Vocabulary of Commons - Part 2

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Vocabulary of commons Foundation for Ecological Security PB No. 29, Anand, Gujarat, INDIA–388001p: +91 (2692) 261239; f: +91 (2692) 262087 e: [email protected] w: fes.org.in

For all parts see : Vocabulary of Commons


  1. 101. Canadian law concerning Aboriginal communities’. He adds that thecustomary law, their living document, changes and evolves according totheir needs and on their terms.Customary law and the management of commonsAn area in which customary law–based resource management of thecommons is seen more than in others is jhum or shifting cultivation whichis practised widely in Northeast India. Against around 25% of the tribalsin mainland India, some 90% of those in the Northeast practise it (RoyBurman 1993: 196–197, Gangwar and Ramakrishnan 1992: 101–102) arguethat this traditional form of cultivation has been successful in this regionbecause the tribes keep norms such as the number of years of fallowperiod for the land to reforest. The technology they use for it includessoil conservation techniques. Such practices are founded on their time–tested traditions. That is why studies have also highlighted the instrumentalityof the customary laws in the sustainable management of the naturalresources (Orebech 2005).In the Northeast the customary laws of various tribal communities employan intricate mix of land and forest management patterns like ownershipby individuals, clans, khels and villages (Fernandes, Pereira and Khatso2007: 28–38). It is also true, as discussed above, that due to the influenceof the market and commercial forces, these management systems areat different stages of transition from communal to individual ownership(Buragohain 1990: 10). However, in most tribes of the Northeast communalownership of land continues to be intertwined intricately with privateownership. Experience shows that such a mix has a positive impact onthe management and conservation of the natural resources. For example,as the quote from Shakespear shows, the Angami customary law ensuresthe maintenance of a balance between individual and communal ownership.It does not give a free hand to any individual to accumulate land butensures that the requirements of each and every family are met. Thiscombination of ownership by individuals and the community also maintainsa balance between fields and forests. That balance is essential forsuccessful cultivation of their fields (D’Souza 2001: 56). Such mechanismsare not unique to the Angami of Nagaland. They exist also among theTangkhuls of Manipur and others too follow a similar pattern. 93
  2. 102. The commons, customary law and womenThe three key features of the customary law based commons managementare intra–generational equity, inter–generational equity and a relativelyhigh women’s status. One speaks here of a relatively high status of tribalwomen, not of equality. In no tribe is the woman equal to men. Evenmatrilineal tribes are patriarchal. In these tribes too the village is exclusivelymale controlled. Even when inheritance is through the woman, decisionson alienation of land are taken by men. What conferred a relatively highstatus on tribal women is the gender–based division of work and of controlbetween the family and social spheres. In most tribes, the village councilmade up of men alone controlled the resource. But women were in chargeof the family economy, production and decision making.Jhum cultivation is representative of such management. The village councilmade up of men alone took the decision about the plot to cultivate thatyear, the area to be allotted to each family according to the number ofmouths to feed and which family with an excess of adults would assistwhich one with a deficit of workers. At this stage the man of the housetook over, chose the plot his family would cultivate that year andperformed the religious rites to mark the beginning of cultivation. Afterit the woman took charge of cultivation and organised work in the field(Fernandes and Menon 1987: 77–82). From a gender perspective, workwas more equitable than in settled agriculture because of this division.In the latter, the man owns land, takes decisions on the type of cropsto grow and decides the division of work. Men do what is considereddifficult work and allocate to women tasks that involve standing in wetfields and bending for a long time (Misra 2000: 74–77). It shows women’slack of control over the resource.One does not claim that the woman had full control over community–managed resources. She only took charge of production, not of theresource but community management gave her greater control over theirsustenance than her counterparts in caste societies had. She was notin charge of the resource but, inasmuch as she controlled the familyeconomy and production, she had control over a part of the economy.Work on that resource turned her into an economic asset and that wasthe basis of her relatively high status. She was not equal to men but had94
  3. 103. greater control over its production and economy than her counterpartsin other societies did. Around these resources she met other women andexchanged information. There she gained access to resources requiredfor her own sustenance and that of her family (Menon 1995: 101).Since she controlled the family economy, her dependence on the commonswas greater than that of men. So she had a bigger vested interest intreating them as renewable. Due to her greater dependence on theresource and control over the family economy because her social statusdepended on abundant resources (Pathy 1988: 26), alienation of thecommons has serious implications for her economic as well as socialstatus. However, the formal land laws that replace the customary lawsalienate the commons from them by recognising only individual ownershipwhich is invariably in favour of men. That has serious implications bothfor equity and women’s status. One does not state that the customarylaw was unblemished. The communities run under it had a hierarchy anddid not treat women as equal. But they ensured intra and inter–generationalequity, not necessarily equality. Because of the role of equity they played,the customary laws are included among the commons.Customary law and identityWithin these limitations of exclusive power and patriarchy the myths oforigin of each tribe legitimised its social system and resource management.On this count the middle India tribes differed substantially from thoseof the Northeast. The myths of middle India linked the resource to theorigin of the tribe or clan. Based on it their customary laws attachedsacredness to some economically important species. Through the totemthat symbolised their origin the tribes built their identity around theircommons understood as material resources. In the Northeast, on thecontrary, most myths are centred on the village, its forest and gate, notthe sacred groves. It is because they are relatively recent immigrantsto the region while those of middle India were in their present habitatwhen they began to develop their clan–related identity. That explains whythe sacred groves of sarna, akhra and sasan were of very greatimportance in middle India. The sarna, the forest where teenagers weretrained into adulthood represented the present generation. The akhra or 95
  4. 104. dancing ground where young men and women met and formed maritalalliances symbolised the future generation. The sasan, the burial groundrepresented the past. The tombstone of an ancestor in the sasan wasthe only ‘document’ a family required to claim its right to cultivate landin that village. No axe or sickle could be used in the sacred groves. Thesetribes conferred sacredness also on some economically important treessuch as sal and mahua and some other plants and animals that wererepresented by the totem. Their fruits could be eaten but the trees couldnot be cut till they grew old. Some less economic species like mangoesand jack fruit were treated as sacred but at a lower level than sal andmahua (Deeney and Fernandes 1992).Their customary law ensured the protection of sacred species andregulated the use of ones that were not sacred. Their myths of originwere around the resources that were their sustenance i.e. the centre oftheir economy, culture and identity. Since their renewal was basic to thetribe’s continuity they linked the present resources to the past and futuregenerations. Through these systems they declared that the resource wasa gift from the past, to be used according to present needs and preservedfor posterity. Their customary law ensured that the tribe adhered to thisnorm of sustainable use and preservation for posterity. That ensured inter–generational equity just as jhum ensured intra–generation equity(Fernandes, Menon and Viegas 1988: 163–167).In the Northeast too the resources were tribal sustenance but their identitywas linked more to the village than to the resource. Their clan identityhad already been formed before their arrived in the region so they couldnot create a new one after they reached the region. That explains theabsence of myths of origin and of sacred groves among the tribes. Thatalso turned the village and not the clan into the centre of their life. Sotheir oral histories are centred round the spirits of the village and forests(D’Souza 2001: 52–53). The Khasi are probably the only tribe in theregion to have a myth of origin and sacred groves. They claim to haveoriginated from the seven huts that broke away from the sixteen hutsin heaven and landed in the Khasi Hills. The sacred groves symbolisetheir origin and continuity in the region (Bhattacharyya 1995: 22–23).96
  5. 105. Because the village and the forests around it were crucial for their identity,the customary law meant to manage the resources attained greaterimportance in the Northeast while in middle India the sacred groves andother natural resources were the centre of identity. The totem and themyths of origin legitimised the customary law. Even today, these tribeslink their identity to the resource. Most of their struggles are for jal,jungle, jameen, jasbath i.e. water resource, forest, land and identity.They mention the resource and not the customary law as basic to it. Thestate too accepts this thinking, for example, in the Panchayats (Extensionto the Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 that was enacted after a struggle andmuch discussion with their leaders. It speaks of their right to governthemselves according to their traditional political systems. But its thrustis protection of their livelihood. It stipulates that the gram sabha, theirbasic political unit should be consulted before land acquisition for adevelopment project under the Land Acquisition Act 1894. The customarylaw continues to be subordinate to the resource (Krishnan 2000).In the Northeast also the customary law governed resources. But in theabsence of myths of origin and of sacred groves the law, not the resourcesit governed, became the centre of identity. The law of each tribe fixednorms for forest and land management and ensured inter and intra–generational equity by regulating forest and land ownership and use(Fernandes, Pereira and Khatso 2007: 24–25). It is true that in the contextof shortages caused by land alienation and immigration most ethnicconflicts today are around land. But their nationalist political strugglesare around autonomy with the customary law as its centrepiece. TheNaga and Mizo peace accords recognise them as intrinsic to their identity,culture and tradition. The Constitution was amended in 1963 to add Article371A to recognise the right of the Nagas to run their civil affairsaccording to their customary law. It was amended once again in 1986to add Article 371G to accord the same right to the Mizos. Also the sixthschedule that resulted from many struggles confers on the tribes greaterautonomy than the fifth schedule does. It treats their traditions as importantbut does not mention the customary law explicitly (Fernandes 2005).In other words, both in the Northeast and in middle India the resourceswere managed as renewable. But in the Northeast the customary law 97
  6. 106. was central to the management of the commons. Focus on the customarylaw was necessitated also by the fact that around 90% of them practisejhum cultivation which is based on common land. Legal provisions in theregion respect this aspect while much of the land legislation in middleIndia concentrates on individual land and only secondarily on commonland (Narwani 2004: 130). Thus, in both the regions the customary lawmanaged tribal sustenance. In middle India it was subordinate to theresource while the Northeastern tribes linked their identity and continuityto it. That is reason enough to add both the customary law and tribalidentity attached to it to the vocabulary of the commons.Legal changes and the commonsAttack on the commons is a major factor in most legal changes that arearound land. The most blatant attack came through the Tripura LandReforms and Land Revenue Act of 1960 and the Manipur Land Reformsand Land Revenue Act of 1960. These laws recognised only individualpattas and turned all commonly owned resources into state property. TheManipur Act could not be imposed on its Naga majority hill areas becauseof resistance from the tribes who continue to run their affairs accordingto their customary law (Shimray 2009: 109–111). But the Tripura Act wasimposed effectively on the tribes of that state because they were powerless.Very little of their land remains with them because the tribes have beenreduced to a minority and the law has been changed to recognise onlyindividual land (Debbarma 2009: 120–121).Though the traditional system of land ownership has not been abolishedamong the Khasi, in many cases the power of the darbar has beenreduced (Dutta 2002: 2). Moreover, in many villages the members of thedarbar use their power to transfer common land to their individual names.That deprives their dependants of their sustenance and also transferspower over the commons from women to men (Ningkinrih 2009: 35–36).At present, the land in the Garo hills is broadly divided into hilly, underthe customary law, and the plain land governed by the provisions of theAssam Land and Revenue Regulation Act of 1886, and adopted bythe Garo Hills Autonomous District Council in 1952. The former comprisesalmost 95% of the total land (Phira 1991). The British regime took away98
  7. 107. the power of the Jaintia syiem to distribute common land, conferred theright of its ownership on the state and converted all the rajhali (privateland of the syiem) into government land. The users of the land were madeto pay taxes and were given pattas for a limited period of ten years.Thus, the community land in the Jaintia hills was turned into governmentland and subjected to land revenue (Pyal 2002: 24).At present terrace fields and the greater part of Angami jhum lands areowned by individuals and so is some area of forests. But a considerableamount of jhum land and forests continue to be owned by the clans, andsome more by the village as a whole. While individual ownership ofterrace fields is treated as absolute, ownership of jhum fields and forestsis usually not absolute because under certain circumstances others haveaccess to such fields and land (D’Souza 2001: 44). Similar changes havebeen introduced also by other tribes.By introducing the Rules for Administration of Justice in 1906 and in 1935the British rulers curbed some powers of the Mizo chief such as judicial,right to give permission for head hunting and protection of criminals. Buttheir power over land and in the social sphere was not touched (Das1990: 6). The post–independence Government of Assam went beyondthe colonial measures, abolished the chieftainship through The AssamLushai Hills District (Acquisition of Chief’s Rights) Act 1954 (AssamAct XXI of 1954), and brought land under the direct control of the state.At present, there are four categories of land in Mizoram. The first isthe district forest over which the state exercises full control. Agriculturaloperations are prohibited in it. The second type called ‘safety supply reserveforests’ are owned by the district council and are beyond the reach ofthe village councils and individuals. Agricultural practices are not allowedhere too. The third category of forests managed by the village councilis for the benefit of the whole village. The villagers are entitled to fuelwood from them for their household needs but not for sale or trade. Thefourth category is unclassified forest under the village council. It can beallotted to individuals on patta or garden passes for homestead andcultivation (Mahajan 1991: 81–82).The land owning pattern of the Arunachal tribes changed with the BaliparaFrontier Jhum Land Regulation, 1947 promulgated by the Government 99
