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Ecological Swaraj: Towards a Sustainable and Equitable India


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India is clearly on a path of ecological suicide, increasing inequality, and conflicts. An urgent search for alternative pathways that can lead it to sustainability and equity is illuminated by myriad practices of communities and agencies around the country, based on which a framework of radical ecological democracy is emerging.

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Ecological Swaraj: Towards a Sustainable and Equitable India

  1. 1. Ecological Swaraj Towards a Sustainable and Equitable India
  2. 2. ‘Development’ • Development = opening up of opportunities: intellectual, cultural, material, social vs • ‘Development’ = material growth (through industrial and financial expansion) – measured in % economic growth, per capita income, etc
  3. 3. Development = economic growth at all costs •Industrialisation & infrastructure, esp. large-scale •Green Revolution: heavy inputs (chemicals, irrigation, hybrids), commercialisation, monocultures •Urbanisation: focus on cities, away from villages •Consumption = consumerism (demand-led economy)
  4. 4. Economic ‘reforms’? 1991-onwards… • Trade (export-import) liberalisation • Foreign direct investment • Delicensing / single window clearances • Privatisation
  5. 5. Today’s vision of ‘development’ Violence against nature, people, and cultures
  6. 6. Destruction of India’s environment – – – – >5.5 million ha. forest diverted in last 60 years 70% waterbodies polluted or drained out 40% mangroves destroyed Some of the world’s most polluted cities and coasts – Nearly 10% wildlife threatened with extinction Smitu Kothari
  7. 7. India’s ‘development’ refugees • Over 60 million displaced in last 50 years • Many millions more dispossessed of land, water, natural resources, livelihoods • Impoverishment of small farmers: 250,000 suicides (many in Punjab!)
  8. 8. So-called ‘natural disasters’ are often human-made
  9. 9. Impacts: growing inequality, leaving half our population behind • Myth of growing employment: ‘jobless growth’ in organised sector: – 26.7 million in 1991 – 30 million in 2012 • Wealth inequities: – top 10% own 53% wealth – bottom 10% own 0.2% • % below poverty line: 38 to 70% • World’s largest number of malnourished and undernourished women/children
  10. 10. India the new Coloniser (joining China, Japan…) Over half a million hectares in Africa taken over by Indian companies to grow crops for export to Europe etc More coming up in L. America Direct/indirect support by government
  11. 11. India (& China, etc) on the path of ‘globalised development’? Gandhi: ‘if India is to take Britain’s path of ‘development’, it will strip the world bare like locusts’
  12. 12. Towards alternatives
  13. 13. Food security: sustainable agriculture
  14. 14. Deccan Development Society (AP): integrating conservation, equity, & livelihoods through sustainable agriculture •Reviving traditional diversity, promoting cultivated and wild foods •Creating community grain banks •Empowering women/dalit farmers, securing land rights •Creating consumer-producer links (Zaheerabad org. food restaurant) •Linking to Public Distribution System
  15. 15. An individual revolutionary… Natwar Sarangi Narishu vill, Cuttack dist, Odisha Growing 360 varieties of rice Seed albums and banks GenX: Jubraj Swain
  16. 16. Can India feed itself? •Organic farming can be highly productive •Integrated food systems (crop-livestock-fish) •Rescuing land from non-food cash crops •Encouraging diversity of food habits, farmerconsumer links
  17. 17. Water security: decentralised harvesting & distribution
  18. 18. Arvari Sansad (Parliament), Rajasthan: water and food security through landscape governance
  19. 19. Kachchh Water self-sufficiency in one of India’s lowest rainfall regions
  20. 20. Natural resource security & nature conservation
  21. 21. GLIMPSES OF COMMUNITY CONSERVED AREAS IN INDIA (from: Draft Directory of CCAs , Kalpavriksh ) Changpas Bishnois Gaddis Van Panchayats Pipens Arvari Grassland Sansad management Sacred mangroves Turtle conservation Sacred groves Sacred groves Turtle conservation Yuksam Peoples Protected JFM Areas Community Forestry Heronries Traditional tanks Note: list and related publications available with Kalpavriksh Tragopan , and Golden langur protection
  22. 22. Towards tribal self-rule, with conservation: Mendha-Lekha (Maharashtra) All decisions in gram sabha (village assembly); no activity even by government officials without sabha consent Informed decisions through monitoring, and regular study circles (abhyas gat)
  23. 23. Conservation of 1800 ha forests, now with full rights under Forest Rights Act Earnings from sustainable NTPF use (over Rs. 1 crore in 2011-12), and use of govt schemes towards: •Full employment •Biogas for 80% households •Computer training centre •Training as barefoot engineers 2013: all agricultural land donated to village, collective ownership Vivek Gour-Broome
  24. 24. Community Forest Rights (FRA) Several hundred claims accepted in Maharashtra (>7 lakh acres), Odisha (>70,000 acres) & Andhra 126,998 acres in Baiga & other areas, MP Assertion of CFRs against industrial projects (e.g. POSCO), mining (e.g. Vedanta), logging (e.g. Baigachak), plantations (Odisha), enclosures (Kachchh)
  25. 25. Livelihood security
  26. 26. Jharcraft (Jharkhand) Employment for 2.5 lakh families… reviving crafts, reducing outmigration
