generation of scholars from Jammu University brought to collective attention the presence of local boutiques and pashmina wool curing factory. Surely, climate change is part of the way in which new processes are brought into focus with regard to the dangers and losses that climate change present, where equally, new avenues present themselves. The pashmina sheep died after the 2010 cloud burst because of the loss of pastoral grounds. Yet, the supply of Pashmina did not abate according to the manager of the factory, because the supply of wool continued to come from other areas in Ladakh, who was very confident that he could get his sources come what may. This is the curious aspect of Agriculture and related artisan activities: whatever the nature of loss, the beneficence continues. How do we deal with redistribution of goods is what industrial systems have not dealt with. The industrial imagination is so bereft of the sense of the future, that they do not have the way of dealing with the bonus of nature. Crop destruction is part of capitalism, by letting grains to rot, the industrial system makes sure that prices are inflated. By buying up from the farmer without ensuring redistribution, it leaves the farmer with cost price, and a rupee’s profit on every kilo, while ensuring that granaries burst and the prime minister and the Reserve Bank congratulate the farmers. Surplus crops means a stable economy, since post office and SBI keep the peasant earnings in sync with subsistence agriculture which is generally against Conspicuous Consumption. However, the capitalists look to conspicuous consumption for an active market, and the circulation of money, so they do all they can to disrupt the basic socialist  (a constitutional term) practise of the Indian economy, which is in the very nature of social relations.  Since no redistribution takes place, after goods are cornered by the Government the food rots.  Establishment social scientists believe that two and a half acres is impractical and that industrialised farming to feed the billions is possible only after the farmers are dispossessed, brought to the city to build smart cities which do not include them. Here they are kept in poverty, below the minimum wage, as the contractors subtract the costs of bringing them to the city. The Leh district farmers have shown that farming is enjoyable and that they eat well and have enough for others, if the Army is not the only buyer. In Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu pilgrimage and tourism has been supported through the interlinkage of local cafes with the rural markets of the hinterland hill stations in the Nilgiris.
Sociologists do not have a solution for climate change. They cannot tell the victims of flood that this has nothing to do with good governance or bad, or with ritual purity, or Allah’s grace, or Siva’s wrath. This has to do with geological timings of catastrophes, which does not match human or historical time. While Leh survived the flash flood, it’s town and village councils have a lot to do with the rehabilitation measures. Its autonomous hill councils’ functioning helped the villagers because of the level of trust, and the close and personal regulation of water in the villages helped for further development of its agriculture techniques. Each family sends a representative in turn to sleep by the village pond to control water utilization and possible theft at night.
 There is a lot that we can learn from the Ladakh experience of organisation and technique, made possible too from the lessons which the local intelligentsia brings to us through intimacy and translation. Such a grass roots intelligentsia is yet to develop in Kashmir to  reckon with its own needs. Painful though this period is, the velocity of distress has its anodyne, the creation of institutional dialogue, which is community inclusive, rather than separatist. Just as Ahmedabad burned in 2002, without any administrative attention, and Delhi too, during the Sikh genocide,  both of which were humanly created disasters, three days, after the 2014 September floods,  the people in Kashmir waited for the Administration and for Government help, including the Army. The Government said, “We can do nothing.” Why was that? Should they not be accountable for what they do or do not do? People’s governance and people’s autonomy must mean that villages and towns must have an immediately recognisable task force to generate support during disasters. It must also mean that the State and the World Bank, is implicated in the disasters, (which called Natural are usually exaggerated by human culpability,) when it supports  dam construction, against the wishes of the local people. They must work with the  resource materials garnered by the local intelligentsia, recognise local expertise for its ability to warn capitalism and capitalists of its implication in these massive disasters in seismic zones.
 Rajinder Singh in his letter of July 16th 2013, ( attached with this paper) asked that the wishes of the people be attended to. Fault becomes allocated when there are tribunals of enquiry. However, in the case of large scale development, the Gandhians constantly assert that poverty alleviation is not possible with mass scale destruction of people’s livelihoods. Rather than flight from the State, the struggle against interior colonialisms has been protracted. The alternative  view to modernism, is post modernism, which has its freedom to choice, and to resistance of oppression. The so called subsistence societies of pre-modern contexts made sure that it’s people were fed, and provided for in times of stress.  Central Rule often excludes the domination of those societies which are intrinsically, self sustaining.  James C Scott writes that “I emphasise the term political order  to avoid conveying the mistaken impression that outside the realm of the state lay mere disorder. Depending on the location and date, such units might range from nuclear families to segmentary lineages, bilateral kindreds, hamlets, larger villages, towns and their immediate hinterlands, and confederations of such towns. Confederations appear to constitute the most complex level of integration that had any stability at all.” (Scott 2010:36)