  8. 108. of Assam. It gives customary rights to the tribal population over theirjhum land, both of the village and of the community provided that theyhave enjoyed the right to cultivate or utilise it for not less than five yearsprior to the regulation. The government accepts ownership by the villageor clan or individual only in respect of what is under permanent or semi–permanent cultivation or is attached to a dwelling house. All other landincluding jhum land vests with the state (Nongkynrih 2009: 23–34). Assamhad 35 tribal blocks from which land could not be alienated to outsiders.Their number has come down to 25 and the size of the remaining onehas been reduced (Shimray 2006: 18).Privatising the knowledge commonsColonialism and the dominant class intrusion into their areas were a threatto tribal common land, customary law and identity. With globalisation thethreat extends to their traditional knowledge. Basic to it is the World TradeOrganisation (GATT Agreement) of 1994, particularly the Trade RelatedIntellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). At the 1992 Rio de Janeiro UnitedNations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), therich countries with biotechnology owning companies tried to monopolisebiodiversity. That was prevented through the Convention on Biodiversitywhich acknowledges that tribal and farming communities have preservedbiodiversity for centuries but adds that control over it rests with thesovereign state. Thus, it protects biodiversity from the biotechnologyowning companies but does not give the communities rights over whatthey have preserved or over the medicinal and other knowledge that theyhave developed around it (Rao 1992: 331).Thus, UNCED was unfair to their communities but it would have beenpossible to get over it by negotiating benefit–sharing systems with thesovereign state. TRIPS subverts that possibility by putting traditionalknowledge in the public domain. None owns it so anyone who wants itcan use it with no benefits accruing to their communities (Rao and Guru2003: 128–132). Like the land laws that turned their sustenance into stateproperty, TRIPS turns tribal knowledge commons into a public asset inorder to facilitate its privatisation for profit. What they have developedover centuries can be pirated by the biotechnology owning companiesand they have no legal recourse since TRIPS legalises such piracy.100
  9. 109. With climate change comes another threat to their forests particularlyin Northeast India which is one of the world’s 25 mega–biodiversity zones.Though rarely mentioned in public, suggestions are made every now andthen that the region should be turned into a carbon sink to protect Europefrom the effects of overuse of synthetic fuel. A carbon sink needs greenerynot biodiversity and that can be done by growing commercial forests.The Government of India has even treated it as a clean developmentmechanism, for example when the Bhadrachalam Paper Mill in AndhraPradesh grew eucalyptus on common land taken over from the tribes(Fernandes 2009). One does not oppose all commercial species. One onlystates that imposition of purely commercial species will deprive the peopleof their sustenance, impoverish them, weaken their link with the forestsand turn the region into a biodiversity hotspot.ConclusionTribal communities the world over are governed by some norms in theuse of land, forest, water and other resources. Traditional customarypractices in their use shaped these ground rules for the sustainable useof the commons. Since these practices had emerged out of specific naturalenvironments, they supported local livelihoods. For example, in NortheastIndia, most tribes follow shifting cultivation while terrace cultivation ofrice is not an exception. In the varied land ownership and managementpatterns of the tribes of the Northeast one notices an intricate mix ofcommunal and individual land holding patterns. The customary laws playeda vital role in maintaining this balance between individual and communalholdings. They also played an important role in ensuring that the resourceswere treated as renewable. Such management turned the resources,customary laws and the identity attached to them into commons.However, the management of the commons is conditioned by powerrelations in an area. That has had an adverse impact on the communitieswhose sustenance they are. Legal changes overtook the Tripura tribeseasily but the tribes of Manipur have been able to resist them. In mosttribes the customary law has been interpreted according to the formallaw and that has resulted in class formation and stronger patriarchy thanin the past. It is, therefore, important to find alternatives that do not 101
  10. 110. romanticise either the past or the present. The value system on whichthe customary law and resource management are based continue to berelevant even today. One may be able to find a solution to the alienationthat most tribes of the region experience by beginning with the valuesystem and rebuilding their commons around it to suit present needs.ReferencesAgarwal, A.K. 1991. ‘Towards Land Reforms in Arunachal Pradesh’ in Malabika Das Gupta (ed) The Impact of Land Reforms in North East India. Guwahati and New Delhi: Omsons Publications, pp.43–50.Barooah, Jeuti. 2002. ‘Property and Women’s Inheritance Rights in the Tribal Areas of the Northeast’, in Walter Fernandes and Sanjay Barbora (eds). Changing Women’s Status in India: Focus on the Northeast. Guwahati: North Eastern Social Research Centre, pp. 99–113.Bhattacharyya, N. N. 1995. Religions of North–Eastern India. New Delhi: Manohar Publications.Bjarup, Jes. 2005. ‘Social Interaction: the foundation of Customary Law’, in Peter Orebech et al. 2005. The Role of Customary Law in Sustainable Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 89–157.Borrows, John. 2002. Recovering Canada: The Resurgence of Indigenous Law. Toronto: University of Toronto.Buragohain, S. N. 1990. ‘Institutional Factors Affecting Economic Development in the Hill Regions of North–East India’, in Jayanta Sarkar & B. Datta Ray (eds), Social and Political Institutions of the Hill People of North East India. Calcutta: Anthropological Survey of India, pp. 8–14.Das, J.N. 1990. A Study Of The Land System of Mizoram. Guwahati. The Law Research Institute.Das, A.R. and A.C. Nath. 1979. The Customary Laws and Practices of the Ao of Nagaland. Guwahati. The Law Research Institute.Debbarma, Sukhendu. 2009. ‘Refugee Rehabilitation and Land Alienation in Tripura’ in Walter Fernandes and Sanjay Barbora (ed). Land, Peace and Politics: Contest Over Tribal Land in North east India. Guwahati: North Eastern Social Research Centre & IWGIA, pp. 113–127.Deeny, John and Walter Fernandes. 1992. ‘Tribals: Their Dependence on Forests, Their Traditions and Management Systems’, in Walter Fernandes (ed). National Development and Tribal Deprivation. New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, pp. 49– 75.D’Souza, Alphonsus. 2001. Traditional systems of Forest Conservation in North East India: The Angami Tribe of Nagaland. Guwahati: North Eastern Social Research Centre.102
  11. 111. Dutta, Sujit Kumar. 2002. Functioning of Autonomous District Councils in Meghalaya. New Delhi: Akansha Publishing House.Fernandes, Walter. 2005. ‘Reservations and Social Change: The Case of the Northeast’, in Stephanie Tawa Lama–Rewal (ed). Electoral Reservations, Political Representation and Social Change in India A Comparative Perspective. Delhi: Manohar Book Centre and Centre de Sciences Humaines, pp. 83–104.Fernandes, Walter. 2009. ‘Climate Justice for the Northeast’, The Assam Tribune, December 6.Fernandes, Walter and Geeta Menon. 1987. Tribal Women and Forest Economy: Deforestation, Exploitation and Status Change. New Delhi: Indian Social Institute.Fernandes, Walter, Geeta Menon and Philip Viegas. 1988. Forests, Environment and Tribal Economy: Deforestation, Impoverishment and Marginalisation in Orissa. New Delhi: Indian Social Institute.Fernandes, Walter and Gita Bharali. 2002. The Socio–Economic Situation of Some Tribes of Bishnupur and Palizi. Guwahati: North Eastern Social Research Centre (mimeo).Fernandes, Walter and Gita Bharali. 2006. Development–Induced Displacement in Assam 1947–2000: A Quantitative and Qualitative Study of Its Extent and Nature. Guwahati: North Eastern Social Research Centre (mimeo).Fernandes, Walter, Melville Pereira and Vizalenu Khatso. 2007. Customary Laws in North East India: Impact on Women. New Delhi: National Commission for Women.Ganguly. J.B. 1978. ‘Socio–Economic Transition of Shifting to Sedantary Cultivation in North East India’ in NEICSSR (ed) Shifting Cultivation in North East India. Shillong. NEICSSR.Guha, Ramachandra and Madhav Gadgil. 1996. ‘What are Forests For?’ in Walter Fernandes (ed.), Drafting a People’s Forest Bill: The Forest Dweller–Social Activist Alternative. New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, pp. 33–67.Human Development Report. 2004. Cultural Liberty in today’s Diverse World.Jodha, N. S. 1986. ‘Common Property Resources and the Rural Poor’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 21, pp. 1169–81.Kar, Parimal Chandra. 1982. The Garos in Transition. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications.Krishnan, B. J. 2000. ‘Customary Law’, Seminar, No 492. August, pp. 46–50.Mahajan, V.S. 1991. ‘Land Distribution in Mizoram’ in Malabika Das Gupta (ed) Op cit. pp. 79–86.Menon, Ajit and Ananda Vadivelu 2006. ‘Common Property Resources in Different Agro–Climatic Landscapes in India’ in Conservation and Society. Vol (4, n 1). pp. 132–154.Narwani, G.S. 2004. Tribal Law in India, New Delhi: Rawat Publications. 103
  12. 112. Nongkynrih, A.K. 2009. ‘Privatization of Communal Land of the Tribes of North East India: A Sociological Viewpoint,’ in Walter Fernandes and Sanjay Barbora (ed). Op. cit. pp. 16–37.Ostrom, E. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Orebech, Peter and Fred Bosselman. 2005. ‘The Linkage between Sustainable Development and Customary Law’, in Peter Orebech et al. op.cit., pp. 12–42.Pathy, Jagannath. 1988. Ethnic Minorities in the Process of Development. Jaipur: Rawat Publications.Phira, J.M. 1991. U Khasi Mynta Bad Ki Riti Tynrai. Shillong: Government Press of Meghalaya.Pyal, Gita. 2002. ‘Land system in Jaintia Hills’ in Dr P.M. Passah and Dr S. Sarma (eds) Jaintia Hills: A Meghalaya Tribe–Its Environment, Land and People. New Delhi: Reliance Publishing House. pp. 23–28.Rajkhowa, Alok Chandra. 1986. The Customary Laws and Practices of the Thadou Kukis of Manipur. Guwahati. The Law Research Institute.Rao, Sam. 1992. ‘Spinning out of Control: The Earth at UNCED’, Social Action 42 (n. 3, July–September), pp. 328–336.Rao, M. B. And Manjula Guru. 2003. Understanding TRIPS: Managing Knowledge in Developing Countries. New Delhi: Response Books.Roy, Tapash Kumar. 1986. The Customary Laws of The Tripuri of Tripura. Guwahati. The Law Research Institute.Roy Burman, B. K. 1993. ‘Tribal Population: Interface of Historical Ecology and Political Economy’, in Mrinal Miri (ed). Continuity and Change in Tribal Society. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study. pp. 175–216.Shakespear, L. W. 1914. History of Upper Assam, Upper Burmah and North–Eastern Frontier. London,: .Sheleff, Leon. 2000. The Future of Tradition, Customary Law, Common Law and Legal Pluralism. London: Frank Cass Publishers.Shimray, U. A. 2006. Tribal Land Alienation in North East India: Laws and Land Relations. Guwahati: North Eastern Social Research Centre and Indigenous Women’s Forum of Northeast India.Shimray, U. A. ‘Land Use System in Manipur Hills: A Case Study of the Tangkhul Naga,’ in Walter Fernandes and Sanjay Barbora (ed). Op cit. Pp. 88–112.Shylendra, H.S. 2002. ‘Environmental Rehabilitation and Livelihood Impact: Emerging Trends From Ethiopia and Gujarat,’ Economic and Political Weekly. 37 (n 31, July–August 3–9), Pp. 3286–3292.Singh, R.P. and Ch Sobhabati Devi. 1991. ‘Land Reforms and Economic Development in Manipur Hills’ in Malabika Das Gupta (ed) Op cit. Pp.51–58.Tamuly, Naba Kumar. 1985. The Customary Laws and Practices of The Angami Nagas of Nagaland. Guwahati: The Law Research Institute.104
  13. 113. Endnotes1 Dr Walter Fernandes is Director, Dr Gita Bharali is Director of Research and Dr Melvil Pereira is Administrator and Research Associate at North Eastern Social Research Centre, 110 Kharghuli Road (1tt floor), Guwahati 781004, Assam, India. Tel. (+91–361) 2602819. email: [email protected]; homepage: www.creighton.edu/ CollaborativeMinistry/NESRC2 The Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution provides for the creation of Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in certain tribal areas of North East India. The ADCs have power to make laws over land, forest, water, agriculture, education, health, and social issues. The primary purpose of the Sixth Schedule is to incorporate the predominantly tribal populations, as communities, into the Indian State . For further information on the Sixth Schedule please refer: B. L. Hansaria.1983. The Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India. A Study. Gauhati: Ashok Publishers.3 A tin is around five kilograms.4 The Nokma is the husband of the heiress of a group of villages called A.king. He is the village head and custodian of the village land. He plays a leading role in village administration, especially in resolving disputes and allotting the land to individual families for cultivation.5 Chief of the traditional state. 105
