The young rebels of Jhumra hills

Babita Mahto, who has been with this Local Guerrilla Squad of CPI (Maoist) a year, said that joining the party gave her a sense of purpose and immortality.

“So many women in the Mahto community kill themselves due to the stress from dowry, tilak [social ceremonies]. If I die at home, my parents will mourn for some months; we had a daughter who died, they will say. But here, there are so many of us who will remember — there was such and such didi [older sister], our comrade; she died for the people.”

An article based on this and other interviews with Maoist rebels in this area appeared in The Hindu.

Advertisements

Bijolia begins again every October

Every year, the mines slows down and stops at the onset of monsoon, and then resume after harvest. Right now, the stone pits are still full of green water from the rains.
The work is on pause for everyone to return from home after Diwali. Many young men, a few women whose homes are nearby, who did not leave, sit around tea shops, and in the common spaces waiting. But it feels strange. When they speak, it is as if not like the mood of a break or rest, as they wait for the full mine operation to start in another fifteen days. Over and over, it is a: What, but this. This sucks, this kills but this, if they will just increased our wage but this. Maybe I was missing something, but they seemed to be saying, this work seems to ruin everyone’s lives when it exists, and yet even the last resort is ruined if our work is replaced by machines. In the evening, returning from the conversations at tea shops and squares, it seemed like I had been talking to pools of distressed, tied down to stones, in pain people over and over.
Though in late afternoon sun, slumped by the temple wall, Nand Lal Bhil and Ratan ji Bhil cracked one joke after another about Nand Lal’s impending death. “I almost left the house, then I got stuck in the hedges and came back,” Nand Lal grinned. “But I have a ticket (Silicosis certificate) from the Government. At any point, I may have to leave again..”
IMG_4826.jpg
Nand Lal had worked in the mines breaking stones for the same contractor forty years, since he was ten, till he fell too ill to work. He was treated for tuberculosis for five years. A year and a half back, the hospital diagnosed him with silicosis. “I had energy, enthusiasm, health, everything. Then one day life took it all, like grime from skin.”
“This is how disease, death befalls.” he said.
“It strikes you, like lightening.”
Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 11.27.16 PM

Oldest mountain

Bijolia Khurd khaan. Sandstone quarries in Bhilwara, Rajasthan.
Bijolia in Bhilwara and Dhabi in Boondi have some of the oldest and largest stone quarries on the Aravalli, India’s oldest mountain ranges, now eroded to stubs. Workers who live by the quarries and mines work with their hands, using chisels and hammers to cut stone into slabs, which contractors measure at the end of the work day. They earn Rs 3 for each foot of stone they cut, in eight hours, today, Subhash Mehr, Rajesh Yadav, Keshu Ram Jogi cut 70-80 feet stone at Sukhpura khaan.

What we cannot say about bureaucracy

“..the situations created by violence — particularly structural violence, by which I means pervasive social inequality that are ultimately backed by the threat of physical harm — invariably tend to create the kids of willful blindness we normally associate with bureaucratic procedures. To put it crudely: it is not so much that bureaucratic procedures are inherently stupid, or even that they tend to produce behaviour that they themselves define as stupid — though they do do that — but rather, that they are invariably ways of managing social situations that are already stupid because they are founded on structural violence.

…Comparative analysis suggests there is a direct relation, however, between the level of violence employed in a bureaucratic system, and the level of absurdity it is seen to produce. Keith Breckenridge (2008), for example, has documented at some length the regimes of “power without knowledge,” typical of colonial South Africa, where coercion and paperwork largely substituted for the need for understanding African subjects. The actual installation of apartheid in the 1950s, for example, was heralded by a new pass system that was designed to simplify earlier rules that obliged African workers to carry extensive documentation of labor contracts, substituting a single identity booklet, marked with their “names, locale, fingerprints, tax status, and their officially prescribed ‘rights’ to live and work in the towns and cities” (Breckenridge 2005: 84), and nothing else. Government functionaries appreciated it for streamlining administration, police for relieving them of the responsibility of having to actually talk to African workers. African workers, for their parts, universally referred to the new document as the dompas , or “stupid pass”, for precisely that reason.

Andrew Mathews’ ethnography of the Mexican forestry service in Oaxaca likewise demonstrates that it is precisely the structural inequality of power between government officials and local farmers that allows foresters to remain in a kind of ideological bubble, maintaining simple black-and-white ideas about forest fires (for instance), that allow them to remain pretty much the only people in Oaxaca who don’t understand what effects their regulations actually have.

..Bureaucracies, I’ve suggested, are not themselves forms of stupidity so much as they are ways of organizing that stupidity — of managing relationships that are already characterized by extremely unequal structures of imagination, which exist because of the existence of structural violence. This is why even if a bureaucracy is created for entirely benevolent reasons, it will still produce absurdities.”

—-‘Dead Zones of the Imagination’, David Graeber.

in life as in a strange garment

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star
Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

For the Anniversary of My Death, WS Merwin, 1967.

River basins

13151993_10153400194547167_3422500140731639041_n

manual for drought management.

On India’s biometrics ID Aadhaar debate

IMG_3312

7-year old Abhishek Bairwa enrolling in Aadhaar in a shop in Bagru, Jaipur district after being asked by his school teachers to do so. photo AnumehaY

JAM in Jharkhand: ‘Apply lemon juice, flour, Boroplus on fingers and pass biometrics test’
Fact check: Will restricting Aadhaar now affect crores of welfare recipients?
Supreme Court ruling on Aadhaar leaves both government and critics unsatisfied
An audit of ration shops after the introduction of Aadhaar revealed that many genuine beneficiaries couldn’t collect food grain due to system glitches.
Student battles for right to obtain voter card without having to enrol for Aadhaar
How the government got the Supreme Court’s approval to link subsidy schemes with Aadhaar
India’s Unique Identity Dilemma isn’t about those who enrol in Aadhaar, but those who don’t
No benefits for beneficiaries

No Aadhaar, no scholarship

She returns empty-handed, this time too

To pass biometric identification, apply Vaseline or Boroplus on fingers overnight
Direct benefits transfer: Why direct transfer may not put money in people’s pockets

Sly book

“At worst the Africans saw the Indians as illiterate, barefooted, clannish heathens, misers who hoarded coins under their bed, who had strange uncivilized costumes, who spread dung on the walls  and floors of their homes, stunted, thin-limbed and shifty-eyed. At worst, Indians saw the Africans as the condemned: ugly, black of skin, with wide noses and twisted coir for hair, mimics of the white masters, without a language, culture or religion of their own, frivolous, promiscuous, violent, lazy.”  p 120

…”I had thought of chutney as a music without pain, but I had begun to see I was wrong. Reggae was the music of slavery. Its impulse was resistance, confrontation, a homeland severed so absolutely, seized back by the force of imagination or ideology. Chutney was the music of indenture. Its impulse was preservation, then assimilation. There was a pain in this act of attempted preservation— a homeland part remembered and protected, part lost and lingering.” p.212