 In Federal societies, the States are each  given autonomy regarding the choices they make about those decisions pertaining to local communities. Kerala for instance has a Fisheries Ministry, and also supports organic farming as a specific instance of this motivation. When certain States are oil rich or mineral rich, then they become the colonized space of political intentions.  “State power, in this conception, is the state’s monopoly of coercive force that must, in principle, be fully projected to the very edge of it’s territory, where it meets, again in principle, another sovereign power, projecting it’s command to it’s own adjacent frontier. ….As a practical matter, most nation-states have tried, insofar as they had the means, to give substance to this vision, establishing armed border posts, moving loyal populations to the frontier and relocating or driving away ‘disloyal’ populations , clearing frontier lands for sedentary agriculture, building roads to the borders, and registering hitherto fugitive peoples.” ( ibid 11) Quite often, Scott argues, the populations at the borders are culturally syncretistic, and they are then forced to conform with the homogeneity of the political order in the plains. “Where they could, however, all states in the region have tried to bring such peoples under their routine administration, to encourage and more rarely, to insist upon linguistic, cultural, and religious alignment with the majority population at the state core.” (ibid 12)
When there is a dramatic contrast between subsistence societies, located in proximity to market towns, with the industrializing motif of traditional development politics, which aggrandizes and hierarchises, we find that local communities survive through varieties of camaflouge. Tradition persists in customs of food, dress and ritual, but there is a segmental aspect, so the coding in of plural forms of identity are implicit. People become home in many different cultures simultaneously. They take on the colours of their environment, merging effortlessly into the work world, and into the recreational structures of multiple societies. This multi causality is represented through coincidental forms of association and unionization both at work, and in leisure, so whether it is the club or the association, individuals know how to fit in the rural milieu as well as the urban one. This is not oscillation but a dialectic. In transition societies this is made possible by the dual languages which are learnt, but when industrialization is complete, then these skills of language and  technique are lost. It is this which makes people truly homeless.
 In this last part of the paper, I will discuss the plea from Prof Bharat Jhunjhunwala, on behalf of the villagers of Chamoli, where the World Bank is making its loan available, against the wishes of the people, for damming the Ganga, for purposes of electricity generation for the cities.
The game,  for the manipulations between agriculturists and the colonial state in the formative years of sedentarisation of agriculture in British ruled India continues. The rules are not laid down by the colonists, but by the way in which the people demarcate their own borders and territories. “Naturally, therefore, most of the actions of the players in the “game” were largely predictable since the players had trained each other over a long period of time. Not only were the actions of the players anticipated, but each contestant had prepared himself (most of these players were men) psychically for the outcome as well.” (Irschick  1994:46)
To be represented in Kashmir, by the village councils of Ladakh is a task in itself, requiring the notation of religion, race, locality, occupation, community and its common subjectivities. In other parts of the Himalayas, the people orient themselves to petitions, law court cases and hope in citizenship. With the recent floods in Kashmir, the equation between the people and the Centre will change, primarily because the devastation is so huge that the orientations will be to everyday survival. The balance of power rests with the ability to withstand neglect and philanthrophy, both of which are deemed to be ways of hierarchizing the free. Why India is substantially free inspite of it’s poverty and it’s corruption is because land held in agriculture is on an average two and a half acres,  and the industrialising state would love to club it together to facilitate the growing of gmt products under the guise that the farmer with small landholdings is an anomaly.

Traditional small acreage and production of bumper crops annually  is substantially different from Pakistan, where twenty two families controlled the country through their agricultural landlordship.  The damming of the Indus was for industrial purposes and the travails of Pakistan have come from protracted militarisation, tribal revolt and non-democratic practise regarding the fate of peasants and local communities. The gap between the rich and the poor has led to substantial distress, which includes the mobilisation of religious fundamentalists to repress freedom of citizens.
TK Oommen’s work “From Mobilisation to Institutionalisation” showed the success of the land distribution Act in the 1950s to be partially successful since the land given away was usually rocky.  In contrast, what the farmers in the environment of Leh have shown however,  is that the resilience that they have as farmers with small landholdings, has depended on their hard work in tilling and watering in tightly regulated circumstances. The village councils have a say in how the water is allocated around the clock. In Palakkad, which became known as the rice belt of Kerala, the water from the local small dam, Mallapuram Dam becomes readily available to farmers in the winter months, not so in the summer, when the primary objective is to provide drinking water to a fast expanding city. The fluctuations of production are obvious to farmers, whose one, two or three crops of paddy are dependent on irrigation, since the ponds become neglected, and with climate change can run dry.
Emile Durkheim writes, in his comparison of Communism and Socialism, that the former has a moral principle, which abstracts private property to be a lapse of conduct arising from selfishness and immorality, but Socialism is a functional principle of the division of labour and practical economic interests.

