AID-India Conference 99, Chennai
Gabriele Dietrich teaches at the Tamil Theological Seminary and the Center for Social Analysis in Madurai. She works for Pennurimai Iyakkam, a women’s movement in slums of Madurai and is a Convener of the National Alliance of People’s Movements.
This is a very difficult session now because we have such a very limited time. There are lots of issues which we have not covered. NAPM is literally an alliance of hundreds of movements. You have just seen in the presentation of Sanjay how dense it all is, how many details we need to understand. How many different cultures are involved in all this, adivasis, rich peasants, poor peasants, etc. so many details in each movement. It will be extremely difficult for me to cover the richness of all these struggles which thousands and thousands of people have been into. So if I sound a little abstract, or sweeping please forgive me, the time constraint.
Let me just make a few points where we all situate ourselves. Yesterday I have been quoted as saying NRIs are a displaced community. I think that is the only reason I have come here. I don’t really know about the U.S. what life may be like there. Since 1975 I have been in Madurai. I have not much moved from that place. We have a documentation centre, we don’t even have a computer there, our typewriters are not even electrified, because half the time we don’t have electricity. So my world is very different. So this world where you come from does intimidate me. I am first generation educated also, my parents went to school up to 10th standard, and when I went to the university I also found it intimidating. I am working with people in Madurai who are mostly illiterate, and I have seen these women become very competent in handling their own issues, handling the authorities. So we have to conceive of so many different worlds.
I do respect you all as a displaced community, NAPM is definitely concerned with displacement. We have had a Jan Adhikar Panchayat in Delhi and the biggest hearing there was on displacement. We all have to honour you as a displaced community, and I really want to rehabilitate displaced communities, whatever caste they belong to. If you want to rehabilitate yourselves and really be concerned about this country then you are welcome with all the other displaced communities. The second thing, let me also explain about my own background, you may be puzzled to see this white skinned woman who says she has been in Madurai since 1975.
I am from West Berlin originally. In the Post WWII era. I think that the most shaping thing in my upbringing is that our generation had to ask itself how was it possible that fascism happened? How could it have been that 6 million Jews were killed, all the communists were in concentration camps, gypsies were evicted, and so on. How had our parents allowed this? This is a very big question, the answer in our time was oh we didn’t know. I think similar things are happening in our times. Every few minutes a species vanishes from our planet. Plant species. Indigenous people also vanish. In Tamil Nadu even the proportion of women is declining. In today’s setting women are also a vanishing species. Now how is it? There are lots of questions. When these things happen we may say, we didn’t know, are there reasons for all these things?
We may not be all that informed about these things. One thing that concerns me very much, for instance, if we talk of biotechnology, having superior human beings, superior whatever species that was one fascist dream in the old days. They did not have the technology to do it. Now we so innocently think that we are doing so much good, we have such good technology, we can improve the world.
What are we doing, we very often do not know. Like the green revolution after 20 years we learn what the green revolution has done to agriculture… then we say, ayyoyyo we didn’t know.
Even allopathic medicine … now we see TB coming back and so many people dying of it. Something went wrong how we dealt with TB, and we realize that maybe allopathy is not the answer for everything. But we didn’t know why we did it.
I think it is very important to know and be aware and to act responsibly. If you all can get this urge that we have to know, for knowing we have to have a lot of open questions, not that we have to have all the answers, but on the contrary, we have to know more deeply. We have to take the responsibility. Not look to higher-ups.
The flow of info may not always be from the educated middle class to the village communities which need to be uplifted, but it may be the other way around. That has already become very visible. We have to learn a lot.
How I came here in the first place. I was a product of the students movement in the 1960s. I came to India in 1971 during the time of the India-Bangladesh war, just for a study period of 2 years. But since I have a movement background, I got attracted to people’s movements. I got so much involved, my husband was and is also involved. I also got entrenched in Tamil culture, we live in the heartland of Tamil Nadu (Madurai). I took Indian citizenship, our children are Indian citizens, they are born and raised here, so we all have the wrong skin colour all this beautiful Tamil comes rolling out of our children’s mouths, and everyone just blinks. I say this because I guess many of you often find yourself in the opposite situation.
I want to encourage you. Many of you may think, I was in the US, can I go back, can I acculturate? But I think you can if you want to. If you have the motivation you can do anything.
