Sunday, November 27, 2016

Demonetization-its impact on Lokavidya livelihoods and lessons for Lokavidya Samaj

The demonetization of high value currency, which was implemented from the 9th of November, has had a widespread and telling effect on Lokavidya livelihoods and members of Lokavidya Samaj. While there has been widespread support for the idea and intent of demonetization viz the rooting out of hoarded black and white money and an indirect strike against ‘terror funding’, there have been many complaints regarding the way it was implemented, the seeming lack of adequate planning and in anticipating the hardships caused to citizens due to the non-availability of adequate small currency. While all this may be so; it is imperative to examine the effects of this move on Lokavidya livelihoods.

A majority of members of Lokavidya Samaj are greatly dependent on capital inputs , as small cash loans, at every stage of their livelihood activities. Most of these financial inputs come from local money lenders at usurious rates. Cash flow, which is equally crucial to continuation of the livelihood activity, is determined by local market conditions, which often push the producer into a debt trap. Accumulation of surplus (in the form of cash -in- hand) , as a result of marketing their produce/services and after debt servicing and meeting daily-life needs, is almost non-existent. In short, a majority of Lokavidya livelihoods are in a precarious position and almost wholly dependent on cash available on a day-to-day basis.

One large scale effect of demonetization has been the non-availability of small currency to almost all sections of society. While those connected with the banking system have been looking to banks to meet their needs of spendable cash, the plight of a vast number of members of Lokavidya Samaj has become alarming. Many have no work to do, because their local lenders and/or paymasters do not have liquid cash(small currency) . This ‘drying up’ of local sources of cash, much like the non-availability of water during drought, may soon lead to the ‘withering away’ of these livelihoods and lives dependent on them.

While the situation may improve in the coming days with the availability of fresh stocks of small currency; the lessons, from this experience, for Lokavidya Samaj are important to understand. We have been focussing on the negative impact of the terms-of-trade (pricing of produce and labour) in the current market situation and demanding more equitable terms/remuneration based on equality between the different (forms of) knowledge content underlying production and service, by the Samaj. However, what has emerged from the current exercise of demonetization, is that the flow of small and adequate currency at the local level has had a telling effect on the sustenance of Lokavidya livelihoods and consequently on the lives of members of the Samaj. The demand for the Right to a dignified life now gets hinged on this new factor of cash flow. He who controls this cash flow wields the sword!

The over-arching spread and reach of International Finance Capital, which we know has determined the course of market-driven capitalism and path of development these past few decades; has now spread its tentacles to Lokavidya livelihoods and the Samaj. During the past few weeks after demonetization was implemented, there have been a few reports of how members of Lokavidya Samaj have been coping with this potentially life-threatening situation. In one local market, farmers exchanged their produce(grains, vegetables etc) for cooked food made available by a local caterer at some mutually agreed -upon exchange value. At another place transport services were made available in exchange for goods/services made available by those being transported. There may be many such instances that have emerged but have not been reported.

However, what is important to note is that such ‘solutions’ provide two important inputs in the struggle of Lokavidya Samaj to come to its own. First, it points to a discovery of a new mutually beneficial basis for assigning exchange value that is based on a new concept of equality. Second, such solutions are outside the ambit of the (financial) control of the capitalist-market system and therefore inherently sustainable by the local community of producers and consumers.

We may also take note that the real intent of the minimum wage scheme under MGNREGA has been to enable the vast majority of ‘unemployed’ members of the Samaj to participate in the market system by providing guaranteed minimum wages for doing the work of coolies(manual labour). The Jan Dhan Yojana, which requires all such people to obtain Aadhar cards and open bank accounts, is also aimed at providing this cash(wage) through a direct cash transfer system. And now with the crises of cash flow and the banking system’s inability to meet the requirements of this path of ‘inclusion’ , there is an appeal to all to switch to a cashless system using bank/credit cards.

