Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Zionism and its Consequences

Zionism originated as a project to create a Jewish State in Palestine in the late nineteenth century. The Jews, who had been dispersed from Palestine thousands of years ago and who were persecuted throughout Europe where they mostly resided, sought a nation for themselves and wanted to build it in Palestine where they had originated. Despite the continuous persecution over centuries, a number of Jews had become financially powerful in Europe and America and so were in a position to fund the migration of the poorer Jews to Palestine to set up settlements there and build up an armed force that could protect these settlements. The crucial political development was the Mandate given to the British Empire in 1921, by the League of Nations after World War I to rule over Palestine, Syria, Jordan etc which had been part of the Ottoman Empire which was dismembered after the war. The British through the Balfour Declaration of 1926 acceded to the demand of the Zionists to let them migrate in large numbers to Palestine to establish a nation there. This brought them in direct conflict with the Arabs who were residing in Palestine and who vehemently opposed Jewish migration as this would affect their hold over the area and they were supported in this opposition by other Arab States of the region. And so bloodshed began which has continued now for almost a century. After the Holocaust  on the Jews perpetrated by Hitler during World War II, the Christian Europeans and the Americans began to look sympathetically at the Zionist demand for settling Jews in Palestine and mostly European Jews, who were survivors of the Nazi oppression, were sent in large numbers to Palestine. Given that the middle east was rich in oil which was to be the main driver of economic and military might in the twentieth century, there is every possibility that the American and European imperialists may have pushed the Zionist agenda to retain control over the region. Anyway this solid support from Europe and America has enabled the creation of the state of Israel and its continued existence. They have also pressurised many of the Arab States in the region to support Israel or at the very least not to oppose it. Zionism continues to flourish and encourages the migration of Jews to Israel as overall more Jews reside outside Israel than inside it. Consequently, since 1948, when the State of Israel was created through a resolution of the UN General Assembly and a substantial portion of the land was given to Israel as shown in the graphic below, the population of Jews in the erstwhile Palestine has gone up continuously while that of the Arabs has gone down and many of the latter are now dispersed across the world.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was formed in 1964 as a counterpoint to Zionism and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State free of the Zionists. This led to an escalation in the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews in Israel and there was a full fledged war in 1967 between Israel on the one hand and Egypt, Syria and Jordan on the other. The Israelis won a comprehensive victory within six days and annexed the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from the Syrians and the West Bank including East Jerusalem from Jordan and completely occupying Palestine. Subsequently through peace accords the Israelis have given back the occupied territories and the Palestinian State has been established in the Gaza strip and the West Bank with the PLO having given up violence and accepted the existence of Israel and vice versa.
However, a section of the Palestinian Arabs continue to fight against the Israelis, especially the militant organisation Hamas which has vowed to drive the Jews out of Israel. Basically they are against the continuous building of settlements by Israel in the West Bank where the Palestinian State is theoretically sovereign. Overall Israel continues to violate the human and civil rights of Arabs within its territory and in the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas has held sway over the Gaza strip since 2006 or so and continually engages in hostilities with Israel. There have been many skirmishes and battles leading to regular loss of life in the Gaza strip which escalates when there are conflicts like the one that is one going on now. Both the Egyptian and the Israeli Governments are not happy with Hamas and so they have imposed a complete blockade of Gaza not allowing any thing whatsoever, including food to be supplied to the area. Thus, we have two rigid opposing positions - that of Hamas, that they will not stop short of destroying the Israeli State and that of the Israelis, that Hamas has to be finished. Therefore, the war continues and there seems to be no end in sight and neither is there justice for the Palestinian Arabs as a whole as they are globally considerably less powerful than the Zionists.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What Price RTI?

The Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 was hailed as a game changer in Indian politics when it was enacted. It came as a result of a long campaign begun by the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in Rajasthan. The MKSS initially began campaigning for transparency in the records of the works that were being carried out in the Panchayats or rural local bodies. The elected representatives and the Panchayat bureaucracy would connive to siphon off funds meant for development works by submitting false vouchers for wages and other materials. Eventually the MKSS was successful in getting the right to see these vouchers and verify their authenticity and thus exposed the scams that were taking place. Some legal measures were instituted and there were Right to Information Acts in some states. Finally in 2005 this campaign led to a central RTI Act that was quite spectacular in its provisions. Except for a few excluded areas which related to national security, citizens could ask for information about government documents and this would have to be provided within thirty days. If the information was not provided within this period then the official responsible for not providing the information would have to pay a penalty of Rs 250 per day for each day of delay upto a maximum of Rs 25000 and this would be deducted from his salary and paid to the applicant for information. There was a provision of a process of appeals in case information was not provided with the first appeal to be made to a designated higher authority in the institution or department concerned and the second appeal to be made to the Information Commission either at the State or at the Centre depending on whether the authority concerned was a state department or a central one. 
Thus, on paper, a powerful system of accountability was put in place. There have been many good outcomes of this Act the most notable being the transparency brought into the electoral process in our country. The organisation Association for Democratic Reforms used this Act and went all the way to the Supreme Court to force the candidates for elections in this country to reveal their assets and any criminal proceedings against them when filing their nominations. Many big scams too have been exposed in this way. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of problems in the implementation of this Act. The most important one is that despite clear delays or outright refusal to provide information the Information Commissioners do not hand down the penalties they should when the matter comes to them in second appeal. This has emboldened the officials to refuse giving information and as a result appeals keep piling up before the Information Commissions leading to delays and finally wishy washy orders. In some cases those demanding information have gone all the way to the courts and been able to get both information and the fine. However, going to the courts is a time consuming and expensive proposition and so it is not possible for everyone to do this.
The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath in Alirajpur uses the RTI Act extensively and gets considerable information and also succeeds in reining in corruption in many cases. However, sometimes when sensitive information is involved the officials refuse to give information and then it goes into the process of appeals which is often a lengthy and fruitless proposition. Here is a description of a case that illustrates the kind of problems that the RTI implementation faces.
Subhadra Khaperde, one of the activists, passed her Master of Social Work examination in 2008 from the Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya university in Indore in 2008 and paid the requisite fees for the issuance of the degree certificates in both Hindi and English. Despite one and a half years elapsing the degree certificates were not given to her. She went a number of times to the university and spoke to the department concerned but to no avail. Eventually she filed an RTI application in 2010 demanding that the degree certificates be delivered to her and the reason behind this inordinate delay and the disciplinary action that should be taken against the person responsible for this delay. Within seven days the Hindi degree certificate was delivered but the English degree certificate was delivered after 55 days resulting in a delay of 25 days beyond the 30 day period mandated in the RTI Act. There was no response at all to the question regarding the disciplinary action taken against the person responsible for the delay. 
Subhadra then went in first appeal to the Vice Chancellor demanding that action be taken against the erring official. To this the first response from the Vice Chancellor's office was that the RTI Act did not allow for asking questions about the functioning of the university!!! Subhadra then went in second appeal to the State Information Commission (SIC). In response to the notice sent by the SIC to the Vice Chancellor he asked Subhadra to present her case before him in person. When Subhadra did so, the Vice Chancellor said that she had already got her degrees and so why was she bent on action being taken against the person responsible for delay. After Subhadra insisted that action should be taken given the negligent behaviour of the staff of the examination department and that her problem was not her's alone but being faced by other students also who generally paid a bribe over and above the stipulated fees to get their degrees. She had not paid the bribe and that is why there was this inordinate delay. The Vice Chancellor in his order said that action would be taken under the rules against the person responsible and there the matter ended at his level and he sent a copy of this order to the SIC and to Subhadra. Later, Subhadra received another letter from the Vice Chancellor's office stating that the time period for giving the degree certificate according to the rules was one year and so there was no question of disciplining anyone as there had not been any delay. This despite the fact that the degree had been delivered to her after more than one and a half years. 
In the meantime the SIC became defunct. There were initially three Information Commissioners including the Chief Information Commissioner. One by one they all retired and so there was no one to hear appeals at the SIC. This was of course a ploy of the Government to make the Act ineffective as many scams of the Government of Madhya Pradesh had in the mean time been revealed through filing of RTIs by journalists and other citizens. One very active RTI activist, Ajay Dubey, who pursues his applications through the to High and Supreme Courts, then filed a petition in the High Court demanding the constitution of a full SIC consisting of eight information commissioners. After much dilly dallying the Government finally constituted the SIC again in 2013 in compliance with the orders of the High Court.
About a month ago a notice came from the SIC to Subhadra to present her case in person. On the appointed day Subhadra was present but the official from the university was not. Nevertheless the Information Commissioner asked Subhadra to present her case which she did. Then the Information Commissioner said that even if there was a delay she had got her degree so why was she pressing for action. Subhadra then explained to him the kind of corruption that is rampant in the examination department of the university and the great inconvenience that results for all students in general and it was not an isolated case. After that the Information Commissioner sent a strongly worded show cause notice to the registrar who is the information officer of the university asking why he should not be penalised for the delay in giving information.
This resulted in the Registrar calling Subhadra and pleading with her to take back her complaint as otherwise his career would be affected. Subhadra told him that he should have thought about this earlier and taken measures to improve the working of the examination department. To this he replied that since her action under the RTI Act the working of the examination department had been streamlined and now degrees, marksheets, migration certificates and the like are delivered within one week. Subhadra said that even though that is true, as she herself had later got her M.Phil degree and migration certificate in a jiffy, but since the case had now reached the SIC it would have to be resolved there.
In the next hearing at the SIC an official of the examination department was present and he pleaded with the SIC to show leniency as they had now improved their systems and they submitted a written apology for having cause inconvenience to Subhadra. The Information Commissioner asked Subhadra to be satisfied with this apology but she said that under the law the official should be penalised and she should be compensated for her inconvenience. Finally the Information Commissioner gave an order for a penalty of Rs 3000 instead of the Rs 25000 that should have been given according to the law. This of course was much better than on two earlier occasions when the KMCS members were not even given that as the information commissioners passed the order that the delay was not mala fide and so did not attract penalty!!!
This means that to get the full penalty we have to go to the High Court which will cost more than Rs 25000 and so it is not a feasible option. Thus, even though the RTI Act has brought about some accountability in the bureaucracy it has not been able to fulfil the potential that is there because the information commissioners rarely hand down the penalties that they should. That Subhadra could get Rs 3000 ( it still remains to be seen whether the official does give the money which anyway is much less than what has been expended in time and travelling expenses) is due to her obdurate persistence over a long period of four years and it is not possible for an ordinary person to so pressurise the information commissioners as she has done. Consequently the RTI Act remains hamstrung and corruption and non-performance rule the roost in government institutions. 