I was not highly motivated to acculturate here but I found that people were making various demands on me and I thought that I do want to understand. I was in a Tamil medium institution so I had to learn Tamil. I felt I want to understand all these movements of emancipation. It is not only about development in an economic sense but we are dealing with cultural questions as well.
I want to encourage you all to just face all this, it is not a question of transplanting some funds here or some machines or some skills and all this sort of stuff, but really coming to terms with reality. Anyone who wants to come to terms with this reality in a serious way can definitely do that.
That is all just by way of introduction.
Now I want to say a little bit about People’s Movements. It has become clear today in the case of Narmada Bachao Andolan that the problem was created by false planning. People have to take control of their own lives. They had to suddenly account for their daily survival, seeing that what is planned there is totally against us, and the alternatives offered are also not livable. I have seen the rehabilitation sites. They are totally unlivable.
The struggle of the NBA is not only about the dams, it is for an entirely different development concept. This is also true for the struggle of the fishworkers in the NFF. We are speaking of a second Freedom Struggle. This second Freedom Struggle is about Ecology and Social Justice together.
There has also been a very strong communist movement in this country. When I had just come from Germany, I saw that everyone, even Congress-walas just talked about social justice. The preamble of our constitution says that India is a socialist secular republic, the funny thing is that it was during the Emergency that this was written. But we can still quote them. When they were streamlining market capitalism they wrote about socialism. There was some compulsion to write it because there was some concern for social justice.
There were other movements which we have not mentioned, like Ambedkar, Jothiba Phule. It shocks me that we don’t mention such people, as if people say, yeah, it’s fine, it’s very good, but it has nothing to do with us. These emancipatory trends are really vital when we talk of people coming into their own. There is some difference between adivasi villages and those in villages where there is a caste structure. In the caste structure it is a very big question, where you are on the totem pole. This has entered politics, in this state for example. It is still ruled by regional parties for decades. Why Tamil as a language was so important? Just yesterday there was a new book released on the Dravidian movement. There was a debate on this. This is still a live issue. The caste issue and the language issue were connected in Tamil Nadu.
It is extremely important to see that there have been different types of movements which have adhered to different types of ideologies. There comes the question of politics, we cannot shrink from this any longer. We have been saying AID is not a political organisation, it is all about development. But as we have seen economics is a highly political issue. Corporations are now trying to rule the world. Yesterday people were wearing these T shirts saying 50 years of Independence … but where is the Independence? Where does it go?
If the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) comes and it is in the offing unless we struggle very hard against it then whatever national laws we give ourselves may become obsolete. It may be repealed by such agreements which our governments may sign. Our government may sign without even telling us. They don’t go through the parliament as we have seen with World Bank loans which are first given signature and then put in parliament. They are constantly doing that. Unless we are very clear on what is happening to us we will just be over ruled and over rolled.
Maybe I will make a brief sort of remark; we cannot go to the depths of it, but it is very important in NAPM as I have experienced it to understand that there are so many of us with different ideological backgrounds.
Ours is a vast country, in the different states, even before and during the freedom struggle, there have been different ways of people organizing themselves. Like in TN, parties were there with problematic relationship to freedom struggle. There were all sorts of emancipatory movements that were not part of the mainstream. Even the communist movement at one point said, fascism internationally is a bigger problem. Quit India right now is not our priority. That is to be honoured. At the same time, the Gandhian movement went ahead with Quit India.
People who have made seemingly opposite contributions at the same moment, may still feel sore about each other, but we need them all. We have to come to terms with each other. For example, Dalits have a major grouse against Gandhians. They say, you people have never really understood caste. Yesterday we heard romantic notions about trusteeship, etc. We hear that yes, untouchability is wrong but caste is okay, varnashrama dharma, etc.
The Dalit movement still feels that in the Pune pact between Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar, the rights of the Dalits were violated. Till today Dalit movements do feel that Ambedkar’s leadership was broken. Such wounds still need to be healed.
If we say we want as a national movement, to tackle development as a whole, that means we want to go against this type of globalization. We must prevent multinationals from taking over the entire fabric of our lives, not only the economy, but also culture. Even democracy goes.
If this is the situation, we need all the democratic forces. We also need to understand what has motivated them for decades. We may have to search far back.
In NAPM we are constantly forced to do this. We have to come to know each other, one another’s backgrounds, and what has motivated the different movements.