  14. 114. Rural Commons: A Source of Livelihood and Sustainability Prafulla Samantara You, ministers, collector and babus, did not create these mountains, water flowing in the streams or the cultivated lands which have been giving us life and livelihood from generation to generation… and it will also nurture our future generations. These are given to us by the god of nature. Who are you to snatch away the gifts of nature from us? Can you answer? You have killed three of my sons. We shall not allow you to destroy our resources. Many more of us are prepared to die.T hese words of Mukta Jhodia, an old tribal woman, were spoken on 30 January 2001 at Kashipur, Rayagada district, Odisha. It was in her very brief maiden public speech in a rally of tribals and wasaddressed to the government, the policy makers the intellectuals. Thetribals were protesting against the police firing which killed three tribalson 16 December 2000 at Maikanch. They had been struggling to protecttheir land, water and mountain from the onslaught of an alumina projectand mining of bauxite by Utkal Alumina Ltd. a joint venture of Hydroof Norway, Alcan of Canada and Hindalco of India.This question has its eternal answer within it—that the tribals have faithin natural resources as their saviours and it is the source of humanexistence. Neither the government, a private company nor an individualhas the right to destroy it or to convert it into personal property. Thisis the position of indigenous communities everywhere. The resources arefor sustainable subsistence of millions of people on the earth. The sameidea was expressed in the words attributed to Chief Seattle of theDwamish Tribe in America when he said words to the effect: ‘Who areyou to buy and who are we to sell the sacred river and mother earth?’Participating in various people’s struggles to resist displacement from naturalcommons for over 15 years, it is evident that where there is resistanceby the people of the soil to protect natural resources and their habitats,they never claim that these are their ‘private property’. Rather they are
  15. 115. prepared to protect and preserve these resources, as well as their culturaland social identity, at the cost of their lives because these commons aresustainable. From 1999 to 2010 in the eastern Indian state of Odisha 38tribals and fisher folk have been shot dead by the police when they triedto protect their right over land, forest and water. This is nothing but state–terrorism unleashed on people to exploit the commons for the corporations.These commons have sustained their life and livelihood along withcommunity existence and socio–cultural identity.Sumani Jhodia another old tribal lady rejected Rs 50,000 from the ChiefMinister of Odisha seven years after the police firing in Kashipur. Herbold question before the august gathering in the capital Bhubaneswar was: “why should I receive this money from those who have killed our boys? We have been agitating to keep our hills, river and land, but we get bullets. If you take bauxite by digging our hills, the water will dry up and our land that you acquire will be destroyed forever. Who will feed us? How can you people get free air and sweet water?”These natural resources are not their personal property, it is for all. Theseare to be preserved and protected for the right to livelihood. To be withnature and believe these commons are sustainable and meant for all butnot for profit is not a question of emotion or romanticism. To be withthese commons is a source of pride for tribals who are custodians oftheir commons as the gifts of nature but not as property. They do notbelieve in accumulation of assets from these resources. They use onlyfor subsistence and worship it as god to be with them forever.Commons: Concept and definitionThe concept of commons has its origin in nature, which has various spacesbeing used as commons. From the very beginning of human history, therewas one common i.e. the earth. In the real sense of commons, it hasno boundaries of class, race, culture or physical boundaries of nationsor specific communities. Commons have given birth to different livingpatterns, ways of life and ultimately different cultural entities withcommunity based co–existence with nature. These commons, the forests,land, air and water, are usually known as natural commons. From thesenatural commons many physical commons have come to being as holyplaces, lives and livelihoods of millions of human beings.108
  16. 116. In the historical perspective of indigenous people of the world, there aredifferent geographical commons which had given them a sense of belongingto the soil, water and air as the spirit of human lives. From generationto generation, these indigenous communities never believed in the conceptof personal ownership of anything that they get from these commons.They treat these sources as the gifts of nature for which, not only arethey grateful, but have a duty to protect and preserve for the future.From this concept of generosity has emerged multiple community ethics,based on the principle of common uses of resources collectively andcooperatively. This is the basic foundation of community life in naturalphysical commons. Whether it is the North or South or anywhere in theglobe, indigenous communities worship the Earth as their mother. For manytribal communities in India, especially in Odisha, they believe the entirenatural environment is one common, which they revere as Mother Earth.Niyamgiri hills as a common for tribal OdishaIn Niyamgiri hills of Eastern Ghats in Odisha, indigenous communitiessuch as the Danguria Kandh, Kutia Kandh and Jharania Kandh worshipthe earth as Dharani Penu (earth god). Niyamgiri hill is worshiped asNiyam Raja (God of Law). In this mountain, the tribes use water foragriculture and domestic purposes. They treat different natural watersprings as deities in different names according to their different uses.While a stream is regarded as a constituent of a hill, they both are alsoconsidered separate entities. Water represents the goddess Eyu Penu(water deity) which has many names, because of its different origins fromthe same hill. The most common synonym for Eyu Penu is Gangi Penu.Sangria and Katie tribals believe in community ownership. They havelived in harmony with the forest for centuries. Sangrias live on the hilltopand Kutias live on the foothills. They collect minor forest products (MFP)for their daily consumption. They sell the MFP in the local market forbuying other materials like cloth, salt and kerosene. Shifting cultivationwas the main form of agriculture. That proves they did not believe inownership of a particular piece of land or forest. Shifting cultivation wasnecessary for the growth of big trees. When the British took over theforests, the trading community seized the opportunity to misuse the shiftingcultivation practice of tribals for feeding their timber business. 109
  17. 117. The tribals in Niyamgiri define their commons in a village and region.The bank of river where they use water is called as ‘chuana’, the landwhere millets are produced is called as ‘dangar’, graveyards for eldersare known as ‘bada mahana dangu’ and for children is called ‘milamahana dangu’. Where fruits are grown the area is known as ‘bada’,for example haladi bada and sapuri bada etc. The market place is calledas ‘hata’ and festivals known as melia parba and mandiarani parba. Inthe plains near the Niyamgiri hills villagers use to call the land as bagada,from where they collect different kinds of MFP.The many different characteristics of the physical environment of Kutiatribals are sharply defined. A hill, for example, is divided in to four basicregions: the soru jaka (hilltop), soru tude (mid–hill slope), soru nede (lower–hill slope) and soru panga (foothills). When the hill is the place ofsettlement, some of these terms change. The soru nede is referred toas nella, once the area has been converted from forest to cultivated plots.The soru panga is known as baru when used as location for a village.The spiritual dimensions of the natural habitat and religious code of conductdemonstrate their respect for environment and regulates the use of theregion’s resources. Their relationship with nature is manifold. Ecologic,organic and spiritual aspects emanate from nature as a unified whole.They use the term ‘basa’ to denote the place of shelter, social gatheringor festival, which is used as a common for ordinary human beings. ‘Basa’means environment in their understanding. It has many components likeelu basa (individual house), naju basa or elu gunjare (village with humanbeings, animals, kitchen gardens, livestock shelters) and tedi basa as arecreational place (to sit and converse, exchange thoughts over a drink).Over time, coexistence of tribals with Panos (Dalits) was establishedin many forest areas. Panos were invited to be with the tribals as theircommunicator to the outside world. In many villages, tribals wereconsidered kings and Panos as ministers. Both communities enjoyed thebenefits of common resources, though the tribals were dominant.Niyamgiri hills as a global commonThe Niyamgiri hills are of global importance as an ecological heritage.It has given birth to two rivers Vansadhara and Nagabali and 36 perennial110
  18. 118. streams. It is not only culturally and socially important but also sacred.This is a place of wild animals like elephants, tigers and some rare species.An indigenous variety of paddy is found there.These hills have rich deposits of bauxite, known as war diamonds, asa primary raw material for the strategic metal aluminium. But bauxite,a gift of nature, is not to be used only as weapons to destroy humancivilisation but as a mineral in the soil that nourishes the plants. In nature,aluminium’s metallic form is always hidden through bonding with oxygenand other elements. With frequent fusion with water, it plays a vital rolein retaining moisture in the soil by which fertility is maintained.Global capital as an agent of imperialist globalisation has come to rapethe sacred soil and exploit the heart of the living commons like Niyamgiriby mining, for monetary profit over people. The local to global humanchain (tribals from Niyamgiri to human rights activists of Norway to theconcerned people of England) could raise the voice of protest againstthe destruction of nature’s sustainable water system and forest diversities.The combined effort of the global people’s opinion and the laws to protectthe rights of the forest dwellers could prevent Vedanta from mining inthe Niyamgiri hills. Saving Niyamgiri as a natural common is the resultof the global campaign against global warming. Although it took a longtime, ultimately the campaign is a success.In Odhisa the mountains with bauxite are called ‘mali’—Baplimali,Kuturumali, Sijimali, Kodingamali, Deomali and Panchapatmali—and areconsidered commons. These commons having minerals underground areunder threat from the global market. Some have already been plunderedby global capital. And, like the tribals of Niyamgiri or Baplimali, peopleliving in various natural commons in the world have been engaged inresistance to protect their habitat from the terrorism of polluting industries.The tribal’s relationship between nature and their socio–economic lifeindicates that nature as a common has many commons, which are used,protected and preserved by the tribals. These commons are the sourceof community development and socio–cultural identities. 111
  19. 119. Forests: The mother commonThe forest as a common is losing its space for use as resources ofsustainable human existence with dignity. They have not only been thesource of forest products gathered by the tribals but also for millets andother nutritious food cultivated by them. Indigenous communities did notaspire for personal property nor use the language of ownership—‘my’forest, ‘my’ river or ‘my’ land. Rather they always speak ‘our’ forest,‘our’ streams and ‘our’ land. ‘Our’ includes the plants, animals and spiritstoo. Treating them as deities, indigenous people neither believe nor claimownership over them either as individuals, clans or tribes. On the contrary,they emphatically assert that they belong to these commons which areprotectors of the present and guarantor of the future generations.In the process of industrialisation and mining, the market economy treatsforests as the major source of economic development. Forest resourcesare being converted as raw materials to be used as commodities for themarket. Since the colonial rule, forests are treated just as an asset ofthe government. Consequently, tribals who protect the forests as custodiansbecame subservient to the rules and regulations that are meant for forests.Even after independence the Indian government behaved not as a trusteeof people’s resources but as the owner. As a result of the developmentparadigm chosen, and the assumption of ownership, forests are beingsacrificed for mega industrial projects. Due to mining, the green vegetationis destroyed, the perennial water flows are being dried up, and ultimatelythe rich biodiversity along with the food basket of tribals are being depleted.In this process of destruction the right to commons has become restrictedand controlled by the dominant. With increasing assertion of governmentownership and restrictive controls, many commons have become extinct.When the state as the trustee of commons behaves as owner of property,the tribal communities have to stake their claim to the common resourcesfor sustainable subsistence at least to ensure the existence of commons.The Forest Rights Act, is the product of such claims through continuousstruggles to establish both the individual right to livelihood and thecommunity right over resources.112
  20. 120. Rivers as the natural commonsThe rivers flowing from the womb of the hills are also commons fromwhich the tribal and non–tribal agricultural communities use water as themain input for agriculture and domestic purposes. The fishing communitiesare dependent on the rivers for their traditional livelihood. But moderndevelopment projects with their infinite appetite for water have madepure water scarce and rivers a source of dispute. The differentstakeholders are forced to fight for a share of water. The market ledpolity has converted water from being a common to a commodity, aproperty that can be owned opening the gates for privatisation. In thename of development not only are rivers being diverted, but they arereduced to being sources of big dams. The water in the dam iscommercialised to benefit the industrial houses at the cost of farmerswho treat the water in dams and reservoirs as commons. In the era ofmarket led globalisation, these dams and parts of rivers have been handedover to corporations who can invest capital to use water as raw materialeither in sole or semi–exclusive contracts.In many parts of India the new built commons such as dams, reservoirsand canal systems have been converted into assets of private companies.In Odisha, the Hirakud Dam on the Mahanadi was built for irrigationand flood control in the downstream and to produce electricity which wasessential for the households of the state. It was hailed as a ‘temple ofmodern India’ by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Subsequently,it is used almost solely by corporations, depriving the farmers of waterfor agriculture, essential for food security. The commons—the water andthe river—have effectively been privatised though the proclaimed agendawas to enhance their use. Enhancement or, to use the more favouredterm today, ‘development’ is most times to turn the commons into privateproperty. Similarly, when communities use the rivers to ensure sustainablephysical commons, they are taken over as dumping places of hazardouswastes of polluting industries, which are located on the banks of rivers.This misconduct destroys the very existence of commons.The system of traditional irrigation in tribal areas demonstrates indigenousknowledge of irrigation. The water flowing from the hilltop is blockedby stones at various places and diverted to the slopes where millets are 113