Monday, July 14, 2014

Perseverance Pays

Gender based violence especially rape within and without marriage continues unabated despite there being a higher level of awareness and legal strictness after the infamous Delhi gang rape incident of 2012. On the 13th of April 2014 a fifteen year old Gond Adivasi girl who is deaf and dumb and also has a disability in one hand was abducted and gang raped in Chhindwara district town in Madhya Pradesh. Despite the case being reported and also covered by the local newspapers, the police did not conduct a proper investigation primarily because one of the perpetrators was the son of a police officer in Chhindwara. The police took advantage of the fact that the girl was deaf and dumb to plead that she was not able to identify her assailants properly and communicate the details of the crime and so the investigation was closed with one person being arrested who was not directly involved in the rape. What is of real concern here is that the magistrate who is supposed to monitor the police investigation, especially when it is a case of rape of a disabled girl, went along with the police version and did not insist on independent investigation.
The matter would have ended there but for Kanika Sharma, a social activist who hails from Chhindwara and is an alumnus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Tuljapur. Initially she was not in Chhindwara but elsewhere on work, nevertheless she took up the matter by contacting activists in Bhopal and the rest of the country over phone and email and also liaised with the State and National Women's Commissions. However, since the local police in Chhindwara, from the Superintendent of Police downwards, were hell bent on hushing up the case nothing much happened for the abused girl.
Kanika, was not to be fobbed off, and so once she became free from her work elsewhere, she came down to Chhindwara and began campaigning for justice for the girl. As a first step formal complaints were filed with the State and National Women's Commissions resulting in notices being sent to the Superintendent of Police, Chhindwara. Next she got women's rights activists to form a team and carry out a fact finding of the whole incident. As a result of this fact finding mission and its report the sordid details of the case were revealed - the flimsy and false investigation by the police to shield the real culprits, one of whom was the son of a local police officer and the crude use by the doctors of the banned two finger insertion test to check whether the raped girl was a virgin or not and a despicable attempt on the basis of that by the police to characterise the girl as a sexually loose person. Giving the lie to the claim by the police that the girl could not identify the accused because of her disability, the girl revealed to the fact finding team the sequence of events and the locations where she was taken after abduction and raped and the persons who did so.
Thereafter, Kanika mobilised the women's groups and the press in Bhopal and a team went and met the Director General of Police (DGP) of Madhya Pradesh and submitted the fact finding report to him demanding prompt action to give justice to the girl. The press in Bhopal too highlighted the main issues of the poor investigation by the police and the use of the banned two finger test by the medical personnel. The DGP took immediate action and initiated a high level probe by the Inspector General of Police in charge of the women's cell who is mandatorily a lady officer. This resulted in a fresh First Information Report being filed naming all the accused and with the correct details of the case and the arrest of the accused. The procedure for financial compensation to the abused girl as per the law and rules has also been initiated.
This is an exceptional campaign and shows what perseverance can achieve given the tremendous spotlight against gender based violence that is there at present. While other NGOs and the press had tried to do something the active connivance of the police had stymied these earlier efforts. However, Kanika was not to be deterred and she pursued the matter with consummate activist skill, using legal acumen and media advocacy and forced the Police to act according to the law and provide justice and relief to the raped girl. This is a huge achievement that comes from Kanika skilfully leveraging the laws and the general mood against gender based violence, especially rape. The major problem in this country is that the laws are never implemented in favour of the poor and downtrodden. And especially if it is the police themselves who are in the legal dragnet, as they often are, then they invariably manage to wriggle out. On innumerable occasions we here in Alirajpur have had to haul the police up for their misdeeds but it is a tough ask requiring legal recourse in courts because the police and administrative set up is loathe to act against their own. Under the circumstances when the campaign began I had thought that in this case too, eventually Kanika would have to go to the courts which is both an expensive and time consuming proposition. However, the perseverance of Kanika and the general focus on acting strictly against gender based violence and possibly the fear of the police that if the matter went to court then strictures would be passed against them for inaction led to a successful conclusion to this campaign.
Kanika Sharma, who is pictured below, could have landed a plum job in a funding agency or a big NGO but she did not take part in the campus placement process organised by TISS after passing out from there recently with a post graduate degree in social work. Instead she has joined the National Alliance of People's Movements as a full time activist.

This is the kind of spirit and commitment that is required of the youth of today if the injustice that is there in society is to be done away with. Given the consumerist culture that engulfs society it is difficult for youth these days to shun money making jobs but to her credit Kanika has decided to take the road less travelled and if she continues with the same sagacity and courage that she has shown in her campaign for the Adivasi girl in Chhindwara then both she and the human race have a lot to look forward to. May her tribe increase.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Wild Wild West!!!

