Saturday, May 30, 2020

Life ordinary Life and Emancipating Transformation

Written and posted by Lalit K Kaul, LJA, Hyderabad. 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Life Ordinary Life & Emancipating Transformation:
This question always hangs around in my mind: Why was I born? The more I look at the animal world, animal life and put it on 1:1 scale with my world and life, the more this question disturbs me. The similarity being that like any animal I am born, learn ways of the world and life within it; marry (animals do not), raise a family and provide for the same; finally merge with the Mother Earth.  Can this be termed as ‘ordinary life’ or do I qualify to be an emancipated being?
The difference being that being a part of the ‘modern world’ that prides in the ‘scientific temper’ of the man I am trained to devour the resources of the Mother Earth, which animals are not trained to do; to exploit human resources; to perpetuate miseries on the human race that animals do not do in their kingdom. Does this difference make me more liberated than animals? In the last 500 years has this Man been emancipated? Transformed: Yes; Emancipated:?
If I say that there is no need to determine the exact date of the birth of this universe; no need to philosophise on how and why it was born; no need to speculate on the purpose of its existence and its ultimate destiny; does this make me an ordinary man with ordinary thinking and therefore associated with ordinary life? If I say that such quests are not material for human societies and therefore waste of time and resource; is it primitive thinking; an under developed skull; and if I choose to live on these precept, am I in urgent need of ‘emancipating transformation’!
If I live by the precept that I am the child of the Mother Nature, ever dependent on it for my existence/ survival and therefore it is my solemn duty to live as a member of its family and not exploit it to harm it, does it get classified as a primitive thought in urgent need of transformation? If I decide to restrict my reach to the geographical area around me where my legs can take me and understand my surroundings, discover the natural resources available therein, invent means to make use of them (without hurting the Mother Nature) for my existence; does this qualify to be an irrational thought in urgent need for rationalisation?
If I say that societies/communities/races living in geographical regions different from each other in terms of the surrounding environment, climatic conditions, and natural resources should be free to make use of their wisdom, knowledge (vidhya) to devise methods to integrate their lives with their immediate Mother Earth & Nature; does it qualify to be an emancipating thought for civilised living or a primitive one deserving its place only in a garbage tin can?
The choice may lie between exploitative and non exploitative ways; exploitative means are those that hurt Mother Nature & Earth. Emancipation is not the absolute term and so may not be the definitions of exploitative and non exploitative means; the moot point is that if the societies are allowed to figure it out for themselves and no thought process/ philosophies alien to them are thrust upon them then and only then shall emerge multiple definitions of ‘being emancipating’, ‘being ordinary’, ‘being exploitative’, and ‘being non exploitative’, in the extant context. 
This is in the nature of a man to dislodge a thought process, an idea or a scheme from his mind if it is not going to be useful to him (in his domain of things); given the freedom to do so.  