Now I want to go a little bit into some of these movements. NBA has been covered very well. Some of the structures characteristic of such movements have become visible. I want to briefly mention one more movement of equal magnitude, that is the National Forum of Fishworkers, which has launched the WFF (World Forum of Fishworkers). There has been a massive struggle of fishworkers in this country since several decades. It started in late 60s, early 70s. This must be seen in context. The problem is that fishworkers, who are virtually on their own, especially the traditional sector, either on their own catamaran or someone else’s boat. Often we can’t pinpoint the owner or employer very easily, it is almost like self employment. Decisions are taken in that sector; everyone is affected, and it not very clear whom to fight against. Money lending was very strong in that
sector. Modernization and innovative technology has ruined the fishing sector in the northern hemisphere where technology has taken over the seas are empty. That is why foreign vessels want to come here. These factory trawlers want to come and fish in places where there are still a lot of fish. They are also very much interested in Africa, off the coast of Senegal, etc. They process the fish right on the boat so that no government even knows how what kind and how much fish they are taking.
It has enormous environmental impact. In all the northern countries, they have had a moratorium on catching all these species of fishes. Also debate on fishing gears has been ongoing. It is a major environment problem; at the same time, it is also a labour problem. This whole fisheries problem has been taken up by the traditional ad small fish workers. If the international labour force in the fisheries sector is now organised we really owe this to the traditional sector fish workers of India. Others have all joined, but the leading force came from Kerala, you must all be familiar with the Suthanthira Maltsya Tozhilalas Sangam, and Thomas Kocherry. Those organizations have taken the lead to organize fish workers at the national level.
And the whole problem with science and technology, the new kinds of fishing gears, what is happening to the coastal community, what is happening to the women, what is happening to the new generation can be seen in this sector. This movement has grown by leaps and bounds. It has also given an inspiration to other workers in the unorganized sector. We are talking here about the toiling people. In this meeting we have spoken of uplifting the poor, doing some good in the villages. We have to remember that none of these people are objects of our charity, but we are actually dependent on them. They are feeding us, it is not in the least us feeding them. They are feeding us while they do not have fish to eat because it is all being exported under the new policies of globalization. Having fish in the villages is now very difficult.
Likewise construction workers. In TN construction workers have been organised in a large scale. There has been a struggle since 1979 for national legislation on construction workers but there is a major opposition from the building lobby. They want to develop land in different ways, drive up prices of the land. It has been difficult to organize construction workers in other urban areas.
I am working with PennurimaiIyakkam which is a slum women’s movement, many of these women are construction workers. These are the people who are more and more marginalized, and driven out of the city. They have come from the country side because there was no livelihood to the cities. Under the new World Bank policies they are driven out. It is like a new form of untouchability.
This is how I came into the NAPM. Basically it was because in Madurai, we were facing a World Bank project. Madurai is a sprawling city, more like an agglomeration of villages. 10 Lakh population, built around Meenakshi temple. It has become quite chaotic.
In the olden days there was an excellent canal system. 9 canals went through the city, some of these were also irrigation channels for agriculture. There was a very sophisticated water system. Different rulers, Nayakas, etc. have taken responsibility for this. Under British Raj this was neglected; under new development policies, this went into disuse. The government itself is a major encroacher. When a tank dries up, oh here let us build a bus stand. So the moment it rains for 10 minutes you are knee deep in water. The water does not know where to flow and the drainage system is gone. Not only the bus stands, the corporation building stands in a tank and so does the court.
But if the poor are settled down on the canal banks which they do since it is close to their work, then they are called encroachers.
From the early 1970s everyone was calling us encroachers. This whole policy issue goes back to the mid eighties, or even back to the emergency. As some of you may have read or some of you may remember, during the emergency there was a bout of evictions, streamlining the cities, of removing encroachers. Along with this were human rights violations. It is all part of modernization, streamlining us into development. They called it urban renewal but we experience it as urban removal.
In 1985-86 there was the Olga Tellis case regarding the pavement dwellers of Mumbai. The Supreme Court recognized the contribution of the pavement dwellers to the city. They said, these people are useful, they are not a useless lot, they are keeping the city of Mumbai alive. They are construction workers, they are hawkers, they are bringing goods from the villages. Their livelihood is very important, they contribute to the growth of the city. But there is a problem because we cannot account for all of them. We cannot give them basic amenities it was a half hearted sort of judgement. On the one hand, it recognized the work contribution, but on the other hand said, that we cannot take responsibility. Evictions were going on at that time, and also started in Chennai, Madurai and so many places.