What happens when modernity in the form of capitalism and traditional Bhil adventurism meet in Alirajpur? You have a twenty first century version of the Wild Wild West!!! The Bhils have traditionally been a martial race and even today they keep bows and arrows. Till about a decade and a half back the Bhils in Alirajpur were a murderous lot embroiled in internecine killings and looting. Then things changed drastically. Huge investments began pouring into nearby Gujarat for the development of industry. A construction boom began and the Bhils were in great demand as labourers and masons. So they gave up their fratricidal warfare and instead began migrating to Gujarat in hordes and earned good money. The industrialisation also created jobs for the middle classes and so the younger generation among the farmers of Gujarat got educated and left their farms for the cities leaving their old men to manage as best as possible. This too created new opportunities for the Bhils who began share cropping these farms. All in all the Bhils have had a decade and some more of great earnings as compared to what was going on earlier. So they forgot to fight among themselves and began earning through their hard work.
However, their inherent adventurism could not be satisfied through such mundane slogging. So the more enterprising among the Bhils drifted into illegal occupations. The biggest money spinner of all is smuggling of liquor into Gujarat. Gujarat is officially a dry state and liquor can't be produced or sold legally. So it is sold in large quantities illegally and has to be supplied from outside the State. Alirajpur being on the border with Gujarat is obviously well placed to supply this liquor and so many of the Adivasis have become the liquor supplying mafia. Then there is the smuggling of cattle for conversion into beef. There is a huge export market for beef in the middle east that is supplied from India which has a surfeit of cattle. However, since the killing of cattle is regulated and prohibited in some cases here too illegal supply routes have developed which have to traverse remote areas. Once again the hilly fastnesses of Alirajpur bordering on the River Narmada provide an ideal route for cattle smuggling. Cattle is brought from all over Central India and transported across the Narmada into Maharashtra and thence to the Mumbai coastline where they are slaughtered in abattoirs before being exported to the Gulf. Finally there is sand smuggling. Sand has become a very scarce resource with the construction industry booming all over and Alirajpur happens to be a major source for this material. Since sand mining kills rivers it is prohibited beyond certain limits by environmental laws but once again illegalities dominate. Apart from this there are other illegal professions like selling of fake notes and fake silver or gold. The younger generation of educated Bhils of an adventurous bent have taken to these professions and become big time mafiosi.
If there is a mafia then there will also be  the need for guns. Since guns too are a controlled item in this country it is very difficult to get them legally. Naturally an illegal gun trade has also sprung up. This has been fuelled by the fact that there are some people called Sikligars living in remote parts of western Madhya Pradesh who are traditional arms manufacturers. They were originally part of the army of the Sikh Guru Govind Singh and have stuck to the profession of making fire arms of all shapes and sizes. They are so adept at this art that they just have to take apart any gun and that is enough for them to be able to produce a replica by working on iron and steel with their tools. Thus automatic pistols which cost lakhs of rupees are available from the Sikligars for just twenty to thirty thousand rupees and the simpler one shot pistols for as cheap as a few thousand rupees. Bullets are available for all calibres as they are smuggled out of the ordnance factories and even from the police armouries.
Thus, with all these hugely paying illegal businesses there is a lot of competition among the Bhils and frequently there are murderous battles between the different gangs and now the murder graph is rising again. But what is more of a concern is that the battle for justice being fought by the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has got slightly side tracked as a result of all this. First, many of the leading grassroots activists of the KMCS have now become part of the mafia given that it is much more profitable. Even though they normally do not dare to attack the members of the KMCS nevertheless the loss of good cadre to such illegal activity automatically puts a brake on the pace with which the KMCS can expand its activities. Second, the gang rivalry between the Bhils prevents the building up of a larger movement for the establishment of a just and sustainable socio-economic order. People now come to the KMCS to get problems solved and not to build up a strong movement to fight the larger structural injustices as was the case a decade ago. Over the past decade a huge change has come over the whole of Alirajpur and now vast amounts of illegal money rule the area as never before. Capitalism, today, has conquered completely one of the last bastions of subsistence adivasi living on the fringes of the modern economy where we had once dreamt of overthrowing it!!!!
The use of illegal firearms has become so rampant that they are brandished even in the traditional dispute resolution Panchayats. Recently one youth did so in such a Panchayat sitting to decide on a dispute over a girl who had been betrothed to one boy but was abducted by another. The youth was reported to the Police. The Police arrested him and some of his friends and then proceeded to beat them black and blue. The youth was beaten with batons on his body and one baton hit him in the back and ruptured his liver leading to his death. The ostensible reason for this beating was to get information from him about the gun that he had brandished but which could not be found. However, the Police are not really interested in stopping the gun trade but only in getting bribes out of it. So in this case the beating was being done to get the source of the gun so that more bribes could be got. The KMCS immediately organised a rally in protest and submitted a memorandum for strict action threatening to complain to the National Human Rights Commission. This resulted in all the policemen involved being charged with murder and being arrested and also suspended from their jobs.
Nothing is more evocative of this than the story of Kalusingh. He was a young illiterate lad who joined the KMCS with a desire to fight for justice for the Bhils in the early 1990s when KMCS mobilisation was at its peak. He learnt the ropes of grassroots mobilisation and taught himself to read and write and became one of the most able leaders of the movement. Then on one of his trips to Gujarat he met Chhotubhai Vasava who is the Member of Legislature from Jhagadia constituency in Bharuch district of Gujarat. Chhotubhai has built up a fief among this Adivasi populated area and rules it as if he is the monarch of all he surveys there. He has a finger in every pie. Kalusingh was greatly impressed and resolved that he too would set up a similar fief in Alirajpur and came back and began to work for that. He resigned from the KMCS and set up a gang of looters to rob people in Gujarat and garner funds. He then started a false campaign to give land rights to forest land and took a lot of money from people for that. Finally he became a professional killer taking contracts for abducting, looting and killing rich Adivasis in Gujarat. He became a big mafia don in and around his village and won the elections for Sarpanch and this gave him access to the huge funds coming through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. However, other gangs of Adivasis had also built up and one of these laid a trap for him and murdered him two years ago using illegal arms.
Given this kind of wild lawlessness, it is not surprising that the KMCS is hard put to just hold on to its bases let alone expand them. More than three decades of militancy and an ability to move the courts against both criminals and corrupt administrators and politicians, and a core cadre of brave full timers who are committed to fighting for justice come what may, provide some clout to the organisation that enables it to just about keep alive in the face of the ongoing capitalist onslaught. That too is possible because it sources external funds through the NGO Dhas Gramin Vikas Kendra to fund its programmes and full timers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Fiftysix Inch Syndrome

The other day while travelling in a bus I saw a Hindi film that I would not otherwise have seen. The film was "Dabangg" which released in 2010. It revolves around the central figure of a macho police officer who is not averse to bending the law and giving the rough treatment to assorted goons. The storyline is extremely weak and quite predictable and even the infrequent action scenes are jaded. Yet this film is the fourth highest all time grosser among Bollywood films and the highest grosser for the first two weeks. Dabangg, in Hindi, has come to mean a dominant character, one who can get things done, ethical and unethical, legal and illegal, on the force of his personality and physique. In fact if one were to go by recent Bollywood films it is the latter that is more important. Almost all film stars these days, both heroes and villains, sport hugely muscled bodies in tune with the popular metaphor in Hindi that a person with a fifty six inch chest will solve all problems.
Anyway this involuntary viewing of a third rate Hindi film did answer one question that had been bothering me for quite some time ever since the unexpectedly good performance of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi assembly elections in December 2013. Having seen many people's movements bite the dust as far as performance in elections is concerned I had not put much store by the AAP.  But surprise of surprises the party did very well and came close to forming the government on its own and did so later with the help of the few legislators of the Indian National Congress which it had decimated. What I couldn't fathom was how the voters believed that the AAP would be able to fulfil all the promises it was making about ridding the government of corruption and providing free or cheap public services of a good quality and voted for it in such large numbers. Clearly, they believed in the capabilities of its leader Arvind Kejriwal who was leading from the front. Even though small and frail looking he obviously conformed to the metaphorical fifty six inch syndrome.
After this came the parliamentary elections in May 2014 and the high pitched campaign of Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate. I did what I thought was a pretty nifty analysis of the voting possibilities in various states across the country and came to the conclusion that the BJP and its allies would have to perform something like a miracle by winning more than 80 percent of the seats in the states in which they were strong and also in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where they had been languishing for some time. Surprise again as they went even one better by making clean sweeps in some of these states and getting more than 90 percent of seats overall from the states that I had considered for my analysis. Once again it was the charisma of Modi and the belief of the voters that he would be able to fulfil all the tall promises he was making that carried the day. Modi repeatedly used macho metaphors, not the least the one that he had a fifty six inch chest!!!
I am a person who is totally against the phenomenon of individual leadership which is an imperative in centralised and hierarchical systems. This scepticism regarding the liberating possibilities of individual leadership has been reinforced by the failure of individual leaders of great charisma, across the religious, social, economic and political spectrum in bringing about the establishment of a just socio-economic order (business leaders are by definition crooks who are interested only in furthering their economic interests!!!). That is why I find it a little difficult to understand why people fall for the rhetoric of leaders, especially ones who boast that they are super human and have fifty six inch chests. The commercial success of the film Dabangg solved this problem of understanding for me. People like simple linear solutions to difficult and complex structural problems even if that is illogical. Even though all that the hero of the film Dabangg did is impractical and cannot be replicated in real life, nevertheless a large number of viewers spent their hard earned money to go along with this fiction and liked it. Similarly, in elections also, voters seem to prefer the comfort of believing that individual heroes in the social, religious or political spheres can solve their problems which are primarily structural in nature and created by the greed and oppression of the leaders of business. Commercial films, television and sport, all controlled by big business, have always played a major role in promoting this fiction that entices people into vicariously succeeding through their heroes but the extent to which this has now come to mesmerise voters in elections is very disturbing indeed. The rise of the AAP and Arvind Kejriwal also was orchestrated by the media initially, only to be jettisoned by them later on when Arvind began to get too big for his boots and began attacking the very business barons who control the media!!!  Anarchists like us get listened to only by a very small minority who have no other choice but to listen to us having been badly disillusioned by their heroes!!!