“The two problems are entirely different. On one side, you set out to judge the moral value of wealth in the abstract, and deny it; on the other, one asks whether a kind of commerce and industry harmonizes with the conditions of existence of the peoples practising it, and if it is normal or unhealthy. Thus while communism concerns itself only accessorily with so-called economic arrangements and modifies them only to the degree necessary to place them in  keeping with its principle (the abolition of individual ownership), socialism, inversely, touches private property the degree required to change it so that it may harmonize with the  economic arrangement – the essential objects of its demands.” (Durkheim 1962:73)
Socialism is inherent in what Marcel Mauss showed to be forms of tribalism, or more generally the  collective life of communities. However, in the case of the “Seasonal Variations Among the Eskimo” or the pastoral practises of the Nuer in the 1930s, as studied by Evans Pritchard, we do have interesting views of how social exchange takes place during nomadism, and when people congregate during winter, in the first case, and heavy rains in the second. Hunting and fishing are typical activities during nomadism, and with seasonal shifts, there is a dependence on local activities which are centred around storage and rituals. In the Ladakh region, the storage of fruit and tubers and the dried meats allow people to engage in a very sustained ceremonial and ritual life when the borders and roads shut down. The effervescence of collective life is more than evident. Climate change has to take into account increased melting of glaciers as the way in which the Spring may come earlier, but the long term effects on local habitation are yet to be understood. People do not live in fear of the future, they adapt to the present, and in a democratic system, agriculturists should be protected not left to the vagaries of industrial imaginations, which nullify them by the habit of four hundred years. Coexistence of the agricultural and industrial worlds is provided by the Constitution, which has its Gandhian undertones in citizen rights.
 I close with a  summary of the plea to the World Bank, from Prof Jhunjhuwala who with other signatories, has claimed that the continual damming of the Ganga will influence the fate of the Himalayas in general. They write to the Executive Secretary of the Inspection Panel of the World Bank, that the Pipalkoti project will change their lives because the “joys of a free flowing river” cannot be estimated. Further, the river does not flow past boulders in the case of damming, and will lose its medicinal and therapeutic qualities. According to the petitioners, the people living in Chamoli district, on the banks of the Alaknanda Ganga will not have access to fish and sand, as resources for their livelihood. The Cheer Pheasant, an endangered bird will go extinct. The release of water at odd times during the day for generation of electricity will affect the lives of people who belong to a riverine civilisation and are dependent on nature for their livelihood.  Houses which are near the dam develop cracks because of the force of construction and water flow in the tunnels and pipes. Accumulation of silt affects the lives of communities who are dependent on the river such as fishers and pastoralists. The collection of silt can affect the social and religious life of people who can no longer bathe or pray, or collect water. The aquatic life, both plants and animals becomes disturbed. Very often, the rivers run dry. The dust from construction pollutes every thing. Workers live in terrible conditions. Disease becomes rampant.  Women and children lose their freedoms. The earthquakes further damage the hollowed out mountains, causing landslides and death. The 2013 floods in Uttarakhand were a consequence of ravaged hillsides for short term gains, in a seismic zone. Water sources are drying up, rivers are degraded to the point of becoming extinct. Heat from construction sends up the indexes of global warming. The increase in populations due to construction and deforestation leads to the mass loss of habitat for animal populations which begin to wander causing threat, in turn, to local communities and habitats. Worst of all, there is silence on the part of bureaucrats, and the people are kept out of information and discussion. (Jhunjhunwala 2013, petititon to World Bank)

As the contents of the letter show, the real questions we need to ask are about the management of our rivers as commons. The Indus is dammed substantially in Pakistan, where it flows in India, it has become both a ritual site for Hindus asserting identity politics, as well as for the urbane leisured class who looks forward to playing golf in the highest reaches of the Himalayas. How do we understand these cultural uses. Do we have a say in the right to life, and the right to traditional grazing grounds. As Scientists and Social Scientists, may we presume that people’s liberties are of the most importance, and by writing about them we delay their extinction or forced assimilation.
Acknowledgements: Cherring Tandup, Tashi Lundup,  Sumera Shafi, Suresh Babu, Renoj Theyyan,  Devinder Singh and the entire student team from Jammu University, for their hospitality and kindness and friendship, many thanks!

Durkhiem, Emile,  1962: Socialism, Collier Books, New York
Hannerz, Ulf  1980  Exploring the City Coumbia University Press, New York
Irschick, Eugene F.  1994: Dialogue and History , Constructing South India, 1795-1895,  OUP, Delhi.
 Jhunjhunwala, Bharat Request to World Bank with  allied signatories.  Accessed on October 10 2014.

Krishnan, Jyothi, 2009: Enclosed Waters, Property Rights, Technology and Ecology in the Management of Water Resources in Palakkad, Kerala. Orient BlackSwan, Delhi
Naqvi, Saiyid Ali,  2013: Indus Waters and Social Change: The Evolution and Transition of Agrarian Society in Pakistan OUP, Karachi.
Mines, Diane P. and Nicolas Yazgi (ed): 2010 Village Matters: Relocating Villages in the Contemporary Anthropology of India. OUP, Delhi
Rizvi, Janet 2012 TransHimalayan Caravans: Merchant Princes and Peasant Traders in Ladakh  (first published 1999) OUP, Delhi.

Scott, James. C ,2010: The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. Orient Blackswan, Delhi.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Women's Clothing and Killing the Right to Education