It appears imperative that Lokavidya Samaj come up with ways and means and mutually agreed upon solutions to protect and sustain its livelihoods and to meet the onslaught of the capitalist market-system. These are pointers to the agenda of Lokavidya Jan Andolan in the coming days.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Aurangabad Gyan - Panchayats

औरंगाबाद (महाराष्ट्र) में ज्ञान-पंचायतें
17-18 नवम्बर 2016
कृष्णराजुलू, नारायण राव और मैं 17-18 नवम्बर को औरंगाबाद में थे| पिछले लगभग एक महीने से संजीव औरंगाबाद में कई आंदोलक और सामाजिक संघटनाओं के नेताओं और कार्यकर्ताओं से मुलाकातें कर रहे हैं| इन मुलाकातों के बाद संजीव ने 17-18 नवम्बर को चार ज्ञान पंचायतों के साथ पत्रकारों से वार्ता का आयोजन किया था| दलित समाज, मुस्लिम समाज,  लोक-कलाकार और महिलाओं की ये ज्ञान पंचायतें थीं जिनमें शामिल होना हम तीनों का उद्देश्य था| इन पाँचों अवसरों पर लोकविद्या-विचार के साथ ही लोकविद्याधरों के लिए सरकारी कर्मचारियों के बराबरी की निश्चित और नियमित आय पर चर्चा हुई| पूरा  कार्यक्रम बहुत अच्छा रहा| 
इस कार्यक्रम में सबसे उत्साह-वर्धक जो बात रही वह फुले, शाहू, आंबेडकर विचार प्रबोधन परिषद इस दलित संगठन के साथकी ज्ञान पंचायत| अध्यक्षता परिषद के अगुआ ऐड. रमेश खंडागले कर रहे थे| अभी कुछ ही दिन हुए कि रमेश भाई ने अनुसूचित जाति और जनजाति (अत्याचार निवारण) अधिनियम, 1989 के महाराष्ट्र में हो रहे विरोध के खिलाफ एक लाख दलितों के मोर्चे का नेतृत्व किया था| और इसके बाद इस अधिनियम के कुछ जगह हो रहे दुरुपयोग के खिलाफ एक अन्य मोर्चे का भी|  पंचायत में लगभग पचास कार्यकर्ता शामिल हुए| चर्चा चार घंटे चली|  हम सभी के अनुभव में लोकविद्या विचार के संदर्भ में किसी दलित संगठन के साथ इतना खुलकर चर्चा शायद इससे पहले कभी न हुई थी| इन कार्यकर्ताओं में से कुछ के साथ संजीव की पिछली बैठकों की बदौलत लोकविद्या-विचार से इनका परिचय था ही| पंचायत में हमने इस विचार पर और बराबरी की आय की मांग पर विस्तार से अपनी बात रखी| अंत में बोलते हुए रमेश भाई ने कहा कि वे और उनके साथी सतत डा. आम्बेडकर के विचारों के तहत कार्य करते रहे हैं| उन्होंने कहा कि इस परिप्रेक्ष्य में दो मुद्दों पर खुलासा हो, और अगर बात उनको योग्य लगती है तो वे सब लोकविद्या – विचार के साथ हैं, और भविष्य में इसके साथ कार्यक्रमों में शामिल रहेंगे| ये दो मुद्दे थे:
1.        १. ‘आश्रम’, ‘वाराणसी’, ‘सत्संग’ जैसे शब्दों का प्रयोग जिनसे आर.एस.एस. या उस जैसे संगठनों का आभास होता है, और,
2.        २.  यद्यपि दलित जातियों द्वारा मरे जानवरों की खाल उतारने तथा मल-मूत्र की सफाई से सम्बंधित काम उनके पास के इस विषय के विशिष्ठ ज्ञान के आधार पर ही किये जाते हैं,  इन कामों का दलित लोग न स्वागत करते हैं और न इनमें कोई प्रतिष्ठा ही देखते हैं| इतना ही नहीं, डा. आंबेडकर ने उनको यह स्पष्ट रूपसे कहा है कि अगर अस्पृश्यता को उखाड़ फेंकना है तो उन्हें ये काम नहीं करने चाहिए|
इन मुद्दों पर हमने जो प्रतिक्रिया रखी उसका सारांश कुछ इस प्रकार है:
1.        १.  हालांकि ‘आश्रम’, ‘वाराणसी’, ‘सत्संग’ ये शब्द कुछ संस्कृत भाषा का आभास दिलाते हैं, लेकिन ये सभी पूर्वी उत्तर प्रदेश, जहां विद्या-आश्रम स्थित है, में सार्वजनिक बोलचाल में आम शब्द हैं|  ‘आश्रम’ शब्द का वर्त्तमान में  बड़ा दुरुपयोग हुआ है इसमें संदेह नहीं, लेकिन आश्रम तो साधुओं से भी जुड़े रहे हैं| कबीर कहते थे कि साधू की कोई जाति नहीं होती – जाति न पूछो साधु की, पूछ लीजिये ज्ञान| हमारी ख्वाहिश इसी परम्परा में बैठ सकने की है| विद्या आश्रम सारनाथ में है जहाँ बुद्ध ने अपना पहला सार्वजनिक उपदेश दिया था| बुद्ध ने अपने अनुयायियों को पिटकों का संस्कृत में भाषांतर करने से मना किया था| कुछ मिलती-जुलती बातें ‘सत्संग’ इस शब्द के बारे में भी कही जा सकती हैं| वाराणसी किसी भी अर्थ में किसी एक हिन्दू परंपरा, या किसी एक धर्म का स्थान नहीं है| हमने अपनी कई ज्ञान पंचायतें और 17-अक्तूबर 2016 की किसान-कारीगर ज्ञान पंचायत गंगा के किनारे भैंसासुर घाट पर आयोजित की हैं, जहाँ बगल में संत रविदास का मंदिर है|
2.        २.  हम इस बात को जानते हैं कि अपने परम्परागत ज्ञान पर आधारित काम को दलित लोग प्रतिष्ठा का नहीं मानते, जब कि लोकविद्या समाज के अन्य लोगों के बारे में ऐसा नहीं है| हम यह भी जानते हैं कि इस काम के प्रकार से सम्बंधित सामाजिक विषमता का सबसे घिनौना रूप - अस्पृश्यता - आज भी हमारे समाज में मौजूद है| अस्पृश्यता को समाज से उखाड़ फेंकने के लिए हम दलित सगठनों के साथ वार्ता और कार्य करना चाहते हैं| अपनी ज्ञान पंचायतों में हमने इस विषय में पहले भी चर्चा की है| हम यह मानते हैं कि मात्र आर्थिक विषमता हटाने से सामाजिक विषमता समाप्त होगी यह मानने का कोई कारण नहीं है| लेकिन हम यह कहना चाहते हैं की सभी ज्ञान-प्रवाहों की समता पर आधारित बराबरी की आय का संघर्ष लंबा और दूरगामी संघर्ष है| इस प्रकार की आर्थिक समता को समाज में तभी मान्यता मिल पाएगी जब किसी पुरोहित, वैज्ञानिक, इंजीनियर, नौकरशाह या उद्योगपति को सामाजिक तौर पर किसान, आदिवासी या दलित के बराबरी का ही माना जाएगा| अंततः, वैसे तो हम यह नहीं मानते की आर्थिक और सामाजिक प्रश्नों के हल मात्र तकनीकी किस्म के हो सकते हैं| लेकिन हम दलित भाइयों के साथ यह निश्चित तौर पर खोजना चाहेंगे कि अस्पृश्यता के प्रश्न का हल क्या किसी ऐसी तकनीकी से आरम्भ हो सकता है जिसमें मृत जानवरों की खाल निकालने और मल-मूत्र की सफाई जैसे काम सीधे हाथों के उपयोग के बिना हो सकें, और जिसके प्रबंधन का कार्य दलित अपने परम्परागत ज्ञान का उपयोग करते हुए करें| 
इस तकनीकी से सम्बंधित मुद्दे पर हमें आपस में चर्चा करने की जरूरत है| ‘लोकविद्या-स्वराज’ की अवधारणा को पुख्ता करने के लिए यह विशेष आवश्यकता बनती है| हमारी मान्यता है की सामाजिक-आर्थिक प्रश्नों के जवाब मात्र तकनीकी प्रकार के नहीं हुआ करते| क्या लोकविद्या पर आधारित समाज की परिकल्पना हमें अस्पृश्यता जैसे, लोकविद्या विचार के परिप्रेक्ष्य में मौलिक रूप में एकदम अलग और विशिष्ठ सामाजिक प्रश्न पर हमारी अन्य मान्यताओं को दर-किनार करके आगे बढ़ने की ताकत रखती है? अपने आप में क्या ऐसा प्रयास सामाजिक विवेक के साथ है? क्या ऐसा विचार दलित मन की टोह ले पायेगा? इसकी शर्तें क्या होंगी? कुछ अन्य किस्म के सवाल भी हैं: ‘विशुद्ध तकनीकी’ दृष्टिकोण में क्या यह विचार अर्थपूर्ण है?  क्या ऎसी तकनीक स्थानीय स्तर पर इस्तेमाल की जा सकती है? क्या उसके उपयोग को ‘हाई-टेक’ की दुनिया के हानिकारक प्रभावों से अलग रखा जा सकता है, विशेषतः तब जब इसके लिए कुछ ‘हाई-टेक’ उपकरणों को मुहैय्या करने और स्थानीय जरूरतों के मुताबिक़ उनमें फेरबदल करने की आवश्यकता हो?
-       गिरीश सहस्रबुद्धे