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Rise and Rise of the RSS

The biggest network, numerically, of volunteer cadres in India currently is that of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or the National Volunteer Organisation which was set up in 1925 by K.B. Hegdewar in Nagpur in Maharashtra to promote a strong Indian nation rooted in the ideology of Hinduism. Hindus have a religion but it is of many sects and involving many Gods. Shankaracharya in the early 9th century C.E. had been the first to give a unified coherent form to the various philosophical and religious threads that make up Hinduism and also institutionalise it through the establishment of Maths or seminaries. Shankaracharya wrote commentaries on the early philosophical texts of the Hindus and made them more accessible thus rejuvenating the spiritual tradition as opposed to the ritualism of day to day Hindu religious practice. However, even after this the followers of Hinduism remained a diverse if numerous lot. Then in the early twentieth century Vivekananda set up the Ramakrishna Mission to once again stress the philosophical and spiritual roots of Hinduism and Dayanand Saraswati too did something similar with Arya Samaj. These were, however, essentially religious movements and did not have a political thrust. The RSS on the contrary had from the beginning a political agenda centred around the creation of a Hindu Rashtra or Hindu Nation with Hindus controlling state power to end the control of state power in India by followers of other religions since the days of the Delhi Sultanate in the early 13th century.
Thus, once India became independent the RSS set up a political party in 1951 to contest elections and gain State power named the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. This party later became in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which came to power in India as the head of a coalition government in 1998 and has now come to power with a simple majority of its own in the recently held parliamentary elections. Throughout the period from 1951 to the present there has been a continuous inflow of RSS members into the Jana Sangh and the BJP and most of its top political leaders like Atal Behari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani and the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi were all full timer workers of the RSS early in their careers. They are all active participants in the programmes of the RSS as is clear from the picture below which shows Advani taking part in a parade of the organisation.
 The RSS is a hierarchical organisation run by full timers of whom the Pracharaks work at the grassroots level and then there are Pramukhs or leaders at higher levels right up to the Sarsanghchalak who is the head of the organisation headquartered in Nagpur. The organisation has Shakhas or community organisations at the grassroots level which conduct various activities ranging from ideological indoctrination to combat training, the last performed in the uniform of Khaki shorts and white shirt with caps as shown in the picture above. The Pracharaks are committed people who live extremely frugally and in addition to them there are others also who too live very simply and work part time. There is a larger membership of sympathisers of the RSS who contribute to the organisation through support in the form of time and money. Thus, in organisational form the RSS is very much like a Communist party but the ideology is different. The crucial difference in ideology of course is that apart from the stress on the creation of a Hindu nation it also promotes capitalism. In fact right from 1951 what has kept the political thrust of the RSS going, through thick and thin is its espousal of capitalism which has got it support from the capitalists and capitalism oriented middle and upper classes. This is an important aspect of the RSS-BJP relationship that needs to be underlined to understand their success.
The RSS wants to establish the Hindu Rashtra. However, in the modern context of nation states controlled by capitalist oligarchies it is not possible to establish a nation state without going along with the capitalists. That is why the RSS took a conscious decision to keep its ideology of Hindu ascetism and voluntarism only within its organisation while within the BJP, its political outfil, through which it was to get control of the Indian nation state, it adopted the ideology of neo-liberal capitalism and sought the support of the capitalists to win the elections and then indulge in corrupt governance. In the process within the BJP it has been able to assimilate many intellectuals from the centre and the left who may not be so enamoured of its Hindu ascetism and its Hindu nationalism but feel that it can operate as a liberal democratic party. Within social movements like ours, however, we are not prepared to make compromises and would like to stick to our ideals even in our day to day political practice and that is why we are marginal both in terms of mass following and in terms of resource mobilisation.
The RSS has built up not only the BJP but also many other civil society organisations involving ethnicities, castes, gender, labour, youth, farmers, children and even indigenous science. There are today lakhs of Pracharaks and millions of sympathisers of the organisation and they all put in hard work at various levels to further the goal of the establishment of a Hindu society controlled by a Hindu State. The RSS continually contacts people working for the society in various other organisations to become its members.We have seen in Alirajpur in particular and western Madhya Pradesh in general how over the past thirty years the RSS has built up its membership among the Bhil Adivasis with a plethora of civil society organisations staffed by dedicated full timers living and working very simply and sometimes poached from organisations like ours. We have lost many of our cadres to the RSS. So while mass organisations like ours have only a limited footprint extending to about thirty to forty villages the RSS has covered the whole region with members in each village. The main reason for this spread of the RSS as opposed to our marginalisation is the resources that it has at its command. These resources come from its capitalist supporters and from the BJP which has come to power since the early 1990s in various states and at the centre and so has access to state funds. In all elections from the Panchayats to the Parliament the full timers and the sympathisers of the RSS work over time to campaign for the candidates and also provide them with funds.
There came a time at the turn of the century when the RSS in Alirajpur decided that the KMCS was a hindrance to its spread in the thirty to forty villages in which our organisation was working because try as they might they could not buy out a majority of our cadre and so began threatening our workers. This was the time when the KMCS was severely strapped for funds because there was no external funding and also the contributions from the members was dwindling. So to withstand the RSS onslaught the KMCS had to access funding from outside in various ways and that is how it has still maintained itself against the RSS in its small area of work. But if it wants to the RSS can wipe us out very easily by using State power.
The RSS is consequently a well organised set up with extensive capitalist funding which has systematically sought State power so that it can establish a capitalist Hindu Rashtra. Even if on the face of it the new government in India is led by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi the influence and the background planning and implementation of the RSS has to be taken into account. We, in the social movements for the establishment of a socially and economically just and environmentally sustainable society will have to chalk out strategies to counter this capitalist and sectarianist juggernaut with our limited resources. A daunting task!!!  

