Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lokavidya Livelihoods

Lokavidya Bazar and Lokavidya Dharma

We visited Keslaguda village in Kerameri mandal of Adilabad District, Telangana; where a large number of Ojha families have been 'resettled' during the past few years. Ojha artisans are involved in designing and casting of brass lamps & vessels, agricultural ware and other artifacts (largely used by the dominant Gond population of the region)- this is their livelihood activity.

                                     Brass casting in an Ojha household

 Traditionally, the Ojhas lived in a close and inter-dependent relationship with the Gonds; in fact the 80 odd Ojha families were distributed, one each, in the numerous Gond villages/settlements spread across the entire (forest) region of the district. The Ojhas produced and supplied the brassware required by the Gonds for Puja(lamps and vesels), ornaments such as cow-bells, cart-ware etc all cast in brass. (The Ojhas possess the knowledge and skills required for this manufacture which has been passed down through many generations). The Gonds , in turn, provided the Ojhas with basic food and other needs. During the rainy season(about 3-4 months each year) the Ojhas would help in agricultural activities of the Gonds as 'coolies' (a practice which continues to this day).

During the 1980s, with the advent of 'development' agenda and strict implementation of laws governing the use of forests and forest -produce , the livelihoods and lives of the Ojhas and Gonds were affected. The Ojhas were 'convinced' by the Integrated Tribal Development Agency to market their products in external markets- in towns, cities and through exhibitions in far off places. For over 30 years , the displacement of the Ojhas (from their lives with the Gonds) was almost complete and almost all Gond villages were bereft of the Ojhas. This process adversely affected both the lives and livelihoods of the Ojhas and Gonds and the bonds of mutual inter-dependence and fraternity got severely strained. The external market did not meet the life or livelihood aspirations of the Ojhas.

The younger generation of Ojhas(who like all others) were encouraged to go to school and get access to modern education found the going tough and, in course of time, discovered that this education was not going to provide them a means to an alternate livelihood- even after 'attempting' to get classified as Scheduled Tribe Gonds(a move that was opposed by the Gonds!). Most of the youth had also lost touch with the traditional knowledge and skill of brass casting.

About 4-5 years ago the Ojhas began to return to the Utnoor, Jainoor and Kerameri mandals of Adilabad district. They were given 'pattas' for setting up homes in Keslaguda village; which now houses many Ojha families. They then turned to the Gonds and the local market for 'selling' their products. This apparently has been a successful venture; as the Gonds found that the Ojhas were able to meet their long-standing need of brassware and were happy, in turn, to 'satisfy' the food needs (through exchange of food grains for brass ware) of the Ojhas. A new inter-dependence has been in the making these past few years!

Livelihoods and Markets

The interaction of the Ojhas with the local market has been fruitful in many ways.
(i) there is a constant and assured demand for their products that has helped sustain their livelihood
(ii) there is a 'fair' valuation of their produce as evinced by the master-craftsman of the Ojhas , Sri Kova Naneshwar
(iii) the youth see opportunities for the future and have begun to take interest in their Knowledge and learn the skills of their fathers and mothers

The interaction with the external markets has, in contrast, been very discouraging
(i) there is always an effective under-valuation of their products, with the surpluses always going to the marketers/marketing agencies
(ii) the time-lines and other aspects, imposed by the external markets, seldom helped to encourage or sustain the livelihoods of the Ojhas( a recent 'rejection' of a large order of ornamental brassware on 'technical' grounds) and the Gonds( a recent 'order' banning the collection of Mahua flowers, a traditional practice and input for the manufacture of local liquor) are instances of how livelihoods are being adversely affected.
(iii) there was no component of encouragement or recognition,by the external market, of the knowledge, skills and practices possessed by this artisan community.

Lokavidya Bazar and Dharma

Sri Kova Naneshwar at work
While conversing with Sri Naneshwar about the method of value-acretion to their products, he replied ' our dharma is to produce these items and ask for a sustenence price in return' and that , in the local market, this 'dharma' was recognised and followed without discussion or rancour.

The embers of Lokavidya Dharma seem to be alive even today and maybe a 'spark' of Lokavidya Bazar will rekindle the fire of Lokavidya Dharma!

Krishnarajulu, Narayana Rao and Lalit Kaul
March 2016

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Vidya Ashram National Meet Report

This is to report on the Vidya Ashram National Meet that took place at the Ashram premises in Sarnath on 27-28 February 2016. As declared many months ago the meeting constituted extensive deliberations on and around the theme - What would/should the world look like if and when the lokavidya knowledge claims are satisfied. The question was taken on in a holistic manner - philosophical, political, economic, cultural and social aspects came into debate. The idea of Lokavidya Swaraj was taken to occupy the center stage in the sense that it may be seen to refer holistically to that society where lokavidya knowledge claims are satisfied.