By the mid 1980s the Pennurimai Iyakkam got a stay order for evictions. We could systematize alternative accommodations. Many things were possible at that time. But then came the World Bank. It was telling us that in the name of ecology they were developing the canal system of Madurai. So there would be clean water flowing in the canals of Madurai. On paper it sounded good. But they started evicting people. They did it bit by bit to avoid a mass uprising. Year by year, canal by canal. It was eventually stopped because it was not feasible. It is the same problem because resettlement is not possible. People who were resettled had no livelihood in their new place, so they came back to the same place where they had been squatting. So this chaos goes on, they cannot be rehabilitated because the overall problem cannot be resolved. So we were fighting against World Bank and at one anti World Bank meeting in Delhi, I met Medha Patkar.
It was at the time of the murder of Shankar Guha Nyogi, an eminent trade unionist of this country, a founding member of the Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha in Madhya Pradesh. It is one of the most inspiring movements of our country. They are not formal members of NAPM but they are doing all the things worth emulating. They have organized mine workers. They have done educational work, founded schools and forced the government to take over the schools there. They have encroached land and built their own hospital, it now has three stories, own operation theatre. It has created a lot of autonomy there. Some NGOs are supporting it but entirely the CMM is running it. It is extremely inspiring and impressive. But in the course of globalization it is rare that such people survive.
Shankar Guha Nyogi was murdered by the liquor lobby 7 years ago. It was a terrible blow. Yogi had asked for the support of the prime minister, home minister, chief minister. He knew he was going to be murdered. We know this now, it has all been investigated and documented. We won the case in the lower court, but lost in a higher court. We don’t know what will happen in the Supreme Court.
The struggle in which Yogi was murdered was a struggle on contract labour. There may be some international connection, but of course there are enough forces within the country who might want to finish off such a person. Fortunately though, there has been a strong second line of leadership, the movement has survived.
They have also organized the peasants, gone into alternative agriculture as well. Madhya Pradesh government was planning a 10 Lakh dam, they have build a small dam instead for 0.5 lakh, raising their own funds. They have done massive documentation on seeds, Chattisgarh is the rice bowl of Madhya Pradesh, tremendous variety of seeds. Dr. Richaryu was leading in this. Much of it was highjacked later by Dr. Swaminathan and put to use in another way for the green revolution. In the meantime of course Dr. Swaminathan has become an ecologist. It is the Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha which is enabling people to do agriculture in their own terms.
We have not been talking about multinational seed corporations. There was a brief mention of Monsanto and terminator seeds. The problem is a much larger one of foreign companies taking over this seed trade and putting indigenous varieties in jeopardy. It all has to do with the law on patenting. We cannot go into all of this but it is very
important to be aware that it is people’s movements, workers’ movement, and peasants’ movements which are taking up these issues. On the 11th of January we are having a meeting of peasants movements in Madhya Pradesh.
Not as a last-not-least sort of thing but I must mention — women’s movement is also very inspirational to us. I am working with a slum women’s movement, so it is more like a working class movement or movement of urban poor. But I would like to acknowledge that the women’s movement has spread a lot of consciousness among people. Women’s movement has developed very strongly in different groups. One problem is that a lot of this has been NGO-ized, money has been poured, and tied down people in projects and prevented people from analysing the problems deeply.
Nevertheless, women’s movements have raised many issues, not only about the family structure and its relation to the caste system. They have also studied increase in violence against women. It has also contributed an analysis of the present trend of development which works against women. This is a topic of its own, and I only want to acknowledge it here. In the NAPM we have not been able to honour this. In the fishworkers movement we have made a lot of headway, but it is quite limited in the other sectors. But NAPM as a whole is very male dominated. We really have to fight on this issue a lot. Same thing is true of Dalit movements. Much of NAPM hails from Maharashtra, home of Ambedkar and Phule. We have also raised the caste question and related it to the development issues, working class struggles, women’s issues. On the whole there is a reluctance on the part of some to acknowledge caste and patriarchy in depth. It is not enough to believe in equality. There is a lacunae in the thinking which we have to work with.