  21. 121. grown. They store the water to use in other seasons. This system iscalled ‘Munda, Kata, Bandha’. Chilika, the biggest lake in Asia, is usedas common being a gift of nature. Over 100,000 fishers use it fortraditional fishing. It is home to rare species of fishes and a rare ecologicalshelter for migratory birds from the coldest regions of the world. Butthe market forces have brought in chemical aquaculture to replace naturalfishing displacing the traditional fishing community and poisoning life. Toprotect a sustainable, ecologically balanced Chilika chemical piscicultureshould be banned. Access of the traditional fishing community to the lakefor their livelihood must be ensured by law.Due to the conditionality of the World Bank, the water policies of thenation states have paved the way for private investments and corporatemanagement of water resources. For example, 26 kms of Sivanath Riverin Chhattisgarh was given to a Delhi Company to sell water as acommodity. The company asserted that this right meant they had ownershipof all the water in the area—including the groundwater. As a result, notonly was the fishing community was deprived of its right to fish, therewas even restriction in the farmers using the groundwater on either sideof the river. When the affected people revolted against privatisation, thegovernment was forced to withdraw the company’s license. Somecompanies in different parts of the globe have even asserted their rightto all water, including rainwater, in the command area.The river systems of the world are living natural commons. They havegiven birth to many civilisations and cultures. But because of ecologicaldisasters, many rivers have died, some dried up and many are polluted.Rivers traversing multiple countries have been overused by the powerfulnations. The Mekong river starts from Tibet and goes through Indonesia,Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. But the seven big dams constructedby China on this river deprive the tail–end countries from equal river–water sharing. Similarly for the Brahmaputra. The glaciers of the worldfrom Iceland to the Himalayas are very important natural commons whichare key to human existence. If these melt, a part of the earth would besubmerged as the sea levels rise. To keep this and the downstreamcommons unharmed, the global warming caused by human activities has114
  22. 122. to be curbed. The biodiversity of river systems across the world shouldbe protected, making it a global agenda.Food, commons and the village economyNatural commons cumulatively satisfy the minimum needs of commonpeople. When these commons are under threat by market forces throughtechnological hegemony, we should recognise agriculture and the fieldsas a new common to be developed organically. Agriculture and waterbodies such as the seas, lakes, rivers and reservoirs should be consideredas centers of food basins and be accepted as commons. This explicitrecognition is a prerequisite to ensure the right to food. The right to foodcan only be ensured if there is sustainable agriculture. To ensure sustainableagriculture, the natural requirements for it—for instance cultivated andcultivable lands, rivers and underground water—should not be divertedto non–agricultural use. Agriculture has to be liberated from the onslaughtof chemical and industrial farming and corporatisation. This sustainabilityhas to be reinforced by law and ensured by restoring agricultural landto the tillers and the forests to tribals coupled with sufficient incentivesfor organic farming. No industrial ventures should be allowed to displacefarmers or tribals at the cost of food security.In agriculture, farmers have the right over their indigenous seeds alongwith natural manure. But monoculture and genetically modified seeds ofcorporations have trespassed into the field of farmers and destroy thefertility and sustainability of seed and soil, endangering the very existenceof food diversity. Indigenous paddy varieties are the best of selectionthrough traditional farming from generation to generation. Farmers allover India use and exchange varieties of indigenous seeds, in the firmpractice of sharing knowledge, expertise and nature in keeping with thebest values of the commons and community. These seeds have beendeveloped according to soil and climate. These seeds have different namesat different places depending upon local vocabulary, climate and socio–cultural nomenclature.In Odisha, the different varieties of paddy are called Hazira, KanakaPatia, Kalasura and Kedaragouri. In uplands these are called as Biali.A variety of paddy harvested in sixty days is named Sathika (Sath means 115
  23. 123. 60 days). Similarly a variety harvested in 120 days called Laghu. A tastyvariety used daily is called Vojani (Voj means eating). Kakudi manji (literallycucumber seed) is the name of a variety of paddy that resembles theseeds of cucumber. Mayur Kanthia (kantha means neck) resembles thespots on the neck of peacock. Thus there are numerous varietiesrepresenting the diversity of seeds in just ‘paddy’ or ‘rice’. In the greenrevolution juggernaut, these varieties have vanished due to mechanisedcorporate farming with high technology invading traditional agriculturalsector to impose monocultures and monopolising food production. Intraditional agriculture, exchange of seeds was common. The present systemof patents have not only destroyed these natural seeds but also preventssharing and improvement by the farmers. The WTO and other multilateralinter–government bodies are working to bring agriculture under corporatecontrol globally. In various countries, governments are prevented fromgiving any protection to traditional farming as a condition for being invarious treaty bodies.Genetically modified seeds are a new threat which could lead to disasterin food security. Where agriculture land has been taken from tillers, usedfor non–food purposes and enjoyed by the corporations, as is the casein entire Latin American countries, there has been perpetuation of chronicpoverty. Some of these countries like Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil aretrying to return the agricultural lands from the corporate to the farmersin the changed political set up.Sea coast: a global commonThe seas and the coasts are very important not only because variouscommunities get food from the sea but because traditional fishingcommunities depend upon the sea for their sustainable livelihood. Thecoast with rich mangroves is the home for many species of fish. It isthe first line of defence in natural calamities like cyclone to save thecoastal populations. People also need to enjoy nature’s bounty. Salt, themost needed food ingredient of the human being is the natural productof sea. Therefore the seashore remaining a common is vital for the healthof both the coastal and inland communities.116
  24. 124. Coastal ecology is an important component of climate and environment.When there is a sea or coast related natural disaster, disaster capitalistssuccessfully invade the coasts with money bags to alienate the coastsfrom the traditional communities in the name of disaster mitigation. Oncethey establish themselves as ‘stakeholders’ then they move on to ‘marinedevelopment’ which would severely restrict, and many times displace,coastal communities. Commercial activities like hotel and recreation centresalong with corporate owned ports fragment the commons and turn it intorestricted access enclaves of private property. The ecology is disturbed,the beauty is disfigured and the sea becomes private property of capitalistswho see it as a investment vehicle for generation of profit.El–Niño is a threat to the seas of the world. If there is El–Niño in onepart of the sea the other parts will also to suffer. There will be loss ofsea species. The behaviour of the sea would change, resulting in naturaldisasters in many parts of the globe. The protection of this natural commonas the key to climatic justice demands formulation of a charter of basicprinciples which would not allow polluting human activities in the nameof development, commerce or war by any country. These should be agreedupon by the member countries of the United Nations Organisation. Itis essential to have an effective mechanism that is strictly followed.There should be national and international policies to prevent the destructionof water resources and ensure the right to these commons by thecommunities and preserve biodiversity. Natural commons which provideaccess to water, medicinal plants, and food should be declared inviolableand cannot be sacrificed for any project or institution. This can empowerthe communities to take care of these commons in their interest of socio–economic–cultural security and identity.Village fairs and common marketsRural weekly hatas in different localities of our country and the vendingzones in the streets and cities have space for buyers and sellers withoutclass discrimination. In tribal areas these weekly hatas are not only placesof exchange and selling of commodities but include socio–cultural andsocio–religious functions, cultural expressions, entertainment, religiousobligations and social gathering. Hatas are festive spaces, and a lot of 117
  25. 125. the entertainment is free. They dance, drink, trade and make merry inhatas. The closest approximation of hata in English would be weekly villagefair. Normally it is translated as weekly market reducing it to only acommercial hub, stripping away the very many socio–cultural and socio–religious functions that give it vibrancy. Foreign investment in retail shopsruin village hatas and urban vending zones. The street vendors’ livelihoodsare being lost in this process.In these ‘common markets’ everybody from poor farmers to rich consumershave free access to sell or buy according to their choice. Various itemsproduced in the villages are available here. These vendors have a socialrelationship with the customers, the produce and products on sale. Themarket is based upon community needs as well as social harmony. Themega investment malls are a place for rich consumers. They displacethousands of vendors from common spaces—right from village hatas,to the mom–and–pop stores to the pavement hawker. There should berestriction in organised retail. Social protection should be given to thecommon markets through infrastructural facilities. Of course there aredark sides to the hatas. Some hatas have been invaded and have becomeplaces for exploitation. The non–tribal traders exploit the innocent tribalsand practice unfair means in the business, due to asymmetric knowledgeand power relations. A self–regulating mechanism should be in place tomaintain these commons and keep them free from exploitation.Rural roads were well maintained as commons in the past. People plantedtrees which gave fruits and shelter to the travellers, who most oftenwalked. But when these roads are ‘developed’—meaning widened toconnect the city to the village and national highways—the commonsbecame the property of a construction company to the exclusion of thecommunity. A fundamental contributor of this appropriation and alienationby design is that these roads are meant to connect the city to the villageand not the village to the city. It is part of the continuing appropriationof the resources of the village (the weak) by the city (the strong). Peoplehave to pay tax to use these newly developed roads. Some highwaysand all express ways are fenced off from the surrounding countryside.As a result people, even those who live on the villages by the roadside,118
  26. 126. are alienated from these roads. The new rules make it virtually illegalfor the people to take care of them or plant roadside trees ever again.Threats to the commonsThe commons communities have developed an ethic and framed lawson the governance and maintenance of these commons without claimingthem as property. They have developed cultures and social identities whichhave given birth to nations. In contrast, the present political structureof the nation–state is subservient to the capitalist system and imperialism,which is designed to destroy the commons through liberalisation,privatisation and globalisation. It does not believe in social equilibriumor in the community right over resources. The concepts of private propertyand individual ownership have become basic principles, making everythingcommodities for sale and purchase. Profit as the guiding principle is thedestroyer of the commons.Physical natural commons have been used and sustained as the commonwealth of communities. It gives identity to many communities as the centerof their cultures and socio–economic growth. The service commons likeagriculture (food sector), rivers, lakes, dams are interlinked and thesehave origin in natural commons. Plundering of resources by global capitalhas resulted in the common people losing their right to access theseresources. Indiscriminate use of technology for resource extraction inthe name of ‘development’, but in reality for accumulation of capital, isa threat to the existence of physical commons. As a result, crisis in theservice–commons is inevitable. Though the global economy claims‘growth’, and there are many billionaires created, hunger, deprivation andchronic poverty are abundantly visible in many parts of the world aftertechnological exploitation of natural resources. The food sector is mostvulnerable because of indiscriminate industrialisation and mining onagriculture and forest lands.The paradigms of development through the process of globalisation,especially after the inception of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)are destructive in nature and affect the sustainable resources by makingthem vulnerable as a consequence of big global corporate investment likethe Korean Pohang Iron and Steel Company, POSCO, in Odisha. This 119
  27. 127. kind of capital investment destroys the sustainability of very viablecommons as well as the vocabularies used by the locals. The biggestthreat to this commons of food grains (both the physical grain and theknowledge embedded in its socialisation) and complementary commonslike water emerges from the state’s invitation to and facilitation ofcorporations in acquiring and grabbing these commons. POSCO, the SouthKorean Company having American investment, has come to Odisha toacquire 6000 acres of multi–cropped land for a steel plant and a captiveport. This steel plant will destroy multi–cropped paddy fields, betel vines,fishing ponds and water bodies.The villagers of Dhinkia, Govindpur, Gadakujanga and Nuagaon have usedthe sea coast and forest as commons for food production, firewood,grazing grounds and traditional fishing activities. More than 20,000 peoplewill lose their right to life and livelihood after these agricultural land, coastalforests and grazing fields called Jhaun Bana, Balitikira and Jhatajungal,fishing ponds (Gadia) and a small river (Mahanganai) are converted toconcrete jungles. Similarly, a captive port at the mouth of Jatadhari riverneeds 2000 acres of agricultural land. The port will create floods everyrainy season destroying crops in thousands of acres of land because theflow of water to the sea has been obstructed. The effluents of the steelplant will be discharged into the sea adversely affecting the livelihoodof the fishing community.POSCO’s investment is partly in mining iron ore in Khandadhara mountainof Sundergarh district of Odisha. Mining will destroy the rich biodiversityand a tributary of Bramhani, including a picturesque waterfall, which isthe primary source of water for agriculture. Thousands of indigenousPaudibhuiyan tribals will lose their right to life and livelihood. Their culturalidentity will be considerably destroyed since Khandadhar is a spiritualand sacred place for them. This destructive investment is responsiblefor taking away livelihoods of more than 50,000 people at the plant andmining sites, both tribal and non–tribal, in exchange for a few lucrativejobs to a limited number of the upper middle class.Where there are bauxite deposits, there are perennial streams. Miningbauxite will end the source of water. To save the commons the law should120