There is always such a furore about what women wear, and what women want. It looks like dress codes are going to be slapped on us forthwith if the right wing masculinist mafia from all over the country take a position on how women can avoid rape if they dress in a dignified way. What seems really reprehensible is that the length of leg Maharashtrian women show, or the length of waist that Malayali women show while wearing sarees is all going to be under review. It's a hot country.  Not wearing a dhupatta is just an option that women sometimes exercise, not anticipating violence from men, for doing a common sensical thing.  Men could just be trained not to stare at women's body parts lewdly while on their way to work or coming home.
If they can be trained  so easily to kill humans, which routinely happens in all parts of India, as part of some militant ideology, the lust of men to devour women is further fuelled.  So women must stay home, and men must go to war to kill all those who don't behave in the way that these self appointed warriors want,  seems to be the new plank on which the fuelling of sentiments is headed. 
Even in the case of the recent violent animosity between Dalits and Muslims  in what were BSP dominated areas, it is communicated by journalists that this is indeed a new development, as the two communities lived amicably previously sharing dietary habits, such as the eating of beef without totemic views on the sacredness of the cow which the twice born have.
The RSS has made substantial inroads into working class communities as has been proved by their presence in mazdoor sanghatans. Indoctrination is essentially the drawing into Sanskritic patterns of behaviour with a promise to provide dividends such as acceptability, conformity, festival and feasting, wish fulfilment, and sacrifice. This is quite different from the idea of human rights as a modern device by which people may ask for Food, Shelter, Medical Rights, Education, and the right to be heard in a democratic framework of equality. Since the indoctrination of Tribals happened in the same way, during the Gujarat riots, a new cadre of workers who could be commanded to kill, became visible. Ofcourse, this is substantially different from using lumpen proletariat to  participate in riots, as we saw in the case of the 1984 riots. There, the Congress was able to use certain key leaders to propel vast ghettoised slum dwellers to follow the leader into the enclaves or neighbourhoods where Sikhs were known to dwell, and burn them in some “Ram and Ravana” metaphorical moment of victorious warfare. Needless to say, the courts still pursue the cases from that time, to promote the idea that one day, those tragic families, many of whom lost all their men in one fell swoop, will have justice.
Rather than spending on education, the RSS propelled Modi Government is set on providing an impetus to traditional hierarchies, which allow Kshatriya and Brahman domination, as an ideological platform, for legitimating their world view. The cosmic world of diversity is lost. The case of the choice of Army Chief Dalbir Singh, which set up such tremors because of his known violent handling of North East contexts of turbulence, the sacking of Kamla Beniwal, at 87 years, with no explanation, from her post as Governor of Mizoram, because of her frank opinion of Modi’s way of handling things in Gujarat, are two cases in point. Domination and persuasive forms of cultural conversion are very much in the matrix of the BJP- RSS rhetoric. Not to take the people’s opinion into account however, is a grave mistake. Modi has been quiet on many things, which frankly is a relief. Having got forty percent of the people to vote for him, he is grateful and generally stays out of public view except as a state functionary. His  financial policies however, remain open to analyses, since his delegates are outrightly anti poor, while using the poor as  fodder for work of development.
Take the cut in education. It’s the most shocking aspect of how little virtue there is in the new government, for it takes away the right to mobility and leaves the poor to be caught in a status quo trap, where they can only be landless labour, or manual workers. That is their fate. Atleast, the Congress government gave them the trickle illusion, that with Right to Education, they would have the possibility of choosing their occupations over two or three generations. Even if hundred years was offered as an optimum time span for social mobility, we must understand that it meant a lot to poor people.
The new government is least bothered. Give the poor their jagrans, and a couple of free puris and bowls of sacred halwa, and the poor will then begin to work for low wages and accept their suffering as a test of their faith. Send them on orchestrated pilgrimages and let them recover the  wisdom of living in continual crises as the god given way.
Faith is a personal index of received beliefs. So if people have not been persuaded by the faith of the masters, then it is time to understand, that in constitutional terms, these people too, are worthy of legitimate attention, with regard to jobs and educational opportunities. Those children crossing a river, by holding onto a brass pot to get to school was one of the most dramatic news items that Delhi-ites got to read about. They forded the river, for half an hour, to get to the opposite side, and then walked a couple of miles to school, helped by their parents. They got totally wet. Then with soaked clothes, which never dried in monsoon and winter, they sat in class, reading their books. And yes, they believed in Education.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Small Towns and Their Hinterlands