Relating this to AID, I find it very difficult. I think it is important to work seriously on development alternatives. In Sanjay’s presentation it became clear that what the government is pushing as development is really heavily anti-people. It has to be stopped. It is true of many projects. There is something like a class problem in this. Very often what the middle classes think is good is not really good for the masses of poor. I remember yesterday someone said, of course I wish everyone could be middle class. I think we should not indulge in wishing that, because this is not sustainable and is very violate of people’s survival rights. We do have to start thinking of scaling down lifestyle and consumption. I was very pleased to see this anti plastic campaign. I don’t have a fridge at home, and I just go around on a bicycle. I am not saying I am a great example, but it can be done. Most of you have grown up with the goodies, you may wonder if you can do without them. I can tell you from my own experience that we definitely can. It is more difficult, it requires imagination.
One important thing you could all apply your minds to is energy alternatives and transport alternatives. We are really struggling with these in NAPM. ENRON is one of the most disastrous MNCs from the US. You must be aware, they have not previously been in energy production but they are trying it in India. There has been a struggle against the Dabol power plant. The BJP was against it when they were not in power but the moment they came to power they turned 180 degrees. CPI(M) has done a great service by filing a very effective court case many have filed cases but only CPI(M) has fought an effective court case against it. More info on what is ENRON doing would be very necessary. If you can volunteer to get this it would be quite vital because we are unable to sustain this struggle right now. No one in NAPM is able to spend enough time in the ENRON area. If we had had enough support at the right moment maybe the whole thing would have gone differently. We would need support on such crucial struggles. When we were struggling in on the energy issue, we also took up the question of the Koodankulam nuclear energy plant . Udaykumar is from that district and I think he plans to talk abut it later.
When Pokhran II happened, many people came out against weaponization, including NAPM, but weaponization was only the tip of the iceberg. This peaceful aspect of nuclearization is really in the service of inventing more technology. It is a hoax from the outset. If you look at the history of nuclearization, it is clearly a war technology. It became a big thing during the cold war, US and USSR competed, and it was a very political issue. It is totally unsustainable as an energy form.
In the so called developed countries the nuclear plants are being shut down. In the US none have opened after 1985. This is an international problem. In Germany the social democratic green coalition is closing down 19 nuclear plants. Since many of you are outside the country, struggles against nuclear energy are very important. It is a survival issue for Udayakumar’s district, and for the fish workers. I am also from a place which will be affected by Koodankulam if anything happens. Kalpakkam is also going on very close to Madras, anything can happen.
I also think that for AID it may be very important to work more on the historical dimension. It raises the question of where we stand ideologically. There is a rewriting of history among NRIs those who are rewriting are more or less in power. More or less, fortunately. We must understand the history of the freedom struggle, the background of all these movements which I have been talking about. We should have a sense of history, to understand why we are secular, what does it mean, how do we relate to religion, how do we understand our culture. Cultural studies are very important.
Of course all these movements may need help here and there, all the things you said yesterday, slide projectors, volunteer placements, etc.
All these movements may need help here and there but it is not something we can plan in a summary way. It can only happen in very concrete interaction. I would be very happy if this meeting contributes to all of these things.
KrishnaKumari from audience: Meenakshi from Madurai has come!
Q&A with Sanjay and Gabriele:
Shrinaath: Can you tell us a little bit about the structure and how an organization becomes part of NAPM?
Gabriele: Due to a common history movements may work together. There is an informal structure where every issue is brought forward. A few years ago there was an idea that in order to make NAPM more of an organization and there was a national tour. There was a convention in Sevagram, there was a people’s resolve, that was like a 10 point program, has most of the issues which I was raising. It also raises issues like cancelling foreign debt. Sounds a bit sweeping for some people. Then of course land reforms, and the whole cultural question of how to integrate. It is like a program, but it is being rewritten so I don’t have it. One of the basic requirements for a member organization is that it cannot be foreign funded, because there are allegations that the NAPM is a foreign funded body, even NBA has been accused of that, which is a lie. It has never been done like that. We are not against the NGOs supporting us, which we do welcome, but they cannot be members. They can be associate members, but they cannot be organizational representatives. We have committees at the district level, etc. In the decision making bodies, the foreign funded organisations do not have a say. There is also individual membership. But only 10% of committee members can be individuals. There has been an effort to get the support of writers, lawyers, etc from the middle classes.
Shrinaath: can it be funded by Indian corporations?