The sense of right and wrong is also imbibed in every human being, if only there is freedom to practise it. From among the things relevant to life, most of them every individual learns from interactions with the external world; these are not taught in any school, college and/or university. Does the information so acquired, assimilated and put to use not qualify as ‘vidhya’/ ‘knowledge’? Some things that I learnt by whatever means I learnt & for whatever reasons I learnt that help me not only in living my life at my terms, but guiding it through a course, do these not qualify to be ‘vidhya’/’knowledge’? The bigger question is: Why do I care whether the ‘emancipated’ ones recognise my world of ‘vidhya’/’knowledge’ or not so long as it enables my life dynamics and steers it through a course and also imbibes within me enough strengths to face oddities of life ? Nature is so diverse and societies are born in to it with all kinds of diversities around them, therefore how there can be one & only one yardstick to certify some one’s ‘vidhya’ as ‘avidhya’ or vice-versa! When parents cannot sermonise their child in to believing that theirs is the only way life could be lived, how any ‘emancipated’ society can sit on judgement on the ways and means of others? The moment I decide to seek cognisance for my ‘vidhya’ from a knowledge system based on totally different precepts, I attempt an absurd comparison. It’s me & only me  who shall decide the relevance of the ‘vidhya’ in regards to the necessities of my life and only I am qualified to enhance my ‘vidhya’ in certain direction if I find it insufficient for my endeavours; and only I am qualified to set the priorities vis a vis enhancements in the domain of my ‘vidhya’.
Constitution of India provides for 1) right to live, 2) right to freedom, 3) right to work; it therefore concedes that during colonial rule these rights were nonexistent. The catch here is that someone/ somebody/ some holy book has taken upon itself to grant me such rights which I indeed acquire naturally by birth because I am the baby of Mother Nature & Mother Earth; so every ‘right’ is not only predefined (even for yet to be born), but also restricted by the wisdom of a few. So life gets defined before one is born because freedom & work are defined. Right to livelihood based on ones ‘vidhya’ is not provided for because then the grip is lost. More cleverly what was done was to recognise only one knowledge system which encompassed everything including ‘life’, ‘freedom’, ‘work’ etc.; this recognition rendered everything ‘guaranteed’ by ‘Constitution’ irrelevant, because my birth right to acquire ‘vidhya’ in my own way and within my own means was snatched from me. There cannot be a better way than this one to enslave minds.
The irony however is that the ‘recognised’ knowledge system churns out such ‘servants’ of the Nation that are ever dependent on somebody/ some organisation employing them for, they are neither qualified nor competent to fend for themselves, whereas an individual empowered with Lokavidhya does not hanker after jobs, but has the wherewithal to fend for himself under all possible situations. The ‘legitimately’ educated migrate to greener pastures for their ‘good’ & ‘carrier’; the unrecognised ‘vidhya’ holder contributes to the GDP, no matter what! No expenses incurred by anyone for someone to acquire Lokavidhya and yet this individual contributes a lot to the society & the Nation; efficiency: quantum of output divided by ZERO input costs equals ‘∞’.  Efficiency of ‘legitimate’ knowledge holder equals (output burdened with costs) divided by (input costs as borne by the exchequer) tends to near ‘0’. For those who migrate they become the parasites for the Nation; of course the apologists will say that NRIs contribute dollars to our country in later stages of their life.
The moot or may be ‘ordinary’ question is: which of the two is more appropriate ‘vidhya’ for a society, not forgetting the problem of unemployment.
India houses two civilisations: one parasitic in nature & content, devouring all possible resources and blaming the ‘population explosion’ for all the ills; the other one productive, non-parasitic in nature, non-devouring type; not accusing existence of others for whatever hardships & discomforts its populace go through. Of these two civilisations which one is ‘emancipating’ and which one is ‘ordinary’? In my understanding, one who gives despite hardships is emancipated and ‘emancipating’ & the other who is insatiably devouring is ‘ordinary’. 