From what transpired, one may say that although the explicit formulation in terms of Lokavidya Swaraj may be of relatively recent making, it seems to have been the focus around which debates and activities of Lokavidya Jan Andolan (LJA) have all along been taking place. This is the political imagination of that knowledge movement whose bearers have not been to the university - LJA being one expression of it. True to its manner of approach this Vidya Ashram National Meet started with the contention that all political/social systems have their knowledge bases and that the knowledge basis of Swaraj is lokavidya. So the ideas and practice around Lokavidya Darshan, Lokavidya Economics, Gyan Panchayat, Lokavidya Bazar, Kisan Karigar Panchayat, Unity of Lokavidya Samaj, Lokavidya Satsang, Lokavidya Panchayat, Lokavidya Prapancham and Bhaichara Vidyalaya came into discussion to give a robust start to building the idea of Lokavidya Swaraj. It was stressed by some that LJA needs to focus more on building organization than it has done thus far.

The discussions revealed that Lokavidya Swaraj was being seen by most as a focus around which Vidya Ashram activities and thoughts could be woven  and taken to the public domain to contribute to the processes of change on the ground. It is a find in the sense that it provides a new beginning.

Given below is the list of activities on which there was a consensus. The name of place indicates that from there the initiative is expected. 

  1. Program for goverment employee like income for those who work with lokavidya. Work to be organized in association with farmer's organizations, artisan's organizations and Kisan-Karigar Panchayat. -Varanasi, Nagpur.
  2. Broad debates on Lokavidya Swaraj and the Unity of Lokavidya-Samaj. Global Knowledge Dialogue to be shaped through dialogue with the variety of knowledge movements. - Bangaluru.
  3. Building of Lokavidya Bazar. - Hyderabad, Indore
  4. Advancing the process of Gyan Panchayat. Indore, Varanasi.
  5. Adiwasi Kisan Ekta. - Singrauli
  6. Kisan_Karigar panchaytat - 15-16 October 2016, Varansi
  7. Lokavidya Swaraj Panchayat (Sangeeti). - Bangaluru, Varanasi
  8. Lokavidya - Kala-Darshan. - Varanasi
The recent student movement marked by events on university campuses in Hyderabad, Delhi, Pune, Allahabad and Jadabpur etc. and its suppression by university administrations supported by the political dispensation was also discussed. It was noted that generally speaking the regional political forces or large movements like farmers' movements have not taken clear sides. In such a situation the LJA may on the one hand support these student movements and on the other open dialogue with regional political forces and the farmers' movements. Last year at the time of Bihar Assembly Elections, the LJA had taken the position that now the movement for Social Justice needs to move into its next stage, in which the main demand ought to be Equal remuneration for lokavidya work. Farmers and artisans must have earnings equal to that of a government employee. It needs to challenge the special social status of the university and struggle for equal status for lokavidya, the knowledge of the people. Such a dialogue should be opened with the student movement that they ought not to think that they are something special and superior to the farmers and artisans, that such thinking is incorrect, narrow and unjust.

The meeting was attended by about 50 persons, about 15 coming from out side Varanasi, namely - Singrauli, Delhi, Indore, Nagpur, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangaluru. The outside participation included Lakshmichand Dube, Awdhesh Kumar, Jagnarayan Mahato, Avinash Jha, Sanjeev daji, Girish Sahasrabudhey, K.K. Surendran, B. Krishnrajulu, Narayan Rao, Abhijit Mitra, J.K. Suresh, Amit Basole and Sivaram Krishnan. From Varanasi there was active participation of Dilip Kumar, Lakshman Prasad, Arun Kumar, Premlata Singh, Chitra Sahasrabudhey and Sunil.  

Prepared by Vidya Ashram

Sunday, March 13, 2016


An agency to ensure fair and just exchange, with the aim of ensuring
sustainable livelihoods and a dignified life for all members of Lokavidya Samaj


All characteristics of inter-relationships are primarily (and in the main) determined by interactions between individuals and between collectives, and governed by an evolving worldview that 'oversees' these processes. (There appears to be some boot-strapping going on all the time). Concepts of equality, fraternity and collective governance evolve through such exchanges (economic, social, cultural etc). The capitalist-market worldview that influences ALL relationships today will have to be make space for Lokavidya dharma , the basis of Lokavidya Bazar, that should (henceforth) influence ALL relationships within and without Lokavidya Samaj. This is the agenda for the Lokavidya Bazar movement.