Gabriele: No. We have gotten funds from some small foundations like Gandhian movements etc, but these are very small. It is a terribly fundless situation. Anyway about structure, there are district committees, state level committees, people who have come to support us come by the hundreds, but not everyone becomes a member.
Sanjay: NAPM is not an organization, one united etc. We are an evolving forum, based on one philosophy. We are concerned with the present situation about the New Economic Policy (globalisation, privatisation, liberalisation), second, about growing communalisation, and third, how to explore and establish the alternatives. These are the three points on which many organisations come together. This is the
common minimum program. It is not an organisation if one wishes in cases when we want a united response we do appeal. We do not petition that people should come and join not like this networking net tumhara, work hamara. It cannot also be too anarchical. Some organisations have also tried that. We must have some middle way.
We should have minimum things, like accounting and communication. We bring out in Marathi, Bengali and in English and in Hindi, bulletins. The money part we are not getting foreign funds we means who? the organisations. If the organisations are there then only it is national alliance. If not, nothing. We are not very much insistent that you should be there. Only if everyone decides to come, then it will be a national alliance. Otherwise, no.
And all organisations are financially bankrupt. With the minimal things we keep on going. You may say it is a philosophy of poverty, but we should rather show, that we will do the work. There are not so many goodies out there. If much money is poured, it may ruin our contact, our communication, our imagination. I think there is a correlation, it may be my personal opinion.
Pushpa: NBA is doing good work in convincing the people what we are going to lose by the dam, Why does the government and press project it as anti-development, saying we are not allowing these things to reach the people. India Today. Tavleen Singh has a series of articles where she kept on reacting against what Medha Patkar spoke. Some of us have read and have other ideas so we don’t necessarily believe what Tavleen says, but how are you countering such tactics.
Sanjay: There are both ways. Government, state, establishment, they have their ideology, media. Not only educated people, even small farmer is influenced by these and convinced that this is the development. Countering this ideology is part of the challenge for us also. The alternatives must be part of normal living, not something abnormal, where only some people can practice and others cannot. Alternative is also a beautiful life. Not a rich life, but an enriched life, while capitalism and consumerism impoverishes. What we are aiming for is an equitable and enriched life. The movements have to do that. I know that facts and statistics alone won’t do. But even in conventional terms, we should show how these developments are bankrupt. That must also be established.
The media, Narmada has been to some extent successful. We never did a PR job. We dealt on an equality basis. We are giving this information. A shortcoming of movements is that they do not recognize the importance of the mainstream media. We have our own Narmada bulletin, NAPM bulletin, our own Jantar Mantar. We convince the convinced. We have to go outside that. It may be capitalist, hegemonic media, but a very wonderful word is infiltration. That must be done.
Gabriele: I think even without being too deep in the struggle, if we at least have a feel for these things, having information on the alternatives gives us so much power. Even hearing Sanjay you would have a feel for the amount of research which is available on the resources etc. Tavleen Singh can just sit and write, it does not take any work. When you support the dominant thing you do not need any facts. Whereas the other side is much less glamorous. Even presenting the alternative will always be more labour intensive. The glossy and labour saving see the advertisements are basically lies, that is why you need advertisements, that which is truly useful does not need gloss. If you are telling the truth you cannot do it through advertisements.
Ramanujam: there is also a need for institution building, that requires money, people. What is the work on these lines? Pennurimai Iyakkam has been effective because it is an institution. I am talking about something that can sustain over 20-30 years, with a structure and rules.
Gabriele: Pennurimai Iyakkam, I could not tell you how inefficient we are. I agree with you that in order to be more efficient we need to institutionalize some more. There we have failed. But also I don’t know if we would be as good as mobilizing. If you think we have been effective, it is only because we have kept mobilizing. But we are terribly weak. We don’t have support from the middle class, sometimes someone comes to spend 2 months with us, goes off and writes something and we don’t see them again.
Sanjay: There are some inherent problems in having a structured institution building. New alliances are highly cautious of this. NAPM is not something different from the organisations in it. Each organisation will have its own structure. What the alliance means is the minimum thing of accounting and communication. If we say we two people that we are the NAPM then what are the others? It is like the onion only with the organizations there is NAPM. Without them there is nothing. What do we have to do? We have to work. The Alliance is based on programs and interactions. Even in the minimum structure we are still very weak. Even in the Mumbai office we have not even one full time person. People will do from different places, whatever it is.