  28. 128. proscribe such mining, which is the cause of depletion of water sourcesand destruction of green vegetation.Endangered commons: A global phenomenonThe present globalised market economy is the biggest threat to thesecommons, which have become targets for profit over people by thecorporate regimes of the world. The lust for money and over consumptiondrives economic globalisation to exploit natural resources. Through globalinvestment, the market invades and fences the very core of natural andservice commons, displaces locals from the natural habitats, destroys theirvocabularies together with the destruction of the commons. This deprivesthe forest dwellers, farmers and workers of their right to livelihood. Withthe loss of their commons, these marginalised common people are onthe verge of losing their identity, resource base and their way of life.This global investment is a threat to community life and fundamentaldemocratic human rights everywhere in the world. This is an invasioninto the socio–economic and cultural heritage of the community. Whetherit is POSCO, Tata, ArcelorMittal, Rio–Tinto, Vedanta, Monsanto or Cargil,they squeeze the blood of the communities and the commons to convertit into profits by luxury goods and war equipment. This is the root causeof global warming—the consequence of deliberate destruction of naturalcommons through technology and capital which move globally as theweapons of the imperialists.The destruction of commons by the market forces is not an isolatedphenomenon in India, but a global phenomenon affecting all countries.Mining of bauxite in Guinea and Jamaica, copper in Chile, Peru andZambia, Manganese in Pakistan has caused all round devastation in thesecountries. In Vietnam in the year 2009 there was fierce resistance againstplans to exploit mineral resources basing upon local entitlement andenvironmental causes. People’s resistance to mining in Guatemala isincreasing by the day. Protest against mining in SaMarcos has many alliesall over Latin America. Eighteen Maya Mam communities in Guatemalahave been resisting gold and silver mining, since the mining has resultedin irreparable harm to the life, personal integrity, environment and commonresources of indigenous communities. Natural commons like the Tzla River 121
  29. 129. and its tributaries, their only sources of water, have been polluted. Anumber of springs and wells have dried up. The company Gold Corp,which operates in San Migul community and Sipa Capa, is extending itsmining activities to exploit land and mountains.The people of 30 communities in San Pablo also fight against the privatehydroelectric power plant. Resistance has been growing to ecologicallydevastating Chinese mining invasion of Medang in Papua New Guinea.China Metallurgical Corporation exploits the Ramu Nickel mine in Medangprovince. As a result it is poisoning fish stocks, marine life and the rainforest. This is an assault on the sovereignty of the people throughdeprivation of their right to natural commons.Africa is heading for ecological disaster. The green and gene revolutionsare threatening the richness of traditional agriculture. In South Africaa staggering 96% of the area under cotton and 88% under soya beansare genetically modified varieties controlled and monitored by Monsanto.Farmers are forced to quit traditional farming of food grains. In SouthAfrica mining by the trans–national companies is causing untold misery,breaking communities and commons at breakneck speed putting the verysurvival of the indigenous communities at risk.The crisis over water intensified when it was privatised and treated asa commodity. In 2000 in Bolivia, the water supply in Cochabamba citywas privatised and water tax was increased. But the people resisted andsucceeded in taking back water management from the company andrestored it to community management. It inspired a worldwide movementfor water as a basic right and as a common to be preserved for thecommunity.The global scenario shows that where there is depletion, exploitation anddestruction of natural commons there is abject poverty and deprivation.Because 75% of the resources of the South are enjoyed by the richminority of the North, the majority of the South (Latin America, Africaand Asia) are gravely poverty–stricken. After exhausting all its oil reservesMyanmar (Burma) is left the poorest country in the world. Similarly, inIndia the most mined states like Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand arealso the poorest.122
  30. 130. The remedial and way aheadThere is hope in the commons for socio–economic justice when it givesenough for sustainable subsistence. In the course of human civilisation,from indigenous community to modern society, the physical commons hasemerged as part and parcel of nature as the mother of common resources.From these physical commons, many new commons have come into being.Though many commons are being used as the common resources availableto all for all time to come, there is dominance of some community ortribe and restricted access to others. Even so, because of the availabilityof the commons sustained for generations by communities who neverclaimed ownership, there is hope to restructure the relationship betweenthe human being and the nature as the mother of commons.In villages, there are various commons ranging from village ponds, tanks,grazing fields, graveyards and spiritual places. Due to the caste system,these commons are being used by the dominant community and others,specifically Dalits, are discriminated against and even excluded. Theconcept of commons has no place of hegemony of any individual or anydominant community. It works on the doctrine of equity and equality. Toestablish egalitarian rights of everyone, with equal responsibility forprotecting these commons and equal right to the benefits and control,the law against caste–based discrimination should be amended to beeffective and be implemented impartially.Simultaneously, new laws to protect and maintain these physical ruralcommons need to be enacted. A small mountain near a village is thesource of stones for building houses, a place for grazing, a location forfirewood and many more uses for the life and livelihood of the community.These need to be retained and protected as the common resource ofall the surrounding villages. The law needs to regulate their use for meetingthe needs of the community without allowing big players to over consumefor their profits.If the commons can be more viable, well protected and equitablyaccessed, then communities will be more organised and strengthened withflourishing human civilisation. The commons are not meant only for theparticular communities who have territorial presence and use them 123
  31. 131. frequently for traditional occupations. However, the existence of commonsmainly depends on how and to what extent the traditional dwellers useit. Therefore for the present as well as the future, their community rightsshould be legally ensured. Then their belongingness will continue to protectand preserve the commons, so that the commons can serve many beyondthese communities. Alienation of these communities from the commonsthat they have preserved and nurtured through centuries, if not millennia,has led to the destruction of these commons and communities. Theirexclusion from management and stewardship has resulted in almostpermanent degradation within a short time.To protect and preserve the commons, there need to be institutionalmechanisms backed by constitutional provisions to promote a communitybased social life, along with community based management of commonsthrough cooperatives. Natural laws should be honoured where commonshave natural existence. To respond to the global climate crisis, there shouldbe effective operational institutions free from hegemony of the imperialnations, to prevent the countries from framing laws that are a threat tothe commons. Global institutions like WTO, World Bank, IMF should bebarred from interfering with any matter related to common resources.In India, the infamous colonial Land Acquisition Act 1894 and its recentamendments should be abolished. There should be a national policy onthe use, uses and users of the natural resources to secure ecologicalbalance, socio–economic equity and justice.Sustainable development is dependent on, and therefore should promote,service–based commons like food production and distribution, commonschool education and health. Developing physical natural commons togetherwith reformed social organisation and structure of communities is aprerequisite. Though there is discrimination by caste and clan hierarchiesin the traditional use and access to commons, the commons are the pillarsof community based human society. With the commons the future cansee a human society with equitable justice to the ecology and human needswhere there would be no place for greed. The prophetic warming ofMahatma Gandhi was that the earth can provide everyone’s need butnot their greed. Consumption should be limited so that the commons willbe freed from corporate hunting.124
  32. 132. The preamble of the Indian Constitution speaks of socialism. The fifthand sixth schedules of the constitution provide partial protection to naturalcommons in tribal areas. But when it comes to implementation there areseveral lacunae, gaps and outright obstruction. The Forest Rights Actis a first step to protect the right of forest dwellers. It is essential toprevent corporatisation of commons. But it pushes the tribal communityto aspire for individual ownership and so, in the long run, it will fail. Thereshould be legal protection to ensure access to the commons includingpasture, forests and water for all for life and livelihood and for the basicneeds but not as consumers with unlimited wants.The natural habitats of wild animals in forest and domestic animals invillages, including their migratory paths, need to be safeguarded so thatthere will be no human–animal conflict. These natural commons are notsafe under government officials. Tribal communities should be empoweredto maintain the ecological balance between tree, wildlife and humanexistence in a forest. They have indigenous knowledge which is notpatented. This indigenous knowledge should be protected from piracy andfraudulent patenting by others.A comprehensive right to food law needs to be in place together withan integrated policy to ensure mass production of food, sustainable forestsand community sovereignty over water bodies. This needs to be protectedthrough a common school system of education which would empowertraditional communities to use commons in efficient ways with scientificknow–how along with their indigenous knowledge system.Democratic institutions, from the local to global levels, are needed tomonitor the democratic functioning of the nation states to prevent themfrom corporatising the commons. When commons are destroyed,communities die. People lose faith in the law of the land. The nation hasnot created communities, it is communities that have created the nation.If the communities disintegrate due to the destruction of commons throughthe state policy, then the state will lose its legitimacy. The natural commonsare the pillars of a democratic society which is the base of the sovereignwelfare state. Capitalism is the enemy of the commons. Democratic–socialism, without state hegemony, is required for the safety, security andsustainability of the commons in India and in other developing countries. 125
  33. 133. Judicious use of the commons with equity and sustainability will lead humanbeings towards universalism across the national boundaries. Therefore,the commons must be sustained without ownership or hegemony of anindividual, corporation or state. For sustainability of the commons thereshould be limits to consumerism. Vulnerable commons as the primarysource of lives and livelihood should be identified at different levels (fromlocal to global) and be given legal protection.Social–democratic ideals should be used to create a community, nationand universe along horizontal engagement levels and not use vertical trickledown models. We have to build a development model based upon thesocial concept of the commons through an inclusive and participatorydecision making system. The gram sabha or local communes as thegrassroots unit without state dominance is the ideal. A new value systemin the process of alternative development, not to destroy traditional culturebut to reconstruct it. There should be a process to review the relationshipbetween the environment and the economy for sustainable development.The effort should be to democratise the access, utilisation and relationto the natural resources on the basis of equality. Conspicuous consumptionshould be shunned. Transforming the wealth of the commons intocommodities and property should be resisted. A simple lifestyle with dignityand ensured access to the protected resources will make the commonssustainable and viable for the present and the future.ReferencesForest tribes of Orissa (The Dongaria Kkondh), vol. 1, Man and Forest series, No. 2, General Editors, Klaus Seeland and Franz Schmithusen, D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd. New Delhi, 2002.Forest tribes of Orissa (the Kutia Kondh), vol. 2, Man and Forest series, No. 6, General Editors, Klaus Seeland and Franz Schmithusen, D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd. New Delhi, 2006.Indigenous paddy resources from Sri Natabar Sarangi, village Narisha, District Khurda, Odisha.Sustainable futures, Edited by Marko Ulvila and Jarna Pasanen, published by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland, 2009.126
  34. 134. Water as commons C R NeelakantanT he concept of water as commons can be explained through a simple analogy. Water for the Earth (as a continuous single life system— interconnected and interdependent) is analogous to blood in thehuman body. Both are essential for the survival of life. Both are limitedin quantity. Both flow continuously. If blocked, both get polluted. Bloodflows from one organ to the next. It cannot stop there. Similarly for water,no single user has the right to hold it for more time. The flow of blood(and water) is necessary for many biological functions in the body (Earth).No user has priority over the other since all parts are interconnectedand interdependent. Since both are limited in quantity, and a minimumis required to sustain life, any loss above a threshold will be disastrous.The shortage has to be replenished in the shortest possible time.Blood has to flow through its natural paths as far as possible, otherwiseit is considered a malfunction or a disease. Similarly, allowing water tofollow its natural path is the most sustainable method. Unnecessarydiversions of water from its natural path may lead to many disasters.Human understanding is very limited regarding the complexity of thebiological functions of the network of water and blood flow. In a healthyecosystem, water flow should be in consonance with the biologicalrequirements of the system. Otherwise it will affect some other life forms.It may take time to get information regarding the damage, but it is takingplace. There will be slow damage though we are unable to recogniseit. Any irreversible damage to the water flow paths may lead to disastrousconsequences. Since water is so essential for the survival of life, all lifeforms have the right to water, for the right to life is the birthright of anyorganism. If they are denied water in sufficient quantity and quality, theirbasic right to life is denied.Basic principlesThe basic principles1 regarding water as commons were listed in theconsultation document ‘Key Principles for an International Treaty on Rightto Water’2 and then elaborated further.