Monday, June 2, 2014

The American Nightmare

One of the defining characteristics of our times is the dominance of the United States of America in almost all spheres stretching from the military to the economic, social and cultural. What the Americans decree, the rest of the world complies with, the elites willingly and the masses under duress. However, without doubt it is the military dominance which is the most important in geo-political terms and also ensures its dominance in other sectors, where it may be slipping somewhat. This has hit the Islamic nations in the Middle East and further up to Pakistan the hardest while affecting all humans, not to forget animals and birds, including the citizens of the USA to a greater or lesser extent. Since there is very little individuals can do against this military dominance of America and its deleterious effects on the world apart from venting their spleen through choice epithets, which too is an unsatisfying exercise, it gladdens the heart when one comes across well created spoofs on the American obsession with militarism.
One such satirical film is "Tere Bin Laden"  produced in Bollywood and released in 2010, conceived and directed by Abhishek Sharma. Its a laugh riot from the beginning to the end, spoofing the mad rush among the people from the subcontinent to go to America and the seamy world of television journalism here in addition to American militarism. The story line is obviously far fetched but it succeeds, tongue firmly in the cheek, in panning American militarism extremely well.
Apart from the great stress breaking laughs what tickled me most were some very insightful vignettes of the world of today. The film is available for viewing here and I will only elaborate on some of the parts that throw greater light on our times. There is one character who is a leader of the Pakistan Communist Party who runs a radio service from his home through which he exhorts the people to organise and bring about a revolution in Pakistan!!! This drives home brilliantly how anachronistic the communist parties in the subcontinent have become in the face of the global dominance of capitalism. Capitalism has used repression, co-option and control of the media and academia to make mass mobilisation for revolution or even for plain reform or implementation of the rule of law an extremely difficult proposition. Instead of facing up to this hard reality most communists are still living in a world of dreams far removed from reality.
Then there is the head of the Pakistani intelligence unit who asks the American intelligence guy why they are bombing Afghanistan when they have clear information that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan. The American, portrayed excellently by Barry John, who is a Britisher who has settled in India and is a well known theatre director and acting teacher, replies that the USA has a military budget of a 100 billion dollars and it can't be spent just by his sipping coffee!! Later when they locate through satellite the truck in which  the fake Osama bin Laden is travelling and the Pakistani intelligence chief suggests that they send a company of soldiers to apprehend them, the American impatiently replies that there is no time for that and that he will "toast" him through a remote missile attack!!! This underscores the way in which militarism has gripped the ruling classes in America and they do not think twice about killing people or as revealed now by Snowden, using technology to conduct mass surveillance in order to kill people, as this both props up their economy through unnecessary military spending and also maintains their vice like control of the world economy and society. The American dream has truly become an American Nightmare for the whole world and there does not seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel!!! We are all going to get "toasted" sooner or later!!!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Health Blues