While it is still small then we have this mazza, doing it from our own houses, spending our own money, this that. This is the spirit, joy, volunteerism. When there is institutional structure, this mazza peters out.
Question: What about sustainability though?
Sanjay: NAPM is not something with its own direction
Gabriele: Yes, but is also very important for the question of livelihood. If you can find a job which gives you enough space to do this work on the side — it does not amount to institutionalization, but it could be a substitute. If you have enough people who can do that then you can sustain.
Ranjeet: I am impressed that you do not use a fridge, and that you use only cycle. Isn’t there a big hypocrisy in the middle class considering all the washing machines, mixer-grinders, etc. How do you communicate to them, I don’t know how many of us will really use the bus when there is a car available, when people do want to buy these things?
Gabriele: It is an important question. For example, Delhi as a city has become unlivable not because of the industries but because of the cars. By the time the middle class starts dying, they will have to do something abut it. It is not just a moral appeal to people but we should develop policies, like alternative transport policies. We have a good system now in TN even that they are trying to privatise. Why do we use so much petrol based transport, we must also resist privatisation of public transport. One cycle-rikshaw wala cycled from Nagpur to Delhi with his alternative gear for the Jan Adhikar Panchayat. He opened the Jan Adhikar Panchayat. We should have the technology to make this effective and efficient.
Meera: What is wrong with privatisation of transport?
Gabriele: Our own people cannot pay what middle classes can pay for transport. So the whole question of accountability. In England, e.g. under Margaret Thatcher, the railways have been completely ruined. We cannot rehabilitate them. Railways are a much more rational way of transport than all these cars, etc. In Netherlands it has been privatised, and very inefficient.
Shrinaath: I work in the airline industry, and there are more business class seats today than 10 years ago, which makes economy travel less affordable
Gabriele: yes it all leads to a system which has much less efficient use of natural resources.
Meera: Is there any comprehensive list of NGOs in various fields available for the common person?
Sanjay: I know some NGOs which do such networking. Vani in Delhi has such a list.
Vidhi: (inaudible knows of some list)
Sanjay: about the movements, there are different lists in different places.
Meera: maybe AID can make such a list
Sridhar: Does a Tavleen Singh reader really matter for us?
Sanjay: well yes and no. India Today and a few magazines have taken a pro-market line. Fortunately or unfortunately these are the magazines read by the opinion makers. We have written so many things in Marathi. But even Marathi people when they want something serious to read will pick up India Today. For the middle class who reads that sort of thing, they will have serious questions about it.
Bhagat: It seems to me that one of the major problems is that this middle class that we keep referring to is supremely ignorant of where things come from. The person switching on this light gets irritated only when the light does not come on. When I turn this light on, what is the process through which this light came to me? What all went on so that I needed to pay only this much for the light. Who paid for the rest of it? These things do not come without cost. The major part of the cost is paid for by the poor. This is the education that we all need. Unless we understand that these pleasures do not come cheap, that they have a tremendous cost and that is being paid by the poor. Until people feel guilty for switching on a light and putting on 500 lights for weddings, etc, unless people feel guilty about it they will not do anything. That is the awareness that I think we should not shy away from.
Sanjay: this is important for the further discussion of lifestyle. Many organisations do not take the lifestyle issue into account. But sometime or other we must come to it. Otherwise the people who are deprived can come to you and ask for it. Lifestyle issue should be ingrained in all Indians. That we find necessary. Neo Gandhians, or Sarvodayis are responsible for bringing this issue onto the agenda. It is both as a social policy, and a way to enrich the individual life. That is why NAPM has adopted the motto of swavalamban, swadeshi, and samata. We are not totally autonomous or self-sufficient. Lifestyle is very important. Our politics and our ethics cannot be two different things. Now there is a postmodern thing going on, we want to separate our politics and our ethics.
Aravinda: We are going to talk about the lifestyle issue, in fact we are going to start that session right now, so I will just ask Shubhamurty to ask the last question.
Shubhamurthy: Mine is not a question but a comment, it does not have anything to do with NBA or NAPM. Gabriele that contradictory contributions should be accepted. But not, I think, contradictory history. What she said regarding the Pune pact is different from the history I have read, so I hope that we will be open on that.
Aravinda: I am sure we all have many more questions, and I hope people will make use of the spaces within this conference to keep talking about these issues. Now I invite Shrinaath to lead our session on personal development