  35. 135. • Water is a fundamental human right and states must be willing and able to implement their respective obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the right to adequate water and sanitation.• As part of their obligations to fulfil the right to water, states have obligations to provide adequate, safe, accessible and affordable water and sanitation for all people within their jurisdiction who currently do not have such access, with preferential treatment and positive action for the poor and marginalised.• States must ensure that water is allocated in a manner that prioritises people’s basic needs and livelihoods.• Water is a public trust and not a commodity and belongs to all humanity and the earth. As such, water should remain in the public domain.• States have the responsibility to ensure the conservation of freshwater ecosystems, to prevent over consumption of water, the degradation of water systems and to protect watersheds.• Sufficient clean water is necessary to protect ecosystems and all kinds of species. Healthy ecosystems will ensure the right to water for future generations.• States have obligations to guarantee the human rights principles of participation and transparency, including that water services must be under democratic public control, in which members of the public fully participate in decisions on water management and the allocation of water resources.These principles are accepted by everybody. In practice they are beingviolated everywhere. These bare facts say it all: 3• 3.575 million people die every year from water–related diseases.• 1.4 million children die every year from diarrhoea.• A typical five–minute shower in a developed country or a bath consumes more water than the average person living in a third world marginalised community uses in a week.• Discrepancies in the consumption of water between different sections and strata of society is very high, for instance between rural and urban or between rich and poor.128
  36. 136. • Many poor people from marginalised communities pay five to ten times more per litre of water than wealthy people living nearby.• Less than two thirds of the world has improved sanitation—a sanitation facility that ensures hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact.• Worldwide, 2.5 billion people lack improved sanitation, including 1.2 billion people with no facilities at all.• At any point of time, more than half of the poor in the third world are ill from causes related to hygiene, sanitation and water supply.• Millions of women and children spend several hours a day collecting water from distant, often polluted, sources.This situation is getting worse by the moment. In contrast, if the sanitationcondition is improved and the availability of drinking water is ensuredmultiple advantages will be there all among the world countries. Somebenefits are shown below:• 272 million more school attendance days a year.• 1.5 billion more healthy days for children under five years of age.• Health–care savings of billions of Rupees a year for the government health agencies and for individuals.Functions of waterIn addition to basic domestic functions (like cooking food, sanitation etc),water is used on a large scale for irrigation, industries, ecological functionsand entertainment. The requirements are increasing day by day. Wateris becoming a serious issue mainly because of its scarcity. Why is thisresource so scarce? The general theory is that any item will becomescarce if its availability is less than the requirement. Increase in the numberof consumers or increase in per capita consumption will definitely leadto scarcity. Drastic changes in lifestyle will increase consumption. Theskewed distribution of water across regions (North to South of the globe,city to village, rich to poor) is obvious. Pollution of fresh water (slowor no purification of the system) including salination is a major problem.Diversion of water for different purposes also lead to scarcity at somepoint. Multiple requirements compete among themselves and the priorityin the system will decide the distribution pattern. As Mahatma Gandhi 129
  37. 137. opined, priority is the politics of a system. What are the major factorswhich decide the priorities? In normal conditions, the state has the authorityto decide. But at present in our capitalist society it is the market thatcontrols even the state.Development: What is it?What are the basic principles of a capitalist market? With the adventof modern capitalism, things have changed drastically. Now capital canacquire and utilise any amount of the natural resources for amassing wealthand profit. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is the principle. The growth of scienceand technology had enhanced the rates of production, consumption, andhence acquisition. The efficiency of a system is measured by the rateat which it can exploit the natural resources and process the same tosell in the market. Hence natural resources themselves became a tradablecommodity in the market. The faster and competitive exploitation leadto their depletion. This is because the rate of exploitation of theseresources is much higher than their replenishment rates. Natural cyclesof renewables and perennials can no longer keep up with consumptionrates. The key word ‘development’ has only a unidimensional meaning.The issues related to “development” were not considered as crises mainlybecause of the paradigm created by science and technology in the society,which assumed that:• Natural resources such as land, water, air, forest, sea, minerals, petroleum are unlimited.• The faster the exploitation, better the system.• They are ‘freely’ available.People began to think that science and technology has a magic wandto solve all problems. In the ‘unlikely case’ of any resource becominglimited or scarce, science and technology held out the promise that itwould be able to find alternatives. This was attempted and explained inmany ways. In the case of fuel, the replacements developed by sciencewere from firewood to coal to petroleum to nuclear energy. Similarly,in place of wood we ‘found’ alternatives like plastics. For increasing fertilityof land due to scarcity of micronutrients, chemical fertilisers, pesticidesetc were invented.130
  38. 138. After decades of experience, we now realise that none of the above wassustainable and most of them had created more problems than those whichthey were meant to solve. They affected many other apparentlyunconnected natural systems like air, land and water. This is by no meansan exhaustive list. There can be many more such examples. But the realcrisis came later. Those resources which were thought to be unendingor infinite, such as air, water, sea, forests etc., were also affected badly.The destruction of these resources had affected a large section of peoplewho did not at all benefit by industrialisation or by the so–called‘development’. Nobody could predict in 1980 that water will be sold fora price which is comparable to that of milk. But within 20 years everybodyhad to accept it as a truth. Similarly air (oxygen), the most abundantnatural resource, is becoming a tradable commodity slowly.The basis of the conflict is the concept of ‘development’ which is alreadyiniquitous, aggravating the existing gap between the haves and have–nots.This development paradigm is acceptable even for the have–nots. Weall agree to the classification of societies as developed, developing andunderdeveloped. We consider our country India is developing andcountries like USA, Western Europe etc. are developed. What indicesare generated for development by the above definition? In short, Indiahas to be like USA if it is to be considered as a developed country andhence the target and direction of development of India is already fixedby this. That means India has to increase its production and consumptionto the level of USA. Is this possible—physically, economically, politically,socially, culturally and above all ecologically? In 1970 itself the so–calledtechnical experts from these developed countries realised that there aresome limits of growth. The discussions held at Copenhagen on climatechange advised ‘growth reduction’.Can the market solve this problem by itself?The above path of development had created various conflicts in thesociety. The major reasons for these conflicts are scarcity andcommercialisation of these natural commons in the name of (economic)growth and (industrial) development. With the advent of the neo–liberalregimes, the crisis deepened manifold. LPG (liberalisation, privatisationand globalisation) policies of the national, provincial and local governments 131
  39. 139. based on the diktats from international financial institutions (IFIs) likethe World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Trade Organisationetc is not a point of dispute. Almost all the governments are competingto become more ‘investor friendly’. This policy had led to GDP (economicgrowth) oriented development. Investors or capital can amass anyresources to any extent. If these resources are essential for the survivalof some sections of the society then the conflict starts. Those who arepowerful get the upper hand and their requirement get priority. Thegovernment will have to take a stand in this issue.Then comes the political question. It is not a situation of scarcity in thereal sense. More money can buy more natural resources like water. Morewater to somebody necessarily means that much less to some others.This is what Mahatma Gandhi had explained when he was washing hishands in the river Yamuna. All others were consuming large amount ofwater and Gandhi was measuring the water he used. The others askedhim why he couldn’t use more water since the river was full. In replyGandhi explained that as a human being there was an amount entitledto him by the nature. If he took more, that would reduce the wateravailability for some life forms downstream. That, he believed, is violence.This is the correct understanding of the interconnectivity of Nature. Butthe competitive market can never understand this. Hence the marketcannot sustainably control a biological system.This is why the privatisation of water is a failure and is leading to manyconflicts all over the world. If water can be considered as a commodityin the market, there is every possibility that capital will try to amass andcontrol as much water as possible. If a major chunk of fresh water iscontrolled by humans (whatever may be the technology and howeverdemocratic the authority may be) what will be the priority in which itis released or distributed? The general tendency will be to utilise theresource in the most ‘efficient’ and ‘profitable’ way. Avoiding waste isone prerequisite. Any water flow should be prioritised based on its benefit.Hence supplying water to many plants, birds, animals etc will be a ‘waste’because it may not give any tangible ‘benefit’. But even a primary schoolchild knows that these ‘unwanted’ life systems are necessary for our132
  40. 140. survival. But market forces will never allow ‘sacrificing’ their profit forthis type of public cause. This was seen in the issue of global warmingand climate change. This is the basic political question regarding water.It should be seen within the political framework and principles under whichit operates. It is not just the selling of water. It is not just ecological.Ecology, like economics and culture, is just one tool to understand thepolitics. Hence to deal with this biological or ecological crisis, we needa totally different paradigm including the one about development itself.Paradigm shiftThere are many examples of human interference with the water flowand water cycle leading to unforeseen and unintended consequences.Building a dam for diverting water from a river for irrigation, powergeneration and destroying the river affects the humans, flora and faunain the basin for many kilometres––sometimes even the backwaters andthe sea itself. This may affect the drinking water and irrigation systemsdownstream. Power generation is always given priority by manygovernments and even by the public because power is considered thebasis of development. But if it is affecting drinking water and livelihoodsof many underprivileged sections then the conflict sharpens. This isapplicable to industries where water is the major raw material or wherewater is polluted by them. Mining, real estate development, water themeparks, golf clubs, ports and many other infrastructure and constructionwork come in the list. In these cases the used water, often polluted, willnot come back to the hydrological cycle.For the resolution of these conflicts, the political, economic and ecologicalparadigms needs to be changed. Old economics never considered thecost of water, air or similar natural resources in their accounting. Theyconsidered them as a freely available commodity, or as an ‘externality’.A company extracting one million litres of water and polluting it shouldbe held accountable for the loss occurring to the ecological system andto the human beings downstream. The loss should be ascertained, andcompensation paid to those whose life and livelihood are affected. Humansare buying water at very high prices. If the company has to pay the samerates for the water they use, then that industry will not be economically 133
  41. 141. viable. Similarly the general concept that hydropower is the cheapestcan be exposed if the damages caused by it is added to its cost. Thatis, the profit of a factory or the power generation firm is the loss of thepublic. This type of new organic economics needs to be developed.But the most important issue in the present situation is that the statesare highly undemocratic. As explained earlier, since the policies aredesigned and decided outside the democratic systems, most parts of thestates are only implementing agencies. This is the reason why our politicalparties are becoming apolitical. They do not need to take any policydecision. The struggling people are at a loss because they are not ableto influence the policy decisions of their democratic governments. Wethink that the right to information (RTI) is a powerful tool. But nowadayswe can get information regarding the implementation of the policies butnot the policy making process itself. Transparency is only in theimplementation. In the present system we don’t have citizens in the realsense that can intervene in the democratic system. But all are onlyconsumers who have no choice in the production systems. They can choosefrom the products available in the market. All rulers support the marketsystem or privatisation.Effects of privatisation of water systemsThe tall claims that privatisation will increase efficiency, reduce lossesand prices need to be re–examined and challenged from the experiencesall over the world.4• High rates. Private water costs upto 80% more than public water. Private sewer service costs up to twice as much as public service.• Bad service. Many multinational water corporations cut corners to increase profits at the public’s expense.• Expensive financing. Private financing is more expensive than public financing. Even the best–rated corporate bonds are 25% costlier than municipal bonds and 2.5 times costlier than State Revolving Fund loans.• Inefficiency. Private utilities are not more efficient than public utilities, according to several academic studies.• Profits and taxes. In total, corporate profits, dividends and income taxes add 20% to 30% to operation and maintenance costs.134
