caste is passe

you bloom where you're planted.

the god of all angsts, blooming in print and in person across global cities, says: 'Poverty too, like feminism, is often framed as an identity problem.' she should write another 5,000 or 30,000 word essay castigating this short film maker for wrongly framing the problem of poverty.. the maid's not poor because her mother is a maid and her mother was also a maid and her mother was also a maid and her mother..

poverty is what happens to the maid when her livelihood is destroyed because of the neo-liberal excesses of the state directed by the dark forces, the foundations. poverty is what happens when she's displaced and is forced to move to another neighbourhood and work as a maid. now she's blooming where she was planted. right, god?


Mind over Savanur

If India were a country of 18 crores, instead of 118 crores or so, all the excitement in the media would make more sense. A panelist on a TV debate on the Union Budget, for instance, expresses warm approval of a particular proposal, saying: 'infrastructure would help the poor more than subsidies in the long run'.

There are several presumptions impelling that little outburst: one, the poor don't want infrastructure, or don't understand its value or are shortsighted or hold all of those attitudes, opinions. Two, the poor want sops and handouts, and therefore are lazy and suffer from a weak work ethic. Three, infrastructure is meant for everyone, even if it is a games village worth 60,000 crore rupees in Delhi which starts crumbling down even as it is being built. Four, subsidies are for exclusively the poor, and most of them don't go to the non-poor.

 As caste is a state of mind, as Dr Ambedkar said, we've come to accept that kind of biased discourse as normal in savarna media: how can it be different when their minds and consciousness work in that fashion, dividing the world into normal 'us' and the errant 'others'?

 Infrastructure is important for poor, mostly Dalitbahujan, Indians too. 70% of rural homes don't have toilets, and those which do have toilets are not connected to any sewerage systems. Who would understand the need for infrastructure better than them? Yes, they understand the need for roads, the need for toilets, and the need for freedoms that infrastructure could represent more intensely than anyone else. But in India, we need to understand, there is infrastructure and there is pure infrastructure.

please read the rest of the article here, at round table india. 


the burden of authenticity

[another draft from two years ago]

from an article, apparently written by aruna roy, i'd originally found on the mkss website (but doesn't seem to be available there now, but can now be read here) on how the struggle for right to information started:
To understand the reason why the demand for minimum wages and the subsequent demand for access to records came about, it is important to try and understand the geographical as well as the socio-political setup of the area where the MKSS works. Rajasthan being a desert area, the people are faced more often than not with a drought. During the time that the rains fail, the only choices that people have to earn a living is to either migrate or work at the famine relief work sites. A famine relief site is basically the work sites that are opened up by the government to provide employment for the people. This could be building a road, digging a well, or desilting ponds/lakes etc.
when the people face drought, frequently, what is the state supposed to do? build irrigation infrastructure for storing and distributing water? no. also set up schools and training centres so that they can learn other ways of earning a livelihood? no. when drought occurs frequently, the state shouldn't tell itself that drought shall occur frequently, it shouldn't gear itself up to deal with it on a long term basis and not wake up every year to drought and draw up plans every year. the article describes how the struggle took root:
A famine relief site is basically the work sites that are opened up by the government to provide employment for the people. This could be building a road, digging a well, or desilting ponds/lakes etc. In most of these work sites it is seen that women are there in larger numbers than men. Men tend to migrate in search of livelihoods and the women are left behind to tend the family. 
It was seen initially that the laborers at the famine relief sites were not paid their full minimum wage. When they demanded to be paid minimum wages on public works, they were refused on the grounds that "they did not work."
a state that doesn't care how frequently drought occurs and definitely doesn't bother to take any tangible efforts to find permanent solutions to the problem- should one expect that its ad hoc solutions would spell sincerity? but our problem is not merely a state that doesn't bother how frequently drought occurs, but also a civil society that seems to tell people not to think beyond droughts, or worse, drought relief. the article goes on:
When the laborers questioned the authorities, they were told that the proof for the fact that they did not work lay in the records. The records in question were "measurement books" which were filled by the Junior Engineer. The laborers then demanded to see the records. At this point of time they were told very clearly and in no uncertain terms by the administrators that they could not see the records, because according to the Official Secrets Act (1923), a colonial legacy, all these records were state secrets and could not be opened up to the public. This infuriated the laborers who then said "till we get access to those records, we will always be told that we don't work and the administration can never be challenged on that account. If we are to prove that what they say is not true we need to get those records!" 
It was at this point of time that the movement for the "right to information" began.
the struggle had died, actually, by that point of time. you accept drought (and the government's indifference to it), frequently. you accept continued neglect of education and training. you've been reduced to the state of an underpaid coolie of someone who owes his very existence to you (i mean the so-called government servant, of course). you've already given up most of your rights over your life: now you want information on how the state is running your life? reminds me of satyajit ray's sadgati which was based on a short story by munshi premchand. a summary of the story from here:
An untouchable Dukhi (an out-caste, played by Om Puri) approaches the village Brahmin to request him to set an auspicious date for his daughter's upcoming wedding according to the Hindu astrology. The Brahmin promises to perform the task in exchange of Dukhi slaving over household chores in return.

Already ailing and weak due to a recent fever, Dukhi agrees and begins with cleaning the Brahman's house and stable. When he is asked to chop a huge block of wood, Dukhi’s anger increases with each blow. Working in scorching sun, hungry and malnourished, then he dies. The corpse lies close to the road used by the Brahmins to go to the village well. The untouchables shun it for fear of police investigation. What can be done with the corpse of an untouchable that no one will touch?

Late in the evening, when no one looking, Brahmin ties a noose around its ankle, slides it out of the city limits and sprinkles holy water on the spot on the road to cleanse it of the untouchable’s touch.
you accept the brahmin's right to decide how your life should be run. you let him exploit you, in return, for stealing from you the right to decide how your life should be run. what's your complaint?

if there was any hope expressed anywhere on the mkss site that leakage or corruption would one day be totally stopped, or even substantially reduced, i didn't notice it. if there were some insights offered on more substantial issues, on how structural inequalities like unequal access to natural resources like land, water (determined by birth, or caste) or to public services like education, health etc (determined again by caste, and class), or how inequalities in power and wealth which result from other inequalities, could be overcome, i didn't notice them.

the message that you get is: the struggle would be permanent, but not the solutions. the struggle would run for  generations, but never look for relief beyond this season. also, never look beyond the same problems and the same solutions.

gopal guru saysAuthenticity in some sense could be defined in terms of the affirmation of the ordinary (life).

in that sense, the low caste individual is always expected to be more authentic. the burden of authenticity, of never looking beyond the same (ordinary) problems and the same (ordinary) solutions, requires him to never look beyond manual labour, never expect anything beyond the karma of drought and deprivation, never rise above patronage. in other words, never live beyond caste.

caste, aruna roy, seems to say in more than one article, is an issue..but, you know, it isn't such a big issue. she is also being authentic, but in the gandhian sense which values simplicity, moral consistency and intellectual embodiment in Indian tradition. the key term being 'indian tradition' 
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