Gyan Panchayats at Aurangabad (Maharashtra)
17-18 November 2016
The trip Krishnarajulu, Narayan Rao and I made to Aurangabad on 17-18 November to attend Gyan Panchayats organized by Sanjeev was very good. The lokavidya thought was discussed in all the four panchayats as well as during the meeting with press representatives.
However, the most encouraging aspect was the Gyan Panchayat with activists of the dalit organization फुले, शाहू, आंबेडकर विचार प्रबोधन परिषद. The Panchayat was attended by about fifty activists including a few women activists. It is the first time in my and others' experience that we could engage in a meaningful dialog on lokavidya thought with dalit activists. Thanks to the several earlier individual meetings which Sanjeev had with many of them over a period of a month, those present already had some familiarity with LJA. The meeting was chaired by Adv. Ramesh Khandagale who recently led a silent march of a lakh of dalits against the attack on atrocities act and then also another march against its misuse. Initially we talked at some length about lokavidya thought, lokavidya samaj and the demand for regular and definite income equal to that of government employees to every adult member of this samaj. In his final remarks Ramesh ji was very candid. He referred to, and asked for a response on, two counts:
1.        Appearance of words like आश्रम, वाराणसी, सत्संग as these sounded like those used by the RSS, and,
2.        The fact that the traditional work of skinning the dead cattle and hygiene / sanitation work related with cleaning up human excreta etc, although based on detailed knowledge with dalit castes, is unwelcome, regarded as devoid of any prestige and was explicitly denounced by Dr Ambedkar, who advised them to give it up if they wanted to overthrow the yolk of untouchability.
He also said that if our response to this is acceptable to them, then they are entirely with lokavidya thought and would actively participate in any programme taken up in future. We responded to both these points broadly as under:
1.        We are aware of the 'sanskritik' ring of these words. However, the words are perfectly common in public discourse in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, where Vidya Ashram is based. In spite of its misuse in current times, the word आश्रम is associated with sadhus, who as Kabir said have no caste (जाति न पूछो साधु की, पूछ लीजिये ज्ञान), and we want to be seen in this continuity. Vidya Ashram is at Sarnath, where Buddha, who disallowed translation of his sayings and sermons into Sanskrit, gave his first sermon. Similarly, satsang. Varanasi does not belong to any hindu tradition as such. We have held Gyan Panchayats including the October 16, 2016 Kisan-Karigar Mahapanchayat on Bhainsasur Ghat with Ravidas Mandir behind us.
2.        We are aware that, unlike any other member of the lokavidyadhar samaj, dalit castes do not take pride in the exercise of their vidya of skinning dead animals and sanitation. We recognize that the most abhorrent form of wilful social discrimination - untouchability - persists. We want to work with dalit organizations on its removal and have discussed the issue earlier too in our gyan panchayats. We also believe that economic equity is not, of itself, co-terminus with social equity. However, the struggle for equality of incomes led by the demand discussed at the Panchayat is a long one and as satisfaction of the demand requires some level of acceptance by all of equal status of knowledge of the scientist and that of the farmer and the dalit, the struggle is also one of social equality (समता) and not just economic equality. And lastly, although in general we have no faith otherwise in technological solutions to either social or economic questions, we would want to explore with them whether a technological intervention, which removes the necessity of direct human handling in dead animal skinning and sanitary work, with dalit castes, given their knowledge of these, in an administrative and management role for this technology, is a possible starting point.
The last of the above (about technological intervention) is something, which has been in my mind for some time. I think that, may be, it is worth discussing also, and particularly, in the context of lokavidya swaraj. Does our conception of swaraj based on lokavidya allow us to make a radical departure to address a social question, which is radically different in so far as Dalits stand out in lokavidya samaj by rejecting that there is any prestige in work based on exercise of their traditional knowledge? Also, would this be a wise idea? Will it engage the dalit mind? And, at a different level, is the idea technologically sound: Can one imagine possibility of its implementation at local levels in a manner relatively isolated from the general logic of the world of hi-techeven if it involves acquisition and adaptation of existing hi-techsanitation components / systems?