  42. 142. • Cost inflation. The profit motive can further drive up costs. A study of the construction of 35 wastewater treatment plants found that ‘choosing the privatisation option is more costly than going with the traditional municipally owned and operated facility’.• Contracting expenses. In total, contract monitoring and administration, conversion costs, charges for extra work and the contractor’s use of public equipment and facilities can add up to 25% to the price of a contract.• Limited competition and consolidation. The public has little room to negotiate with private water suppliers and can get stuck with bad and expensive contracts.• Lost public benefits. Municipal operations often have several additional benefits that cities lose when they privatise.• Lack of accountability. Multinational water corporations are primarily accountable to their stockholders, not to the people they serve.The business of bottled waterIn addition to controlling water distribution systems, corporations makehuge profits through the sale of bottled water. Coca Cola drains waterfrom some of the poorest communities in India. In places like Mehdiganj,water levels have dropped by as much as 40 feet, leaving families andfarmers without enough water to meet their basic needs.Bottled water corporations are changing the way people think about water.5Today, three of four Americans drink bottled water, and one in five drinkonly bottled water, believing the market principle that the costlier productwill be better in quality. Bottled water is one of the least regulatedindustries in the most of the countries. Tap water and bottled water usesimilar standards, but tap water is tested far more frequently and itsstandards are more rigorously monitored and enforced in many countries.Scientific studies have shown that bottled water is no safer than tap water.Sometimes it is less safe, containing elevated levels of pesticides, bromate,arsenic, bacteria, and other contaminants. Yet, more than one–quarterof bottled water is basically tap water. Leading brands like Coke’s Dasani,Pepsi’s Aquafina and Nestlé’s Pure Life are basically tap water, but theyare often sold for more than the cost of petroleum. 135
  43. 143. Worldwide, people spent $100 billion on bottled water in 2005. That’salmost enough to fund the $110 billion annual investment—approximatelyone–fifth of the world’s annual military expenditure—needed to assurethat everyone on earth has access to water and adequate sanitation.UN interventionsHuman rights have been a powerful platform for advancing the agendaof social justice and ecological sustainability throughout the world.However, intentions and declarations are continually compromised bythe lack of political will, grassroots power to force that will, and theunderdeveloped capacity to enforce and realise the rights as describedon paper. This is aggravated by the willingness of would–be waterprivatisers to co–opt the discourse of human rights for their own ends.Some have suggested that focusing on water as a human right is anerror, while others see it at least as a stepping stone to working towardaccess and sustainability for all. They would like to change the wordshuman rights to human needs. This is tricky suggestion. In a marketbased society need is not just the physical need but it is linked withthe buying capacity. Hence for those who have no buying capacity,their needs are not counted. Many organisations had worked hardin past years to advance the idea of a binding, new covenant enshriningwater as a fundamental human right. Despite its challenges—includingthe compromise with corporations over voluntary statements of socialand environmental standards in the Global Compact and the lack ofa consistent means of enforcing and realising human rights—the UNremains the sole international political organisation with the capabilityto bring a new force of international law, deriving from custom andpractice rather than written treaty law, into being. Such mechanismscan and have been integrated into national legal frameworks, thoughnot consistently.Since the players in the water trade are trans–national corporations andinstitutions like World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), the BritishDepartment for International Development (DfID) and WTO who areabove the nation states, the struggle for protecting the commons hasacquired an international dimension. Struggles erupted in many countries136
  44. 144. and the United Nations was forced to intervene in the debate by passinga resolution, after spirited lobbying and grassroots mobilisation. After morethan a decade of grassroots organising and lobbying, the global waterjustice movement achieved a significant victory when the United NationsGeneral Assembly voted overwhelmingly to affirm ‘the right to safe andclean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential forthe full enjoyment of life and all human rights’. David Moss elaborateson the dilemma faced by the governments in balancing what is right, withtheir obeisance to the corporate lobby.6 The resolution—put forward by Bolivia and co–sponsored by 35 countries—passed overwhelmingly with 122 states voting in favour and 41 abstaining. It is a non–binding statement, meaning that no nation will be forced to follow it, but nonetheless marks a significant advance for human and environmental rights. The decision by the UN General Assembly supports current organising effort for a future resolution recognising water as a common resource, to be creatively managed for the needs of future generations—of all species. Embarrassed to go on record against the right to a life–giving resource, not one country voted against it. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, approved in 1948, did not specifically recognise a right to water. But in recent decades, worsening water scarcity and contamination, aggravated by global climate change made a resolution on water rights more urgent. Though the resolution was non–binding, some country delegations said they abstained because they did not get instructions from their capitals in time to confirm their positions. Others said they were afraid of the resolution’s implications for water they share with other nations, known as trans–boundary water. Pressures to weaken the resolution were considerable. One proposal was to insert the word ‘access’ to water and sanitation so that the resolution would read, ‘right to access to water and sanitation’. For UN delegates, this would mean their governments need only guarantee access, not the water itself. It would be adequate in that case to merely assure water for purchase, rather than guaranteeing that it is a fundamental right, even for those who can’t afford it. That the resolution did not stop at ‘access’ makes it more powerful. It means governments have to provide the water even if people cannot pay for it. It is an important distinction. The final resolution ‘calls upon states and international organisations to provide financial resources, 137
  45. 145. capacity–building and technology transfer, through international assistance and cooperation, in particular to developing countries, in order to scale up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all’.A new management orderA UN declaration alone will not be enough to solve the complex problemsor unravel the web of vested interests created by powerful corporations.The last decade had shown us that only peoples struggles can protecttheir rights over commons. The case of Cochabamba is path–breaking,and is a case study for all those who wish to keep water as commons.7This is how Our Water Commons describes the campaign. In April 2000, thousands of citizens of Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city, blocked roads to protest the privatisation of the city’s local water system, rallying around the central battle cry, ‘water is life!’ The government cancelled the concession contract and returned water to municipal control under the watchful eye of the La Coordinadora, the Coalition in Defence of Water and Life, the social movement that emerged to coordinate the protests. Community leaders set about the task of elaborating a new way to provide water services that would build upon the experiences with non–hierarchical forms of decision making that emerged during, what was often described as, a ‘water war’. One thing was clear: while privatisation was not the answer, no one wanted to return to the former model of ‘public’ utility, which was widely considered to be inefficient and corrupt. Based on experiences with previous episodes of nationalisation in Bolivian history, water justice activists in Bolivia insist that public (read state) forms of management are not a true alternative to privatisation because they simply replace one form of hierarchical management with another. Instead, the opposite of privatisation is the ‘social re– appropriation of wealth’, which entails the collectivisation of property and the self–organisation of water users. As Oscar Olivera, a spokesperson from La Coordinadora explains, this difference between water justice activists in Bolivia and elsewhere is crucial: ‘Activists in the North tend to focus on issues related to management, while we (in Bolivia) are primarily concerned with the struggle for property rights’. The notions of collective property that have emerged in the struggle for water are inspired by the experiences with communal water management of two key participants in the Cochabamba ‘water war’: small irrigating farmers’ associations, and community–run water systems.138
  46. 146. Utterly neglected by state authorities and lacking basic services, mostof the communities in the poor barrios of the southern zone of the cityof Cochabamba have built their own independent water systemsprovisioned by wells that are managed by independent cooperatives,informal committees, or neighbourhood councils elected by the residents.Since 2004, many of these community–run water systems have beenorganised in the Association of Community Water Systems of the South(ASICA–Sur), which has given a collective voice to the citizens who lackpublic water services.More recently, ASICA–Sur has secured financing from the European Unionto build independent water systems in Districts 7 and 14. Theseindependent systems will buy water in bulk from the public watercompany, but will be managed by the users. As the President of ASICA–Sur Abraham Grendydier explains, it has taken the public water companytoo long to respond to their demands so they have decided to takematters into their own hands. While the construction of independentwater systems risks further fracturing the urban water network, in thelong term it may be the only way to meet the goal of ‘water for all’.Demands for communal ownership and management have alsotranslated into the demand for ‘social control’ within the re–municipalised water company, SEMAPA. While former boards of directorswere staffed exclusively by professionals and politicians, between April2002 and October 2005, three members of the seven–member boardhave been elected from the macro–districts of the city. Many of theproblems that have historically plagued the public utility, however, haveremained unresolved by the limited degree of social control. While thepublic water company has performed better than would have beenexpected under private control, coverage rates remain low (46% in2005), and services are intermittent. Opinion is divided on the reasonsfor the perceived failure of social control to improve the utility’sperformance. For some, it is the fact that the mayor controls the budget.Others highlight the lack of capacity of the citizen directors, the over–politicisation of the public utility, or the problem of corruption. Yet othersblame the conditions attached to a loan by the Inter–AmericanDevelopment Bank that have stymied attempts to democratise the utilitybecause they prioritised administrative reform and repairs to the existingnetwork instead of making visible improvements to water services.Nearly all agree, however, that Cochabamba’s water problems are linkedto the lack of public investment. Efforts to outline alternatives anddebate the future of the local water company continue. 139
  47. 147. Defending our waterThe need for water to be a common is recognised as a right from theUN to the village. People all over the world are mobilising to defendtheir water. Struggles similar to Cochabamba have been, and are stillbeing, fought all over the world—from Argentina, Bolivia (El Alto), Brazil(Porto Alegre) to Colombia, France (Paris and Grenoble), Ghana(Savelugu), Italy (Abruzzo), Peru (Huancayo), South Africa, Spain(Córdoba), Ukraine and Uruguay.In India too there are many examples right from the capital Delhi toKaladera in Rajasthan to Kerala in the south. In the Plachimada struggle,a totally illiterate tribal community taught the totally literate people ofKerala about water and the commons principle. The struggle against theprivatisation of river or other water bodies are going on everywhere.People’s struggles to protect the watersheds and wetlands against thepolluting firms and urban councils are also part of this. Societies shouldrecognise the commons and try to protect them. That is the only solutionto the crisis. The people who are directly affected need to be in theforefront of the struggle.Endnotes1 Water Solutions Case 1: The Push for a UN Covenant on the Right to Water http://www.ourwatercommons.org/water–solutions/case–1–push–un–covenant– right–water2 The Friends of the Right to Water http://www.blueplanetproject.net/documents/ Key_Principls_Treaty_RTW_140405.pdf3 http://www.ourwatercommons.org/statistical–glimpse–global–water–crisis4 Money down the drain. How private control of water wastes public resources. Food and Water Watch, 2009.5 Bottled Water and Corporate Control of Water. Adapted from Corporate Accountability International http://www.ourwatercommons.org/statistical –glimpse–global–water–crisis6 The rest of this section is an edited version of Historic Expansion of Human Rights: The UN declares the right to clean drinking water and sanitation by Daniel Moss (http://onthecommons.org/historic–expansion–human–rights)7 This section draws from Water Solutions: Case 5: “Social Control” and Public– Collective Partnerships with Community–Run Systems in Cochabamba Bolivia http://www.ourwatercommons.org/water–solutions/case–5–%E2%80%9Csocial– control%E2%80%9D–and–public–collective–partnerships–community–run– systems–coc140
  48. 148. Coastal commons Culture and governance: Learning from the Pattinavar Podhu Gramam Gomathy Balasubramaniam 1T he commons as part of community culture and identity is complex. This is for several reasons. One is the nature of life itself. The second is the nature of human beings and the societies they form.The third is the understanding of what is commons, who is doing theunderstanding and what does reductionism do to the idea of commons.Fishing in the Indian context, by and large, has been the entire occupationof a single caste dominating either villages or stretches/regionsgeographically, unlike agrarian multi-caste structures. The single castedemography meant considerable autonomy and self governance andthe communities thus are highly organised and controlled internally.The traditional community institutions are responsible for maintainingvillage discipline by organising/presiding over social and religious events,dispensing justice, maintaining accounts and serving as a bridge tothe outside world. It resolves conflicts both within a village as wellas between villages. They are also instrumental in governing (commonssocial, cultural and economic). It is quite clear that the fishing communitiesand their traditional governance institutions (especially in Nagapattinam)have shown remarkable resilience during the December 2004 tsunamirelief and the subsequent rehabilitation.Marine fisher communities down the Coromandel stretch of the eastcoast of India have a very sophisticated understanding of commons,both symbolically and materially. This understanding is coded into theirvery nature as people and communities. This understanding has evolvedas a result of several reasons, primarily because the sea itself couldnot be bounded into parcels that could be owned. The idea of anyone person or community owning the sea was ridiculous. Their entireway of life, individual, workwise and community was based on this idea.