  27. 27. Economic democracy… Livelihood security through community-led cooperatives, self-help groups, producer companies: Dharani, Andhra Pradesh; Kachchh Mahila Vikas Sanghatan / Kasab, Gujarat; Nowgong APCL, Madhya Pradesh; Nyoli, Uttarakhand; Swach, Pune; Aharam Traditional Crop Producer Co.,Tamil Nadu)
  28. 28. Dharani, AP: farmer’s company (facilitated by Timbaktu Collective)
  29. 29. Khamir/Kasab, Kachchh: secure livelihoods for craftspersons Facilitated by Sahjeevan, Kachchh Mahila Vikas Sangathan, and others
  30. 30. The Village and the City …
  31. 31. Gram swaraj: outmigration is not inevitable Ralegan Siddhi and Hivare Bazaar (Maharashtra), Kuthambakkam (TN)
  32. 32. Towards sustainable cities Bhuj (Kachchh): •reviving watersheds, decentralized water storage and management •solid waste management and sanitation •livelihoods for poor women •dignified housing for poor •Information-based empowerment under 74th Amendment (Hunnarshala, Sahjeevan, Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan, ACT, Setu)
  33. 33. Dignified livelihoods for urban poor Kagaj Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat & Swach (Pune)
  34. 34. Towards sustainable cities… Decentralised water harvesting, Chennai Participatory budgeting, Bengaluru/Pune But a lot more to be done…. public transport, energy, urban agriculture, zero-waste colonies, ecofriendly architecture (learn from UK transition towns, Cuba urban farming….)
  35. 35. Alternative learning / education Traditional and modern, oral and written, local and global •Pachashala, AP •Jeevanshala, Narmada •Prakruthi Badi, AP •Adivasi Academy, Guj •Beeja Vidyapeeth, Uttarakhand •Bhoomi College, Karnataka
  36. 36. Technological alternatives… Technological innovations to reduce ecological impact, reach the poor (malkha cotton weaving, AP; Hunnarshala housing, Kachchh) Energy: decentralised, renewable (Ladakh solar; Bihar integrated)
  37. 37. The government responds… • New laws: – Right to Information Act – National Employment Guarantee Act – Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 • New programmes: – Organic farming policies / programmes in 16 states: Sikkim 100% by 2015, Kerala by 2020?
  38. 38. Decentralised governance Nagaland ‘communitisation’: devolution of govt powers over education, electricity, health to village councils Result: sharp increase in quality & quantity of services
  39. 39. Radical ecological democracy (RED) or Ecological Swaraj • achieving human well-being, through pathways that: – empower all citizens to participate in decision-making – ensure equitable distribution of wealth – respect the limits of the earth and the rights of nature
  40. 40. Fundamental values & principles of RED • • • • • • • • • • • • Diversity and pluralism (of ideas, knowledge, ecologies, economies, polities, cultures…) Self-reliance for basics Cooperation, collectivity, and ‘commons’ Rights with responsibilities/duties (sense of ownership) Dignity of labour Respect to subsistence Qualitative pursuit of happiness Equity / equality (gender, caste, class, ethnic) Simplicity Decision-making access to all Respect for all life forms Biophysical sustainability
  41. 41. Radical Ecological Democracy: A NEW POLITICS and ECONOMICS Localisation of decision-making, meeting basic needs Embedded within larger structures of decision-making and economic relations that do not undermine the local State’s role as guarantor of rights, welfare of underpriviliged; accountability through citizens’ charters, public hearings, social audits, right to participation, right to recall … Indicators of ‘progress’ relate to well-being: clean water, nutritious food, secure housing, public transport, peace, harmonious social relations, opportunities for intellectual and spiritual learning …
  42. 42. Radical Ecological Democracy: A JUST SOCIETY Towards equity amongst classes castes women and men ethnic groups abled and ‘disabled’ Towards rights-based approaches, infused with responsibilities
  43. 43. Radical Ecological Democracy: A NEW CULTURE OF KNOWLEDGE, AND KNOWLEDGE OF CULTURE Relinking with rest of nature: humans as part of nature, inherent rights of nature Mix of tradition and modernity … both critically examined Learning through doing and experience, not only textbooks Places of learning and education: mix of formal and informal, ‘barefoot’ teachers as important as PhDs! Opportunities for spiritual / ethical growth (without falling into trap of religious fundamentalism)
  44. 44. But … beware of false solutions!
  45. 45. Ecology as fashion
  46. 46. Technofixes and market solutions, ‘green economy’ … REDD/REDD+, CDM, geoengineering, carbon trade, CSR, etc
  47. 47. Fascist, undemocratic bedfellows… Fundamentalist environmentalism •green-saffron links (Tehri, Sethusamudran) •blind revival of tradition (back to mythical harmonious past) •authoritarian conservationist (tigerwallahs, privatisation…)
  48. 48. Pathways….creating space, buying time, forging critical mass • People’s resistance (Vedanta/POSCO, Orissa; anti-SEZ; hundreds of others) • Stretching limits of system (RTI, FRA) • Citizens’ networking, joint actions, experimentation, collective visioning • Empowering political carriers …. movements, students, unions, etc • Alternatives confluences (vikalp sangam)
  49. 49. India is in a unique position to evolve alternative models of wellbeing with sustainability & equity … learning from / teaching other countries and peoples
  50. 50. For more information…. • •