Monday, May 25, 2020

Suggestions for LJA intervention on behalf of migrant workers

A Note on possible/desirable activities that can be taken up
by LJA activists for the benefit of returning Migrant Workers

The returning Migrant Worker population represent a hard working section of rural youth who have migrated to urban centres(towns, cities, metros) over the past decades to eke out a livelihood so as to help sustain their family members, who were ’left’ back in their villages. This population have been largely working in the construction, production and service sectors of the urban economy through acquired knowledge and skills. As a result of the Pandemic and lockdown, they have been ‘displaced’ from their urban homes, jobs and workplaces and have chosen to go back to their villages . However, they continue to possess these acquired knowledge and skills and would still be able to contribute to the economy without the need for ‘training for skill development’. Many of them would want to go back to their urban jobs and many of their employers would also want them back.

The numbers of such workers is estimated to be about 40 million largely from the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. Those who have survived the ordeal of the forced "long march" would have reached their villages by the end of this month.
They have lost faith in the State, their employers in their states of migration and in the belief that the urban population and the market system has any element of empathy and 'human' values. That belief/hope has been violently shattered and they have trudged home, probably in the hope that such empathy and human values still remain in their villages! That is to be seen in the days to come.

LJA, which has been deeply involved in championing the rights of Lokavidya Samaj; such as the 'Right to a dignified life based on Lokavidya', "Sab ki Aay Pakki"(a guaranteed universal basic income), Lokavidya Bazar and Lokavidya Swaraj etc; needs to swing into action to bring these ideas into the collective consciousness of the Samaj using the heightened awareness on all these issues among these returning migrant workers, as a catalyst.

First and foremost would be the need to organize food distribution(grains, pulses, oil etc) to the families of these returning migrant workers for the next few months so that they don’t die of starvation.
LJA activists in these rural areas could play an important role in initiating, guiding and overseeing such distribution, in conjunction with workers of BKU, PDS, ICDS, Anganwadi  etc

I would like to suggest some areas of action that can be focused upon, during the next few months, based on the skills of the returning migrant workers. Such activity could help generate motivation and new skills among the rural population and possibly set in motion , regenerative rural transformation of village and cottage industry. It could also provide the necessary fillip for decentralized production( the ‘produce locally’ campaign) and reduce the need to ‘migrate for work’.

Workers who wish to return

The main issue concerning such workers is: under what conditions would these workers be willing to return ? These condition would include, in the main, assured safe housing and assured timely payment of a minimum wage. This process would involve serious negotiations with their employers/job-providers, mediated by individuals and organizations in whom both sides have trust.( This is akin to the situation handled by Gandhiji in 1928/29 with regard to the Ahmedabad Mill workers’ strike- with the final settlement arrived at to the satisfaction of both workers and Mill owners)

LJA together with other activists in Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Kolkata could play an important role in initiating and guiding such negotiations. This work must start as soon as possible.

Workers who wish to remain

Wherever possible, it must be attempted to setup functional decentralized units of urban factories and manufacturing industries, depending on the skill-set of returning workers, in identified panchayat areas. This would ensure that such workers find a place in the production/manufacturing chain asap.
LJA activisits in these rural areas together with other NGOs could play an important role in initiating and guiding such ‘decentralization’ of workplaces, while providing gainful employment to these ‘destitute’ workers.

Some examples:

1. Returning workers of the garment manufacturing industry:
A small cluster of such workers can be provided the (minimal) infrastructure required to continue their productive activity, such as, sewing machines(even hand-operated) housed in a small building in some convenient area close to their residences. The ‘raw’ material such as pre-cut garment pieces, thread, buttons etc could be supplied to them at the workplace(through local couriers) and the finished garment collected and transported back to the urban centre. Payment being made on delivery of finished garment etc.
The capital required to establish this infrastructure and logistics could come from Venture Capital(VC) in conjunction with the urban factory; a business model could be worked out to the best satisfaction of all.

2. Returning construction workers:
All building activity such as low cost housing, toilets, roads, warehouses etc can be taken up using the skills of returning masons, building workers etc. Once again the capital outlay for building material, tools, equipment etc could come from VC and a business model drawn up in conjunction with with Govt agencies such as R&B Dept, PM Awas Yojana, Swachh Bharat Mission, MGNREGA etc

3. Workers from other ‘centralised’ industries,
Wherever production can be carried out in a decentralized manner; such workers can be encouraged to continue practising their acquired skills by designing distributed production centres(depending on the size and character of the skill set of returning workers) using VC ; with appropriate business models developed to suit each type of productive activity.

4. Workers from the service sectors of the urban economy
A number of returning workers have been involved in the urban ’service sector’ as delivery men, couriers, drivers/transporters etc and their skills and experience can be marshaled to man the logistics of these decentralized production centres.

The establishment of Gyan Panchayats

Wherever possible,attempts must be made to set up functional Gyan Panchayats involving migrant workers and local village members. All activities to be taken up must be discussed in these Gyan Panchayats and working plans drawn up for immediate implementation. This would facilitate the process of establishing Gram Swaraj/Lokavidya Swaraj and, hopefully, facilitate the process of the Samaj to regain control over it's life and activities.