Life is larger than all Arts, Sciences, Religions, Philosophies, trade, techs, States... through times and places.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Food for Work or Work for Food

Taxing Survival in Mumbai | Photo by Remigius de Souza
 About 60 percent people in Mumbai are slums-dwellers and squatters. 
They are displaced and marginalized mainly due to so-called development projects.

(The strike by the wholesale traders was going on a couple of months ago, when I met two friends who are highly educated professionals. One was visitor from other state. The strike was a major event then. The commodities were in short-supply. My friends are interested in ecology. Their input mainly comes from workshops, seminars, books etc. They, hoever, did not mention the strike during our talk. So I asked, “Do you know what 'Food for Work' is?” No, they didn't know. This incident made me write this post.)

Food for Work

'Food for Work': I heard this benevolent concept a few decades back. I was in contact with some NGOs working in the villages. The work involved 'Conservation of Water' in drought stricken rural areas for peasants. It was bunding the farms, deepening the silted village water tanks etc. so that the rain water is retained in the scanty rainfall regions.

The 'bunding' and ‘de-silting’ of wells and village tanks is an ancient skill, still practiced by peasants by 'Community Participation' in many parts of the country. Since the Industrialization infiltrated it is getting lost. Or is it already lost?

The Concept, 'Food for Work' originated in the West; it is anybody's guess. It, perhaps, came from some foreign Funding NGOs / Agencies.

I found something amiss in their activities. Plants — grasses, shrubs, trees — also help water conservation, besides they stop soil erosion, add mulch / fertilizer to the soil. But it was not on their agenda. This aspect was either ignored, forgotten, or was unknown to NGOs or the concerned departments.

Plants, however, were a part of another programme for ‘Reforestation’, in another package, in other regions. Perhaps they did not see that plants also conserve water… hence they did not combine it with ‘Conservation of Water’.

Work for Food

Paddy Farming in Konkan | Photo by Pooja Rani

Peasants 'Work for Food' all their life to 'produce food' for self and others. It is most unfortunate they are now 'Beneficiaries' in the times of Development. In 65 years the conditions have worsened. Incidentally the term ‘Beneficiaries’, also, is imported.

I recall a conversation from a novel by Sharat Chandra Chatarji: “First you cut the limbs of a person, and then carry him on your shoulder; that is your idea of charity”. 

None of the so-called leaders thought of taking them along on the path of inclusive development, from the beginning of Independence.

On the contrary they – the peasants – being Unorganized Sector of the Indian society, became a soft target of exploitation, in the name of development, in creating and accelerating economic disparity, in depriving social services - healthcare, literacy, appropriate education, communications… this is a long list.

Ghettos of Development

They targeted peasants’ lands for creating the “Ghettos of Development” in the rural areas; they were displaced and marginalized, without their justified Rehabilitation. It took sixty five years for India to change, not scrap, the draconian law: The Land Acquisition Act. That too is an amendment, with loopholes and ambiguities that will be revealed when it is implemented.

Unfortunately, the managers – the elite ruling minority – of the country's affairs are shining with reflected light. They, in the heat of the powers in hands, conveniently forget the majority of 900 plus million peasants are actually running (feeding) this nation.

Otherwise why the ‘Rupee’ should fall in International Market? All efforts by RBI, FM have failed, so far! Actually it has been sliding down for decades, if any of the senior citizens do remember! I don't see any other rationale for the 'fall' of the Rupee.
In his recent article in The New York Times, 'Why India Trails China', Amartya Sen says, 'China, which during the Mao era made advances in land reform and basic education and health care, embarked on market reforms in early 1980s; its huge success changed the shape of the world economy. India has paid inadequate attention to these lessons.'

He ends the article, 'For India to match China... It needs a better-educated and healthier labor-force at all levels of society. What it needs most is more knowledge and public discussion about the nature and the huge extent of inequality and its damaging consequences, including for economic growth.'

I do not compare India with other nations like Amartya Sen or others. India, as well as each of her regions, is unique, because of the natural and cultural biodiversity. Each region, within country or each state, is capable of solving its problems with cooperation of the people, they having deep perceptions of land-water-life. Government is merely a tool to provide facilities, not a ruler to coerce people to drive economic growth for a few.

Each Place is Unique

Once I had spent almost a decade to motivate someone in a NGO to dig pond of about 20 ft x 40 ft size, in their land in the dry-arid region. During monsoon it was full with water; it attracted water-loving wildlife. Even if it dries after a few months, it will get refilled.

In another barren land, in the same region, I had suggested to dig a large tank to take advantage of its natural slope of the land. I advised not to go deeper than 5-6 ft. as there was possibility of salinity in the subsoil. I also advised them to plant thick cuttings of banyan branches in the land! In the first monsoon (15-20 inches annual rainfall) some of them had roots and leaves sprouting. In this land the NGO had started a Vocational Training Institute.

Could this example of conservation/ restoration of Land–Water–Plants be a part of curriculum in villages, in schools, colleges, or vocational schools? It never occurred to the people who were running the NGO.

Each place is unique. Here, in the realms of Nature, regimentation and compartmentalization as in the civilized societies doesn't work. It needs unique corrective measures in harmony with Nature.
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© Remigius de Souza. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The White Man's Burden

The White Man’s Burden

Rudyard Kipling by Remigius de Souza

My information about Rudyard Kipling was limited only to:
  1. He was born in the campus of Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai, where I was studying architecture;
  2. He was a British poet.
I was doing my first year in architecture when I made this portrait. I copied a picture in pencil on handmade paper, taken from some book or magazine. That was years ago. I wanted to sell it. Thankfully it didn’t work.

Later I read a couple of his poems, but couldn’t stick any more. Decades later I saw an animated cartoon series, “Mogali”, or Jungle Book, on TV, once in a while. I was more interested in graphics, not the story.

The story is disappointing because the animals were made to talk and behave like humans; that’s an insult to animals. It was neither a work of imagination nor for the love of animals. Even to abuse any person by a name of any animal is an insult to that animal.

Kipling was an imperialist, that’s known. But whatever I learnt from the textbooks in school that projected Britain is a democratic country, which I could never believe.

Britain and its government and the people may be anything else, which is their right, but to call them democratic is preposterous. Certainly there may be few persons who believed in democracy and lived in democratic spirit and values, but that cannot be generalized.

Any country or society may be a superpower, which doesn’t mean it is superior to any other country or society or people.

How could any democratic society enslave or colonize or invade other people - other countries?
How could any country and its citizens go to the polar uninhabited region, put their flag there, and claim it is their land?
Such a civilization is a curse to the land and waters. Animals are better.

Perhaps, I shouldn’t refer to any country and/or its people in the place of their government – democratic, or fundamentalist, or totalitarian, or monarchy.
Better say, Indian government instead of India or Indian people. Better say Chinese government rather than China or Chinese people. Better say British government, neither Britain nor British people. That’s how I should address an issue if it refers to any government.

It is our present predicament that we are such weaklings.

Is there democracy in true sense anywhere? May be there is. I have heard about Vermont, but I don’t know anything about the place.
Certainly there is democracy: It is among the tribal – adivasi – aborigine communities, which still prevails in spite of onslaught by the civilized societies.
They are in fact the WORLD HERITAGE, which needs to be treated with care and caution.

DEMOCRACY can function only at a community level, small nations at human scale. Then we will not need any governments that exist in present forms, and we will not need cities – the symbol of centralized power.

NOTE: The White Man's Burden, poem by Kipling
Remigius de Souza | Mumbai

© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.