- Girish Sahasrabudhe

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A recent publication about LJA

                                          Struggles for Living Learning- Lina Dokuzovic


.Lokavidya can be understood as a lived/living knowledge which develops from day-to-day experiences, struggles, and challenges in the world as a people’s common knowledge: a living knowledge or living learning. It includes the knowledge of peasants, artisans, displaced persons, and indigenous persons alongside institutionalized education or other spaces where knowledge is produced. According to members of the movement, it is a term that, while coined by participants in the movement, is easily understood and identified by people across India as something they inherently have….

if we see this in a deprivation framework, we will be led to development theories; if we see this in an exploitation framework, we will be led to theories of radical social transformation” …..This perspective, which highlights the detrimental consequences of “development” advanced by not least the World Bank or IMF, is key to understanding the point of departure of the LJA. In other words, a struggle which focuses on lack advances financial compensation as its endgame, thus remaining dependent on national and supranational policies that oppress impoverished populations through the very logic of standards-based definitions of lack. It also perpetuates competition among its people. However, by shifting the perception of lack and accompanying jealousy, depression, and insecurity perpetuated by the logic of capital to highlighting what people are endowed with, despite, or even as a result of these experiences, people can become empowered through the collective use and exchange of their skills, talents, and knowledge. The LJA departs from this shift in the perception of knowledge production by instead placing lokavidya at the center of a unified struggle in order to radically reconfigure the understanding of knowledge, development, solidarity, borders, and access. From this perspective, the LJA attempts to unitea wide range of struggles for socially equitable access to basic human rights.
Lokavidya provides a crucial perspective in India where a large part of the population has been made refugees in their homeland as a result of displacement and internal migration. In this context, knowledge is not only quantified for becoming commodified; it is also instrumentalized to promote processes of exclusion beyond the realm of education or employment within cognitive capitalism. Furthermore, lokavidya presents an important alternative within the context of grassroots movements that have reached an impasse in historical and contemporary conflicts between armedstruggle and abandoned non-violent Gandhism. However, the notion of lokavidya not only presents an alternative. By departing from the perspective of capacity rather than lack, it builds a greater foundation for a struggle built and inherently based on constituent strengths. It, therefore, allows for more flexible solidarity across borders or facets of struggle as it focuses less on competition among have-nots by reinforcing itself instead through a strengthening, self-empowering, and self-perpetuating exchange of shared knowledges as capacity and potentiality. Due to the potentiality ofthis perspective, the LJA and Vidya Ashram maintain that “a radical intervention in the world of knowledge is a necessary condition for a radical transformation of society.”