There is a concept called the "Disability Adjusted Life Years" which is a measure of the overall disease burden expressed as the cumulative number of years lost due to ill health, disability and early death. This concept tries to focus our attention to the hard fact that disease and disability which may arise due to various factors may severely restrict our chances of earning a livelihood and so hamper our productive lives. It is very difficult to quantify the aggregate economic loss to the nation or one of its provinces from this health burden but it is a well known fact that for most of the people of this country disease is the cause of continuous income loss and frequently major economic shocks. Especially for the Adivasis.
The Bhil Adivasis traditionally relied on their medicine men to cure them of diseases. These medicine men or "Burwa" as they are called, depended on a combination of invoking the spirits and dispensing with herbs to cure the ill. These methods were not always successful and so morbidity and mortality rates were high. Unfortunately modern medicine or other schools of medicine such as Ayurveda or Unani have not been able to improve matters much. Primarily because public health services in Madhya Pradesh, which are supposed to provide these other forms of treatment are close to non-existent. Consequently there is a huge tribe of quacks practising irrational medicine in rural areas and even in towns indiscriminately injecting anti-biotics and steroids and administering intravenous saline and other drugs. The patients get some temporary relief but they are ill again and sometimes they even die due to mis-prescription. Matters are compounded by the fact that most Bhil Adivasis are under nourished and so their auto-immune system does not function properly. So the Adivasis are mostly between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Its not as if the problem is faced only by the poor and illiterate Adivasis. Shankar, the General Secretary of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath, who has a middle class income and a fair amount of education, too is not in a position to tackle diseases of a serious nature. He began complaining of pain in the small of his back and also in urination some time back. He first went to the Government District Hospital in Alirajpur. This hospital has doctors but very little else. The diagnostic facilities do not work because of lack of staff and reagents. The X-Ray and Sonography machines are also non-functional. The doctor prescribed some medicine which Shankar had to buy from the market as it was not available in the hospital dispensary. However, this medicine did not work and his pain increased. He was then advised by the doctor to go to the nearby town of Dahod in Gujarat and consult a private doctor. This private doctor had a slew of tests done and then prescribed some medicines. This too did not work. Then the doctor had a sonography done and that revealed that there was a small stone in the kidney that was causing the problem but he said that Shankar would have to go to Ahmedabad to get the stone removed. Shankar instead came to Indore where I reside. We deliberated whether he should go to the government run Maharaja Yashwantrao hospital but in the end we decided against it because another Adivasi colleague Shaitan from Dewas district told us that he had gone there for his own stone in the kidney problem and it hadn't been solved and so he had to go to a private doctor instead. Eventually we went to consult a private doctor who used lithotripsy, which is a procedure for the breaking up of kidney stones through concentrated sound wave hammering and does not require surgery, to break up the stone and cure Shankar of the problem. The treatment cost Rupees fifteen thousand in toto. However, that was because I went along with him and asked the doctor incisive questions about the problem and its treatment. There is every likelihood that if Shankar had gone alone he would have been fleeced because Shaitan who went alone ended up paying Rupees Thirty Thousand for a small stone removal through lithotripsy. For about five months Shankar has not been able to work properly suffering from excruciating pain at times and he has only now returned to normalcy.
Shankar's case reminded me of my own serious health problem of two decades back which in a way forced me to move out of Alirajpur onto a different track altogether. Alirajpur in those days was a malaria endemic area with deaths every year due to malaria. I too contracted malaria and began having repeated attacks of the disease. Every time I would take the course of chloroquine tablets and get well only to fall ill again after a month or two. Eventually I had to come to Indore and consult a private doctor there. The doctor said that I would have to take a prolonged course of treatment consisting of some other medicinces and distance myself from Alirajpur while I was taking these medicines. This was at a time when I had no resources at all and so I not only had to move out of Alirajpur but also give up activism for some time and start doing consultancies to earn money. Even if I did go back to activism after some time, I did not give up earning money from consultancies and that still sustains me even though it has meant that I cannot give full time to activism. Malaria has now been controlled in Alirajpur because over the last decade serious efforts were made to provide quick and proper treatment to those who were afflicted with the disease by the government health system. This just goes to show that when the government does decide to do something it succeeds in doing it but generally there is a lack of commitment.
There are many instances of Adivasis suffering from simple to serious diseases and losing time to work for their livelihoods or even dying only because they do not have free or cheap quality medical services. This is in fact a nationwide problem leading to considerable productivity loss throughout the country. Like in the case of education so also in the case of health, government investment in setting up and running a free or cheap quality public health system yields huge gains for the economy and society as a whole which far outstrip the costs incurred. Yet like the public education system, the public health system in this country is in a shambles and we are as a nation losing hugely in terms of productivity and individually many families are getting wrecked.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Whither Principled Politics

The results of the Lok Sabha elections have been somewhat of a dampener for the huge groundswell that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had generated throughout the country. As it turns out the hugely funded intensive and Modi centric electoral campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has carried the day with the voters believing that they will be able to solve their problems. Be that as it may it is time for those who believe in principled politics to do some stock taking so as to be able to chart the way forward.
The silver lining obviously is that the AAP succeeded in winning four seats in Punjab. We will analyse the reasons for this excellent victory by and by. In Delhi too even though the AAP did not win any seats it did improve on its vote share from the assembly elections in December from 29.3 % to 32.9 %. Unfortunately the BJP increased its vote share in the same time from 34.4 % to 46.4 % riding the Modi wave and garnered most of the vote share lost by the Congress from 24.6 % to 14.7 % and also by other parties. Thus, it does not seem as if the people of Delhi have deserted the AAP because it deserted them by resigning from the Government after just forty nine days as is being claimed by many. Since three of the BJP legislators including its Chief Ministerial candidate have now been elected to the parliament they are in less of a position to form a government than earlier with only 29 legislators. Therefore, it seems likely that there will be another election to the Delhi Assembly soon. If that is the case then the AAP will have to fight hard to convince people to give them the vote that will transfer from the Congress which by now has become thoroughly discredited. As things stand coming to power in Delhi is a must if AAP is to further consolidate its position in India and build up an alternative political formation that can win power through the elections. For this the AAP in Delhi will have to jettison some of its waywardness and realise that the people will vote only for concrete betterment of their lives and not for high moral values only.
However, what is of greater concern is that out of the total 434 candidates of AAP, most have garnered a few thousand votes only. Even the activists of the people's movements, who have some mass base, have not been able to get many votes with Medha Patkar topping with 76451 votes which is still way below the proportion required to save the deposit which is one sixth of the total votes polled. Actually the chances of their victory were low from the beginning given the fact that they had very little resources in terms of human power and money. But in most cases even the members of their mass organisations did not vote for these activists leading to a piquant situation where these members preferred the established parties instead. This is a long standing problem of mass movements and even the AAP tag could not solve it!!! Principled politics where money is not expended in large amounts and issues of sustainable and equitable development and corruption free governance are raised does not seem to hold any water with the electorate because they feel that such candidates will not win. Why is it that they electorate is swayed by the high decibel campaigning of the mainstream political parties and the tall claims for economic development and prosperity that are being made by them?
The reason is that we in the people's movements do not have the resources to spread our message of alternative equitable and sustainable development and corruption free governance or even implement some pilot projects to show how this is feasible. The people these mass movements work with are the poorest of the poor and so they cannot contribute much and in a global scenario controlled by rapacious capitalists it is very difficult to get funds from outside. It is from this frustration arising from the inability to get their message across to a large number of people over such a long time, that so many activists were enthused by the prospect of getting into the Lok Sabha on an AAP ticket. But even the AAP in Delhi which had started off this rush for getting into the Lok Sabha failed to do so because it faced a resource crunch this time vis-a-vis the BJP and the Congress, both of which spent huge resources on their campaigning, especially through TV and print media. In fact with the end of the elections and the poor results there is now a financial crisis for the AAP because donations have declined drastically and the expenses of running a party in an expensive place like Delhi continue. The volunteers are all tired after fighting two consecutive elections on shoestring budgets and are now apprehensive of having to fight yet another election for the Delhi Assembly shortly making it three elections in a row within the space of just one year. If crowd funding, which has sustained the AAP so far, begins tapering off then that is the beginning of the end of the AAP. Thus, the performance in Punjab is heartening. Like in the case of Delhi during the assembly elections earlier, in Punjab too the electorate had become sick and tired of the corrupt and oppressive rule of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)/BJP combine and since the Congress too was discredited, it voted for AAP in such large numbers. The ground organisation of the AAP was not very strong and neither did they have resources in terms of volunteers and money but still the people voted for the party desperately seeking an alternative as it had done in Delhi earlier. Thus, there is a need for introspection within the AAP and it should not take the electorate for granted. Instead of trying to go for big bang reforms which are difficult to implement, the basic agenda of clean governance and cheap service delivery which were the simple promises of AAP should be fulfilled and the AAP will have to convey this to the voters prior to the assembly elections in Delhi so that the party base can be strengthened. MLAs are ex-officio members of various oversight committees like health, education, police etc and they should actively pursue these channels to tackle corruption in the six months or so that they now have before elections. Moreover, the MLALAD funds can be utilised to build infrastructure. While fighting principled battles over corruption and going to jail for them may get media attention, they will not get votes any more as is now becoming clear. For this the AAP in Delhi will have to put its head down and work among the masses to provide them with immediate relief. There are also indications that the decision making in the AAP is controlled by a select few and there is a lack of inner party democracy. All these issues need to be cleared up and a clear structure of the party has to be set up.
While it is important to get into the legislatures and the parliament and the AAP has succeeded in doing so, there is little chance of this being replicated by most mass movement activists presently who neither have the resources nor the popular appeal that is necessary. Possibly a system of proportional representation may provide a better chance but given that the Congress and now the BJP have both benefited from the first past the post system which has given them far higher proportions in terms of seats while getting much lower vote shares, it is unlikely that they will agree to a change in the system. The BJP especially has benefited heavily this time as it has gained the highest seat share to vote share ratio for forming a government in the history of independent India due to the fragmentation of the votes between its opponents. If a third front had materialised before the elections with a clear choice for Prime Minister then the parties like the Samajwadi Pary, Bahujan Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal United would have fared much better. But personal ambitions of the leaders prevented this and they are now marginalised. In fact the AAP too rode on a high horse refusing to ally with any party branding them all to be corrupt!!! And everything was staked on Arvind Kejriwal fighting Narendra Modi in Varanasi. Ultimately the hugely more well funded campaign around Modi proved to be a much better selling proposition than that of the AAP and Kejriwal.
Where does that leave the people's movements and the principled politics that they practice? Well there is no alternative to working doubly hard at the grassroots to build up conscious mass bases that are as sceptical of the possibilities of sharing centralised power as many of us activists who root for decentralised politics are. The battle is tough no doubt given the immense control of the media that the mainstream parties and the corporations have so that they easily drown out our forlorn voices but there is no alternative to practising principled politics at the grassroots over the long term because it is unlikely that we will be able to garner the kind of resources that are required to win elections and run political parties except in a few places. It also remains to be seen whether all those who stood for elections and their volunteer supporters who all joined AAP in a very informal manner will cohere in future into a full fledged political party. Especially since there is a wide spectrum of ideologies of these people and they have mostly joined AAP because of its promise of sending them to the Lok Sabha and not because of an agreement with all of the party's policies and programmes or its concentration of crucial decision making at the top among just a handful of leaders.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