  1. The equality of all human beings is inherent in and is an integral part of Lokavidya dharma
The concept of dharma has NO equivalent in non Lokavidya-based societies and it has, therefore, been all along subject to 'Wittgensteinian silencing' by commentators and analysts trained in other knowledge traditions. Lokavidya dharma incorporates equality and 'democracy'(recognition of the fundamental rights of an individual) as an axiomatic principle. Gandhiji's reference to Sanatana Dharma seems to indicate, among other things, his desire to bring such principles of 'correct living' to the fore.
Public discourse should be in the vocabulary of vidya and dharma ; their meaning is commonly understood by ordinary people albeit in different ways; however, such understanding should not be (has not been?) in conflict with principles of equality and freedom and strives to ensure the protection of fundamental right to life and livelihood of individuals.

  1. All inequality, social and economic, has its basis in knowledge hierarchy.
  1. The march towards the establishment of an egalitarian order, based on social and economic equality, begins, in this 'knowledge era', with the relegitimization of Lokavidya and ensuring the Right of individuals, individually and collectively, to live by Lokavidya.
  1. Within Lokavidya Samaj too, equality will be re-established/achieved only when the hierarchy of knowledge, the basis of the heirarchy in the varna/jati system, is removed; concomitantly with the acceptance of the inherent equality of knowledge and livelihood practices of the various jatis and varnas.
  1. One of the important means of actualizing the 'ideal of equality' enshrined in Lokavidya dharma, would be the establishment of a Lokavidya Bazar; because the Bazar is the place (both conceptually and physically) where there is continuous and purposeful inter-dependant interaction between the various constituents of the Samaj.
  1. Lokavidya Bazar is the process of supporting and sustaining Lokavidya-based livelihoods and establishing new concepts of 'value' and norms of exchange.
  2. This should lead to a new political unity within Lokavidya Samaj, which is essential for building a new socio-political order.
Lokavidya Bazar : The concept

The market place(Bazar) is where commodities are exchanged between, broadly speaking, producers and consumers. It is also the place where secondary accumulation of wealth takes place by the nature of the exchange-activity i.e commodities are traded(bought and sold); while the primary accumulation takes place at the production site(of raw materials and/or products of consumption and service). The Bazar is thought to be , primarily, intended to facilitate this form of exchange-activity.

Lokavidya Bazar, on the other hand, is primarily intended to make available products and services to the local community( of producers and consumers) and facilitate exchange ,of such commodities and services, to help sustain and perpetuate life and livelihood with a minimal level of equality and dignity of members of the community. This is the underlying dharma of Lokavidya Bazar. This is the cardinal difference bewteen the(now recognised)Bazar and Lokavidya Bazar.

The inequality of the exchange-activity, in a capitalist dominated market system, leads to economic and social inequality and exploitation. In sharp contrast, Lokavidya Bazar, will be charcterised as a humane exchange-activity process that is dominated by a constant zeal to promote welfare, dignity and equality of the members of the community it serves. There are no over-riding motives save that of upholding and promoting its dharma.

Lokavidya Bazar is therefore a collective activity and effort at sustaining equality and fraternity among the various participant communities. Its dharma, through practice, pervades the philosophical, social and economic space of Lokavidya; each enriching the other across space and time.

The aspect of inequality arising from the exchange-activity process has to be addressed by redefining the concept of value(of a commodity) by incorporating the idea of knowledge-based value. In a knowledge paradigm, that recognises the fundamental equality between all knowledge and knowledge-based activity, the sustenance of a concept of knowledge-based value and the social and economic equality that it engenders, will not prove beyond the new political imagination that governs society.

The Lokavidya Bazar (conceptually) will dominate all productive and distributive activity of the Samaj. This activity would be supported by communication systems such as roadways, railways, waterways and airways as physical aids to transportation and market activity. Non local-market activity will be facilitated by mobile/non-static marketing using ICT(the current trends in e-commerce will expand and become all pervasive and redefine the role and necessity of small marketers).

Knowledge basis of Value
  • The value of goods and services are determined, in the main, by three factors:
(i) Knowledge/skill input in the production of the goods or rendering of service

(ii) Labour power input- this is measurable in terms of socially necessary/accepted time required for production/rendering(this would also apply to naturally derived inputs/raw materials)

(iii) Market/Exchange value- determined by factors such as supply(availability in the local market) and demand(need as determined by the local-market constituents)
  • The equality between all forms of knowledge/skill input is inherent in Lokavidya dharma
  • The value of Labour power is dynamic and determined by constituents of the local Lokavidya Samaj in proportion to the time necessary for production/rendering(this precludes 'forward trading' in goods/commodities/services)
  • The exchange value is dynamic and determined by constituents of the local Lokavidya Samaj in proportion to the extant supply/demand situation and would never adversely effect the equality of knowledge or labour-power inputs or the sustenance of any Lokavidya-based livelihood/activity.
The value of a commodity(we use this term to denote ALL goods and services which are produced by and through human labour for self-comsumption and/or exchange) is neither pre-determinable nor pre-assignable i.e. there is no intrinsic value to any commodity. A value accrues to a commodity as a result of it being essential to life and/or during the process of social exchange and is by nature a dynamic variable.