The notion of lokavidya has deeply enriched my theoretical and political understanding of the role of knowledge as a constituent and instituent force across borders, economic sectors, institutions of education, and thus as a transformative form of cross-sectional solidarity. My understanding of lokavidya as a theoretical perspective was significantly developed through practical, lived experiences and encounters with movements, primarily the LJA. And my understanding of movement practices was further expanded through a variety of theoretical viewpoints from struggles, including contrapoder, radical pedagogy, co-research, translocality, feminist ecology, or social justice.

...movements such as the LJA use phrases like “living knowledge,” “living learning,” or “people’s knowledge” instead to refer to a state of empowerment, not a new form of exploitation. In doing so,they radically shift their approach to these exploitative conditions by not allowing them to paralyze their actions. Instead, the LJA focuses on the constituent force or counter-power of lived experiences, which in many cases includes traditional, Indigenous, or Fordist structures that function parallel to Postfordist cognitive capitalism in, for example, the context of India.

Movements such as the LJA have taken this one step further to claim that lived knowledge
should be placed at the center of knowledge-based struggles as the source of self-empowerment and the basis upon which to demand rights and reclaim space.

This point of departure has been expanded through perspectives developed within the LJA – as well as its overlaps with the publication Living Learning – which demand an inclusion of lived knowledges, placing the worst-off at the center of a common struggle, and placing lokavidya at the center of a more comprehensive struggle for rights.

LJA’s demands for basic income are based on the egalitarian acknowledgement and treatment of knowledges (i.e., lokavidya). This perspective – which contributes greatly to the notion of living learning – does not measure knowledge according to its value on global financial markets. It instead understands knowledge as a fundamental part of life and considers the exploitation of living labor within and beyond financial or cognitive capitalism. Living learning also acknowledges the various translocal differences in and divisions of labor that influence and are influenced by transforming economic and social relations. Furthermore, living learning incorporates an understanding of the gender divide and feminization of labor. It does not create an exclusive perspective that disregards the global digital divide or the global multiplication of labor.

An equally distributed unconditional basic income based on an equal acknowledgement of human knowledges and their various contributions to society – rather than cognitive capital – would satisfy demands by struggles for living learning in different parts of the world without the loss of livelihoods that fuels destructive capitalist expansion. Moreover, the distribution of such a notion on a global level would challenge global divisions of labor and income disparity and would create a radical shift in global economic processes and translocal practices
The book can be purchased or ordered from all book stores in the German-speaking area. It can also be ordered online from a number of distributors who ship internationally. In addition, a downloadable pdf is also available on the publisher's website at the link pasted below.

Living Learning: Within Emergent Knowledge Economies and the Cognitivization of Capital and Movement.
transversal texts, June 2016
ISBN 978-3-903046-09-2
237 pages, paperback, € 15,00
The book is available in print or as an EPUB or PDF.

Some useful links to the author’s involvement with LJA

Lina Dokuzovic speaking at the First International Conference of Lokavidya Jan Andolan