India has always had an interesting history of ancient riverine towns, and entropots on the trade route, at the cusp of mountains and plains, and rivers and seas. The hinterland is the most interesting of geographical phenomena, because ancient cities like Benaras, Gauhati, Gorakhpur, Kochi, for example, would bring to attention not just the co-existence of various religions, but also of occupations. One only has to think of the phenomenal variety of production of crafts that many small towns carry with them, to know that the idea of the  modern city or the metropolis is something which speaks demographically of industrialisation, and artificially produced consumption patterns. Metropoli, by their very nature, as the Mexican sociologist Manuel Castells showed, are linked not only to cities of various population density, but also to small towns and villages. It is the nature of communication networks that allow small towns to be meshed with a larger more complex and voluminous maze of populations, with their varied occupations and their social and cultural needs. India’s villages are now being sought to be denuded by the intensity of massive modernisation projects with the assumption that the greater volume of electricity produced by damming rivers, will bring down local populations through a Malthusian project, which will make villagers  lives seem outdated and on the route to  self extinction.
Industrialised agriculture, which the so called  Green, White and Mulberry Revolutions propagate are based on the idea of mono agriculture. Punjab and Gujarat are examples politically of what happens when industrialised agriculture projects itself as the only  type of modernisation that is available to the Indian imagination. Tamil Nadu has offered another way, which is agriculture as sustainable, as a means of livelihood, and of cross border exchanges, leading to profound nutritionally substantive indexes. It might be interesting to look at the way in which Tamil farmers have foregrounded education too, since the time of Nadar freedom fighters, such as Kamaraj, to premise professionalization as a goal, along with the contexts of farming, engineering colleges,automobile manufacture and industrialisation as co-existent occupational zones. The same tradition has valorised weaving,  metal and stone work as ancient occupations which have a very important role to play. Spiritual centres also attract tourists, as do dance and  music as  forms of classical and contemporary discipline. The dialogue between Kerala and Tamil Nadu on the question of dam renovation is probably the most interesting relic of a colonial history, and foregrounds how we think of Agriculture and Tourism in the two states. The Pallakad gap has now completely transformed from verdant hills to a long traffic lined route for trucks going between the two states carrying goods.
It is very important to set up the debates on what the people want, by conducting studies which are not biased towards industrialisation as the only way in which modern Indians see their role in a buoyant economy. The average land holding is two and a half acres, perhaps, but the constant success of traditional farmers in producing bumper crops, whether in Nalanda in Bihar or in the former arid zones of Tamil Nadu, have to be understood within its cultural and historical contexts. With the water crises and climate change  representing itself continually through modes of adaptation by local farmers, it is necessary to take the voice of activists into account. The North East which has withstood varieties of colonialism, including interior colonialism, is now in a precarious political condition with the appointment of an army chief known to have disciplinary action being taken against him for vacuous, or even worse, actively dastardly behaviour against local communities.
When we look at tribal or dalit communities, we have to be aware of the way in which their world view is attached to visions of the land as a potent and animistic force. When they are forced to leave their homes, where they are able to lead frugal lives in consonance with their beliefs, they are rendered destitute. This is why for decades the Indian government (bureaucracy) has worked with alleviation of poverty programmes rather than with the  sole idea that forced eviction is the only way that the poor can be forced into the cities as cheap labour. Industrialised farming will create the kind of destructive, separatist and entropic violence that India faced in the 1980s, and which continues to be seen in Maoist regions.
 Where people are well fed, clothed, educated and offered employment, the chances of survival of people and freedoms are the highest. Alongside this, comes the awareness of citizen rights and privileges. By constantly offering free electricity to urbanites in large cities, so that their recreational and consumption enhanced lifestyles are protected, we are doing tremendous damage to the environment and to  local communities.
Small towns, which have a hinterland in agriculture, also provide us the best window to tourism, which is one of the most revenue generating occupations in the globalised world. This permits people to have the autonomy to choose how and where they wish to live, rather than competing unthinkingly with the  industrialised West,  and which also  permits revisiting our pragmatic orientations with regard to survival strategies.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Soccer as  Strategy

Football is a cult. It brings people together because of the speed of the game, and the instinctive thinking required by the players, and the split second response by commentators and couch potatoes equally, as they watch the game. Football is visceral, because it pounds the senses, wrenches the guts and men and women fall in love with the players by the  numerical signs on their back, as each one is distinguished by a particular style. Advertisers find this rampant energy immediately sensual, and so there is a great colourful propoganda about players and clothes and shoes as much as there is about energy drinks they consume off field. Since football arouses such passion, the streets become the immediate playground for the emotions of the audience, as they revel. They swirl about in search of their cultic heroes, and they become mobs, who drink a lot, and fight with one another. So football becomes the site of the most spectacular riots and dishevelment, where the players are assigned the stature of gods.
 Because the blood flows in the veins so fast, football fans are proud of their feelings, and carry it into the sports stadium. Decorative and patriotic face paint is a little like war paint, and the noise is also profoundly higher, since it communicates the individual body as the site of personal and collective identity.
The real play grounds for footer are in the villages and streets of the urban jungle. Since young boys are inculcated in the sport very early, their desire to be known is also very heady, and film makers are happy to make football films to show how much it means to be a young Maradonna. The vivacity of the game leaves the audience spell bound, while the players themselves live in the  vivid Olympia of their actual proficiency and collective grandeur. Ordinary people can identify with the game, because the tactile nature of the sport means that the warriors will always do what is good for one another, in order to win the game. The "other" is clearly demarcated, and so the real passion is in teamship, and in surrendering one's individualism one actually hones one's superior gamesmanship. Women's football is something which is promoted but not practised, primarily because men represent the sport as that which will emulate the work of the Gods. and the women have only an ornamental or passive status. In Brazil and Argentina, liberation theology promoted the training of football stars in the local community churches where the sons of poor people could aspire to greatness and wealth and power. The idea of hard work leading to honour is not unknown in Christianity,  yet, the specific aggrandisement that football brings is surely a sign of its investment in Capitalism. The medieval churches were built on the loot of war and inquisition,  similarly the soccer theatres are an aspect of the capitalist industry putting its signature on the game. Countries which are poor often have governments which take the carnival and spectacle of sports to define how they will organise the resources of labour and management and profit incentives to make the game do something else rather than  just play. While the world watches, and the stars battle it out, the steel industries and the cocoa cola and the branded clothes and shoe companies will make their profits. The urchins who play in the sun and rain will succumb to hours of television time in order to become passive recipients of the advertising barrage.Cities will undergo transformation, and the carbon trail to the soccer cities will be humungous.
Pele will remain the spiritual ancestor of freedom, the icon of resistance to  war, control mechanisms and political silencing. When football stars become models of behaviour, then every child who watches them on screen, in live play or in the auditorium, will dream of a day when they too have a chance to make that difference. Soccer is not about Homo Ludens but also about glamour, degradation, salvation and rehabilitation. Not surprisingly, for left leaning states like Kerala and West Bengal, the call to street football has always been very noticeable.  The quantum of energy  expended requires a wholesome diet, and both the Malayalees and the Bengalis have a rice eating, fish eating culture, where stamina is the index, not girth or height. Goa has always had football, because the village traditions there too encourage volleyball and football. The Jesuits in South America have been great propogators of sports as a stepping stone to the  possible dream of equality for the poor. The tradition instills discipline, rule bound behaviour as well as hierarchy. Equality is premised in the idea of individual aptitude, which then allows the trainer to take on  a team which he can hone to perfection, given the autocratic nature of his own choice making facilities about who can do what best. That decision is for the trainer to make. Oddly, the acceptance of this is what gives each player his autonomy.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The early 20th century letters of Satyanand Stokes.