There are broadly two 'types' of value that accrue to a commodity; use-value and exchange-value. Both these 'types' of value are determined, in the main, by the knowledge-content and the labour-content (in relatively proportions which could change with time and place) of their production and/or availablity. Supply and demand factors would only temporarily 'modify' the value and, in an equal society, would never assume commanding heights in value determination. While knowledge-content is a local, collective and society-dependent entity, labour-content is a continuously evolving entity and, as can easily be seen, would depend on the extent of technology infusion in productive and service activities of society. Knowledge-content derives from Lokavidya and, as Lokavidya evolves and strengthens with infusion of new ideas, data and creativity; knowledge-content also changes accordingly. So, the value that accrues to a commodity is neither static nor market-determined; it progresses with Lokavidya and is continuously assessed by the (local) Lokavidya Samaj and mediates all transactions of Lokavidya Bazar.

Instances of Knowledge incorporation in value

Until about 100 years ago almost all production (of food, goods and commodities) and service activities were carried out locally i.e within the village or panchayat area. Every community(jati and upajati) was engaged in this production and service activity . It served as the basis of their livelihood and was in turn based on specialised knowledge of the production process or service activity. Such production and service activity was, by and large, year-long activity with nature-induced breaks for rest, recreation, pilgrimages, festivals, social celebrations etc. 'Payment' for contribution/involvement in any and all such activity was normally made at the time of harvest, with each section of society receiving its payment in terms of (food)grains. Everyone got a 'pay' commensurate with the(largely locally determined) yearly minimum-requirement for living a dignified life.There was an inbuilt equality in the knowledge-content of value of a commodity/service. Bonuses/Inams were distributed on special occasions for special services/ inputs from different sections of society. The value was not obviously measured merely (or only) in terms of labour-content i.e. socially necessary time for production/rendering. There must have been a socially/culturally mediated method of value-accretion based on equality of the knowledge-content of the input. Quantification of this knowledge-content in terms of measurable space-time variables is probably not possible; and also indeterminable outside a local socio-cultural context. Lokavidya Samaj determined this knowledge-content of value , it was part of its dharma.

To quote a recently reported instance by S Harpal Singh,Adilabad:
    'About 80 families-strong artisan community (the Ojhas, also known as Wojaris, based by and large at Jamgaon and Ushegaon in Jainoor and Keslaguda in Kerameri mandal) makes brass objects exclusively for the Gond tribe to be used in agriculture and religious events. Until the crucial time when the Ojhas got alienated from the Gonds, every Adivasi village in the district had boasted at least one artisan family catering to its need all through the year.
    In the wake of governmental intervention in the mid-1980s, seeking greener pastures at the national level, the brass metal casters had shunned their traditional market, which had the Gonds ignoring them and even opposing their recognition as a Scheduled Tribe in turn.
    Now however;For two years, we are visiting Gond villages with our ware and have found the Gonds quite receptive” . “The local market has ensured food security and the outside markets are fetching good income,” indicating the differentiation between the period which accounted for losses and the current phase.'
Wage and Cost/price

The cost of a goods/commodity/service to (or the price payable by) a consumer is related to its value

The minimum wage/pay/compensation accruing to the producer of goods/commodity/service is related to the cost (as above) and would, at all times, be consistent with the inherent equality of the knowledge/skill input in the production of the goods or rendering of service and the socially determined minimum required to live a dignified life.

The cost of labour-power(wage) is measured in terms of socially necessary time required to carry out a productive/service task. However, using merely a time-measure can result in several 'inequalities' . For example, the relative preparation time and execution time may differ vastly from activity to activity( growing a crop requires a month of preparation followed by 2-3 months of actual production; whereas preparation of a meal or a piece of cloth would involve relatively much less preparation time and less execution time; while both activities are known to be equally important, necessary and valuable.

If in 'socially necessary time' we also incorporate 'preparation' and 'waiting' time , during which the pertinent knowledge process continues(sustenance of labour-power), and hence incorporate the cost of maintaining a life of dignity during these relatively activity-lean times, then we put, for example, the cost of artisanal labour in a dharmic relationship with that of agricultural labour; resulting in a more equal method of costing and price determination.

Re-establishment of Lokavidya dharma through the practice of Lokavidya Bazar

It appears that the re-establishment of Lokavdiya dharma, as a guiding principle in a Lokavidya-based 'Art of Living” through the practice of Lokavidya Bazar and through various Art forms should lead to a path of emancipation for humanity from the current quagmire of rottenness and defeatism.

March 2016