How will People's History be Written?

The India Against Corruption movement which has now metamorphosed into the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is not a fly by night phenomenon. It has evolved from years of grassroots mobilisation across the country against unjust and unsustainable development and corruption by many small and big movements. It has been preceded by the Right to Forests, Right to Food, Right to Information and the Right to Work movements. These new mobilisations that were clearly outside the pale of legislative politics and preferred direct action began with the Chipko movement in the early 1970s and gained considerable momentum with the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in the 1980s. In a sense the NBA brought into play many of the political strategies that were used by many other movements thereafter and which now also form the spine of the AAP. These are - massive involvement of middle and upper class urbanites and especially non-resident Indians in providing intellectual and monetary support to battles on the field including participation in it as full time activists after giving up lucrative careers, use of media in a big way to promote the movement, use of the internet once it became popular and trenchant legal and policy advocacy and the use of iconic dharnas and hunger strikes to rivet the attention of the world and the cynical politicians as shown in this picture of Medha on one of her many fasts.

Thus, the NBA made a significant change in the way grassroots politics is practised in this country and this has now led to the AAP which is on the cusp of making a significant change in the way electoral mainstream politics is to be practised in this country having built on the foundations that were laid earlier.
Consequently it is of the utmost importance that a detailed history of the NBA is written. Nandini Oza, who spent over a decade as a grassroots organiser of the NBA in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, has taken on this onerous task. She has gone about it in a very systematic way. She has first interviewed hundreds of people who were involved in the NBA in various places and in various capacities from grassroots organisers to urban activists in all the three states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Both those affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project and those who have participated in the struggles out of commitment or sympathy have been interviewed. These interviews have covered all aspects and all views both for and against the various twists and turns in policy and programmes of the NBA over the last two and a half decades. These oral histories have now been edited and indexed and provide a treasure trove for the researcher. The work of transcribing the oral material into written text is in progress.
The problem is that Nandini has done this Herculean task voluntarily without any formal funding support so far except in one instance for some of the recording of the oral history and its editing. She has done various odd job consultancies and sometimes got ad hoc donations from people in the form of time, expertise and money but now a time has come that such voluntary work is becoming difficult. There is an urgent need for institutional funding support for this initiative if all the oral material is to be transcribed and then researched and a detailed history of the NBA written on the basis of this. Unfortunately despite several efforts Nandini has failed to get any institutionalised funding support for her work.
This makes me wonder as to how people's history will be written? While there have been several books on the NBA by scholars who have been funded by universities these cannot match the depth and authenticity of the oral histories that Nandini has collected. Almost certainly the future of India will be influenced in many ways by the political work that has been done by the NBA and so it is imperative for this great archive of oral histories to be transcribed and made available for wider research. Since it is clear that establishment institutions are fighting shy of funding this the only recourse is for it to be crowd funded. An effort has to be made by all those who are concerned and feel that this is a worthwhile project to chip in and make it possible. For further details on how to support the initiative please get in touch with Nandini at her email - nandinikoza@gmail.com