The Farmer of Kotgarh
I went to Shimla in 2009, while footnoting my essay, “Summer Hill: The Building of Viceregal Lodge” published by the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, (SHSS, Volume 18, 2010) and became interested in the history of the potato and of the apple. So I visited the Central Potato Research Institute, and browsing through newsletters and books, found that spuds grown in Himachal, were being sold to makers of American style  hot chips, and more interestingly that it originated in South America. Pamela Kanwar  in her book Imperial Simla, says Captain Charles Pratt Kennedy was associated with introducing potatoes in the hills. He was posted as Garrison Officer till 1821, and then the Political Agent, controlling the hill states. He was a good host, who fed his guests including Lord Amherst, very well and gave them champagne, hock and  mocha coffee at dinner, and Calcutta journals at breakfast. He worked only one hour after breakfast, according to Kanwar, but that was enough to unfurl the roads, houses,and bazars as they came to be built. Raja Bhasin in Simla:The Summer Capital cites Rudyard Kipling who describes it as a round of dances, picnic, theatricals and flirtations.  Vipin Pubby takes up the problem of landless forced labout, and writes in Simla: Then and Now that begar was finally abolished in 1929, through the work of Samuel Evans Stokes, who was close to Mahatma Gandhi.
In the archives at Teen Murti Library, I found a record that Satyanand Stokes, as he came to be known, had left behind for his family. It was a legacy of letters, and very interesting ones too. The first set recorded for his mother in America, a patient he was looking after, who died a most terrible death. Stoke’s horror and his  helplessness at the boy’s terminal illness, where the pustules blinded  and he tore at his flesh but in the end, became calm as death approached, is a frightening record of how illness a hundred years ago left the attendant completely enervated and sorrowful.  Stokes then goes to Kotgarh, where he falls in love with a village girl, called Agnes, who makes garlands for him to wear and shyly accepts his overtures of affection and respect. His love for her is intense, and he soon marries her. He writes to his mother on June 5 1912 that “I thank God that Agnes is to be my wife. I think that I have truly fallen in love with her and am looking forward to our marriage with great eagerness.” For Stokes, the love remains a constant space which allows him to engage with the “inner life of India” . On December 27th 1912, he writes, they are honeymooning at the Taj Mahal Hotel, in Bombay, and the village girl is now completely at ease with strangers,  “Agnes is greatly taken with saris – the long silk article of dress which the Parsi ladies wear here”. Stokes returns to  Kotgarh and Barobagh and his interest in farming is already evident. On May 28th 1913, he writes, “ It will interest you to  know that I have taken to what I never thought would interest me even a little bit – gardening. Each morning early and every evening I am out in my garden among my peas and beans and lima beans and pumpkins, cabbages etc.”. For him, his plants were like his babies, and he turned the earth “as if I were arranging their bed clothes for them and tucking them in like babies upto the chin. This ofcourse sounds silly but I cannot help feeling like a father to them for all that.”
On August 20th 1913 he writes that , “One of the things which I intend to do when in America is to go in for a selection of good wheats and grass-seeds to introduce out here. If I can find anything which will yield the farmer a larger crop per acre, and if I am able to import, and after using introduce it, I shall be doing the people a very real service. At present the difficulty is to subsist on the small amount of land owned by each. The introduction of potatoes has greatly helped, and if I  could only follow it up by the introduction of other useful things I should be delighted.”
A visit to Agnes’ grandmother’s house dazzles him, as he writes to his mother on Sept 10th 1913, “It is a beautiful day at the end of the rainy season. As I sit here upon the porch of Dhan Singh’s house, the shout of the ploughman comes to my ears, and when I look out across the fields I can see the hillsides covered with labouring oxen. I thank God for this beautiful country and for the balm it is to my spirit which has been in the last two years so cut and torn, and is now by His mercy receiving comfort and strength again.”
After three sons are born,  named Premchand, Pritam, and Tarachand, Sam Stokes is very busy, helping his wife, and at the same time, intent on educating her too. He writes to his mother, September 20th 1916, “I do the best I can to make the burden as light as possible, and do all the night work and washing of most of the bottles myself, but there are three babies to bathe and feed, and all the house-keeping and managing to be attended to by her. And besides she will not behave herself, so that when I have succeeded in making her work lighter in one direction she will put in the time saved in something else – either putting up quinces or drying tomatoes, or sewing or knitting. I am glad that in the midst of all her activities she continues to make time for reading. She has just got through four or five of Fennimore Cooper’s books and now she is devoting herself to George Elliot’s works;  at present she is absorbed in Adam Bede.… Here we are engaged in the autumn sowing of wheat and barley. I have got a number of fine big fields in shape since our return, and all being well, hope to have all our principle provisions from our own place next year. We have now got in all our potato crop - it amounted to over four tons, and after keeping what we need for sowing and home consumption we sold the rest for a good sum, getting the best price in the neighbourhood because our potatoes were the finest….So you see that at last I have gone in for selling. I don’t like it but see that it must be done. It would be crazy to distribute our surpluses at present. I have therefore determined to sell all that I can (I won’t do it myself, but my foremen does it better than I could,) and make it an aim to eventually pay all our expenses off the place. The aim is interesting even if the means does not appeal.”
Marketing produce is so hard that even if there is over abundance, the fruit and vegetables must find a buyer. Sociologists want to know the relation between the producer, buyer and consumer, across time, and in differing circumstances.
 I took the address of a descendant of the Stokes, in 2009 from the publicity officer at Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, and caught a bus, which dropped me off on a hill road,  and then I had to take a detour down to where the house was. The descendent was an MLA and was in Delhi, so I could not speak with her, though the  domestic staff were friendly, and the house and garden a hillside delight.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lost Worlds or Lot's Wife

 Lost Worlds (also published as "By the Rivers of India" in the Financial Chronicle of Weekend February 22nd 2014

 Two women became the symbols of Kerala as it stands today. One brought her two school going daughters and infant son to Jantar Mantar in October 2013 to protest against illegal sand mining in Kerala. It was Jairam Ramesh who immediately wrote to Oomen Chandy asking that he look into the case.( see October is not a very cold month, but it took all of four months for Oommen Chandy to respond to the environmental crusader. Sand mining is one of the most visible of illegal occupations, and no one speaks of it, for fear of being killed. A cursory web check will show the fear in which people live of the sand mining mafia. Yet, construction activity cannot ostensibly be supported without it,  though  now crushed mortar is providing a recycling alternative. Dr  Samuel Paul has argued that 60 percent of Kerala is now urbanised. The promise of  IPL games brought with it its own crushing sense of the morass of traffic, which besieges Kerala with a consumerist culture, now well in place with the Gulf Diaspora returning and looking for what they were used to. Internet parks and shopping malls became the common cause for an industrialising nation everywhere. Sunanda died leaving her families  and friends distraught,  because by all accounts she was likeable and amusing. Development strategies, however, which come with their leisure packages are not without costs. According to a resident in Kuruvillangad,  (a wealthy  rural  gulf diaspora  Syrian Christian outpost in Kerala with its proliferating colleges and ritual sites,)  “Sunanda  was so charming, she could sell sand to desert inhabitants in Dubai”. Jazeera, the autodriver however, had to sit in the freezing Delhi climate when temperatures went down to 4 degrees, to protest against the rampant death of rivers in Kerala. Jazeera’s protest, was supported by her school master husband. The future of Kerala lies in the hands of those three children who survived Delhi’s bitter cold, though the files to Oommen Chandy took four months to be cleared, before he could intervene.
Bureaucracies are the spine of the nation. If one disrupts officialise there is vagrancy. Yet Hannah Arendt said that because the bureaucrat follows orders, and because the bureaucrat is never responsible, the banality of evil is rampant. When Varun Gandhi invoked the name of his father and wished to return in the name of his father, I shuddered, for Emergency excesses were huge, and Sanjay Gandhi’s youth brigade who roistered through the streets of Delhi were very energetic.
I was 17 when the Emergency happened. Coming back from the Delhi University, (before the Mudrika bus seva had completely reinvented our lives), I had to catch a connecting bus to Nizamuddin, where I lived, from Daryaganj. In those days,  a lone 57 number bus went to D.U, and you had to find a place to catch it from. So Daryaganj was where I boarded and got off,  mornings and afternoons, in 1974, all a good forty years ago. And there, every day, I would see the government officers who would put up little tables, where people came and signed up for a vasectomy or a tubectomy because they wanted something from the Government. If one had three children, then one had to sign up and get a  sterilisation certificate. Brinda Karat upturned the apple cart by stating some years ago, that women should decide the number of children they wanted. Working classes, as Mahmud Mamdani argued in  one of our prescribed Sociology readings on the 1970s, see children as the substitute for pensions, which they don’t receive in our country, as they are poor and usually contract labour does not receive identity cards, for what permanent address do they have?
Interestingly, on 18.7.67. Panampilly Govinda Menon wrote a note in his capacity as Union Law Minister, to say “To subject a person to the operation of vasectomy or tubectomy is to inflict “grievous hurt” as defined in Sec 320 of the Indian Penal Code on that person. Currently in our hospitals and family planning centres these operations are done with the consent of the persons operated upon and therefore are not penal. The case here is not of sterilisation with the consent of the person sterilised but under compulsion of law. And the question is whether such law would be within the competence of Parliament” ( NMML Manuscript Section,File 190 xxxv 176)
P. Govinda Menon does not have a problem ethically with people being sterilised compulsorily so long it is not “deprivation of personal liberty by naked executive order.” After having clarified that none of the “religions  of the world”, besides the Roman Catholic one, is against contraception, (and this community may  be exempted along with other conscientious objectors,) the law for compulsory sterilisation may be seen as a reasonable one. “Since the proposal is to have legislation for compulsory sterilisation, the order to be issued to an individual by the appropriate officer will be according to procedure established by law and protected; unless the Courts further stipulate the law in this respect should be a reasonable law; and the stature on scrutiny is found to be unreasonable.” (ibid) In another note in the same file, which is preserved as Symposium on Greater Cochin Development Concluding Speech, dated 1967 he says, “It is time that Malayalees dropped the habit of staying in separate house, each standing in its own compound. The density of population and the scarcity of land does not permit it. Multistoreyed buildings into flats for residential purposes would be the only possible solution for the housing problem in this region. I am sure the Malayalees would be able to adjust to this type of living.”
 The Malayalees love for gardens is a characteristic,  and growing fruits and flowers has been now concretely translated by Diaspora into terrace gardens, since  Kerala government runs courses on growing runner beans, bitter gourds and ladies finger and curry leaves on one’s own terrace, or in pots. Any sorrow for lost gardens is ostensibly nostalgia, which most modernists see as potently limiting. I would just presume that having more agricultural colleges is necessary in the 21st century, and new agriculturists should by right be nurtured, instead of the Indian State going the Bt way monotonously. The survival of rivers, as Jazeera argued, is the most significant thing for those who live in our riverine and ancient civilisations. These are living and sustainable traditions, not to be axed in the name of Development, and archived through Proud Parade marches. Watching the Ladakh villagers growing apricots, apples,  turnips, radishes, runner beans, celery, potatoes, even grapes (in Kargil) for the  consumption of the Indian army, and farmers with small gardens hoping for roads to Delhi to market their excess produce was an eye opener.
Amit Shah would have us believe in television rhetoric,  that prosperity is a neutral thing, and that when water or electricity is provided, Gujarat provides equally to both, in the same village. However post 2002, many Muslims continue to live in refugee camps or ghettos. Muzaffar Nagar has proved that in some states, segregation of communities is sought. Industrialisation comes with heavy cost to the rural poor, many of whom come to the city to earn. Whether town, country or metropolis, the City decides the future of the hinterland.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Murder by any name

Nido Taniam is one more dead by the wrath of the city, and again, the unnecessary hate that goes into these macabre events leave one completely befuddled. When will it stop? Delhi is  like Chicago in the 1930s, there are no rules, and the glamour of illicitness runs its way through the city like its very veins.
Everyone thinks the other is evil, and goes to get him or her. It's a very odd way to behave as humans. I grew up in this city, dreading its entrails of lewdness and hate. The parks and the ruins and monuments made up for the dread,  and one was distracted by the flowers every Spring, but the crimes committed in the city were too frequent to allow for any real acceptance of calm. One can imagine, that at one level there is a rhetoric that says people are free, and that they must avail the opportunities of being able to use the facilities the city offers, but at another level, the risks of being out there after 8 pm are just too huge. One family was told  one morning,that the business men who had been killed in the night in an accident were theirs. Innumerable hit and run cases occur, and increasingly, murders of young people who are out at night. The students from the North East are targetted because they don't look like the other migrants to Delhi. The city of Delhi has its various layers, and in each there is a way of  presenting oneself which is like a rule of the territory. Dress codes are like uniforms. When young men appear with sharp haircuts with peroxide at the edges, the citizens behave like they have been personally attacked. When these students, both men and women, have Sino features, the ghettoised citizens in these colonies,  act as if these are enemies of the State.

As someone who is in her late 50s, I am expected to behave as if I were without any rights to my identity as a person. One instance of this is the mandatory dress code expected of me. One of the problems of "being a bad example" is that people actually imagine that if you don't look like them you are "a bad example." Constantly there is pressure to conform, to look like the woman who sells washing soap across the different states speaking a dubbed different language in each region, but quintessentially the same middle class woman wearing a bindi. This trope of sameness is ofcourse  provided by advertisers as much as state policy, where citizens are defined only by their ability to negotiate with the administration. Tobacco and alcohol may be state regulated, but so are the advertisements which project cancer as a deadly disease. The benefits received by the state from taxes has to be represented through the manner in which privatisation works in order to keep the boot leggers at bay. The Bacardi ads with which a whole generation grew up as tv watchers meant that the totemistic nature of human life would be represented as a risk taking exercise in the urban jungle. The alcohol bottles lying in the streets in Kerala have to be seen to be believed, and even in Leh, alcohol bottles lie unclaimed in growing piles. In Delhi, the recycling of waste is perhaps more exact in where these bottles go.
 Modernisation has not meant that people have left their traditional views on human behaviour aside. Each caste group, each religion, each class has distinctive ways of projecting their identity, and those citizens who break the laws such as beating up and murdering others,  must be punished. Religious identity is a personal motivation, which is decided by the accident of birth and individual choice. To kill or beat up another because he/she is different in appearance is the most dreadful thing to happen in a city. Routinely people are beaten up our city, because the mob thinks they know best. At this rate, we in Delhi, will be no different from those who live in cities which are constantly patrolled, and there deaths occur without explanation or cause.
In JNU, where students have won the right to work in the Library through the night, giving Social Science students the same privileges as Science students in their Laboratories, the Security staff are on patrol all the time. Yet there are robberies, occassionally, and an  attempt to murder and  a suicide, just last year in the School of Languages. We obviously don't have a closed entry system, since the bus comes in freely till late at night, and everyone is welcome to visit our campus. Monitoring and patrolling become symbols of a closed system, rather than a truly democratic one. What are people's life chances regardless of the accident of birth?

Unless people believe and trust in one another, how can one have democracy? The idea that people can round up on others and believe that these are criminals with intent to hurt and must be exterminated, seems medieval to the extreme, or fascist in the way Europe was in the 1930s. In that scenario, undermining institutions is not the answer, but legal remedies must be sought, before young people are sacrificed over and over in the name of something or another.