  49. 149. The fishing communities of Nagapattinam have come under particularpressure in the aftermath of the tsunami of December 2004. Theyhave shown remarkable resilience in not merely coping with thetragedy unleashed by the disaster but also in negotiating with theseveral actors of the rehabilitation scenario. A critical cause forthis resilience is the strong internal cohesion and equity of powerdistribution found in these villages. This internal cohesion has arisenfrom the intertwining of values and governance institutions with dailycultural and spiritual practices.For the purpose of this chapter, while many of the findings of thestudies on coastal communities are restricted to the Pattinavar villagesin the Nagapattinam and Karaikal coasts, some of the insights aboutcommunity commons, identity and culture are also relevant to the entirecoast line from Chennai to Kanyakumari.The Pattinavar Podhu Gramam (Common Village)The Pattinavar fishing communities of Nagapattinam and KaraikalDistrict came under critical pressure during and in the aftermath ofthe tsunami of December 2004. They have shown remarkable resiliencein not merely coping with the tragedy unleashed by the disaster itself,but also in negotiating with the several modern actors of the rehabilitationscenario, such as the government and the great influx of developmentorganisations.A critical reason for this resilience is the highly sophisticated andegalitarian nature of their indigenous governance institutions and practices.These institutions are characterised by strong internal cohesion andconcern for the overall community well–being. These governance systemshave evolved historically and arise from the intertwining of individualvalues, the environment that fishers live in, indigenous symbols evolvedover time to make meaning of their existence and purpose, the egalitariandistribution of coastal resources centrally focussing on commons andsophisticated and detailed methods of gathering the views of the communityand conflict resolution. Many of these traditional principles and structuresare still evident, though badly corroded in some stretches of the coast.144
  50. 150. These ancient governance structures are most evident in the stretchalong the Nagapattinam and Karaikal coasts.The Nagapattinam and Karaikal coastal stretch are single caste communitiescomprised of Pattinavars (also Chettiars), with households of othercommunities in the village restricted to certain functions (such as runningshops). This homogeneity is unlike agrarian multi-caste structures withsignificant differences in rank and privilege and enables egalitariandecision making and governance. Further, Pattinavar households andcommunities are organised through patriarchal and patrilocal kinshipgroupings. All the male members of the village are pangalis (kinshareholders), sharing both livelihood and community responsibilityand privilege. Conflicts between individual members are often conflictswithin families and clans and therefore these fisher communities actquickly and clearly to resolve such conflicts.Traditional governance institutions both within and between villagesreflect a high degree of sophistication in their design and functioning.Each Pattinavar village in the Nagapattinam coastal stretch has considerableautonomy in self governance, and each is linked to its adjoining onesby a common fisher village chain that runs down the entire coastline.Within each village, there is a traditional caste panchayat that is responsiblefor governing all aspects of internal community life: cultural, economicand social; and it is this community institution that was responsiblefor mediating the relief and rehabilitation process in the aftermathof the tsunami.Each village is connected to a coastal collective comprised of 64 villagesthat is capable of acting as a single chain when called for. Both thetraditional caste panchayats and the chain of 64 villages have comeunder considerable pressure under the influence of modernisation.The traditional caste panchayatThe fisher panchayat currently has a certain number of people (usually8–10) selected as panchayat members through a process of nominationby the members of the fishing village to govern it for a fixed periodof time—usually a year. All the male members of the village have 145
  51. 151. a right to participate in the nomination process as well as in any subsequentaction that the panchayat undertakes. The actual standards for eligibilityand the selection and composition of the panchayat varies from villageto village. In some villages the outgoing panchayat nominates a newpanchayat. Some villages also formed committees of people, usuallyconsidered elders in the village, who went out of the village gramsabha meeting to make lists of possible panchayatars—the membersof the panchayat. These lists are read and collectively reviewed inthe larger meeting. In one village, there is a standard rule that theten members of the panchayat are to be selected on the same day.At the completion of their term, a new panchayat with fresh membersis selected. The village could have prohibitions on selecting the samemember or even members from the same family in subsequent terms,and may specify a period for which they are not to be re–selected.Most fishing villages have clearly defined qualities that they expectthe panchayatar to have. One is to be devoted to community wellbeing over and above personal considerations and to be willing to workhard for this. The work of the panchayatar is often very demandingwithout any tangible benefits and even loss since the time that heuses to carry out his responsibilities is time taken from fishing andloss of income for the family. For instance, a panchayatar nominatedin one village at the age of 18 for his good conduct, stepped downfrom his position once he married, since he had to focus on earninghis livelihood for his family. Equanimity and impartiality was also highlyvalued. Restraint and propriety in dealing with conflict is consideredan essential quality while dealing with short-tempered men who oftendrink. Other related qualities that were enumerated included humilityin relating, emotional balance, temperance in actions and non-reactivityin charged confrontations. Good conduct was also emphasised: beingtruthful, having a strong ethical character, coming from a good familyin the village, maturity, etc.The internal role of the panchayat is to maintain grama kattupadu 2(bonding for village discipline), critical for community cohesiveness.This bonding was through many methods, and served specific purposes—organising/presiding over community rituals and ceremonies (religious146
  52. 152. and social) and conferring membership, dispensing justice, resourcesharing, including maintenance of financial records, as well as thesustainable distribution of the marine coastal resources and fishing,to ensure equity and food security for all its members and interfacingwith all external actors including the police and electoral parties.Conferring membership and dispensing justice is a critical functionof the panchayat. The panchayat had the power to pass judgementsas and when required to resolve conflicts within the village and betweenvillages. Two broad categories of transgressions and conflicts exist.The first is impropriety of action within family and community—rude/aggressive conduct in the community, conflict within families,romantic liaisons not approved by the family/community, sexual misconductand sexual harassment and failure to respect public property or toadhere to community rules and rituals. The second was conflict insharing of resources, particularly at sea (damage to nets or equipment,right to fishing at a particular spot, mechanised vs artisanal conflictof interests, sharing of catch, contribution to community funds). Thesefights could occur within the village and between villages.The severity of sentencing depends on the nature of transgression,and the willingness of the member to own his error. When dispensingjustice, depending on the gravity of misdemeanour, a series of greaterintensity of punishment is evolved: private counselling, where the issueis sorted out within the conflicting parties as quietly as possible (particularlythose related to the personal domain), public counselling, communityreprimands, fines for compensation of damage and severing ties withthe community (the less severe economic ostracism followed by themore severe social and economic ostracism and public humiliation).The fishing economy is based on shares and individual autonomy andthe structure of village membership and entitlements is also well evolved.There are clear, detailed procedures to divide common resources withinthe village. The panchayat plays a critical role in managing villageresources. It collects money, maintains accounts and distributes commonresources for various purposes (money from auctioning catch, catchshares from boatloads, village collections, taxes for inclusion in membership)across all the villagers equitably. These systems of resource generation 147
  53. 153. and use are commonly evolved. In addition to regular community expenses,the panchayats also use these common community resources to helpits members tide over times of crises. In this division of resources,the panchayat includes the vulnerable (the elderly and widows) whocannot fish for their livelihoods. The shore seine is an important partof this social welfare function, where the entire village is involvedin the casting of the nets, and all members are eligible for a sharein the catch, in spite of their personal capacity. As one fisher stated,‘even the very old and women have to just hold the net for themto get a share’.The village panchayat also mediated/bridged relationships with all otherexternal institutions and structures (including other Pattinavar villages)except during times of serious conflict requiring external intervention,and in relation to state matters like revenue, police and justice systems,conflicts with neighbouring villages of other castes and dealings withagencies of electoral politics. For instance, government schemes haveto be routed through the panchayat. Again, the permission of the castepanchayat had to be sought before filing a case. When the policewanted to arrest a member of the fisher village, they had to contactthe caste panchayat. All political parties are restricted from campaigningin the village, because this can cause internal rifts.In turn, the members of the panchayat are themselves accountableto the entire gram sabha (village assembly), both ethically and financiallythrough regular meetings. Transparency in governance is highly valued.Panchayats are required to maintain detailed records of village accountsthat are open to public scrutiny, and people can question the panchayatabout how the money was generated and used. Most panchayats haveto show accounts at least once a year, after organising the templefestival. After the tsunami, more regular meetings have been needed,often as frequent as once a month, and after every consignment ofrelief/compensation.A critical outcome of the change to the selected panchayat is theaccountability of its panchayat members to the people. In one of themost united villages studied, the panchayatars comment that their workis so consistently good because their actions are closely scrutinised148
  54. 154. for errors. Their position does not spare them from being extensivelyquestioned. A second critical emphasis is on financial transparency.The panchayat has to present accounts as and when required, as wellas at regular intervals ranging from a year (before the tsunami) toonce a month. At the completion of their term they are expected toshow the entire accounts of income and expenses incurred duringtheir term. These are scrutinised in a village meeting.The geography of collective governanceFishing communities have not only internal systems of governance,but also governance across the entire chain of villages. This governanceis closely linked to the fact that for fishing communities proximityto the sea and the coast is critical. Fishing communities are orientedtowards the shore line and are linearly organised along it. Unlike agrariancommunities that are organised more as clusters, fishing communitiesare linear. Within a fishing village, households are organised grid wiseinto streets that run parallel to the sea shore. Also, fishing villagescommunicate with each other along the coast, either by landing boatsor by walking long the shoreline.Fisher villages are also linearly organised with relationships with eachother. It is believed that an integrated chain of 64 original kinshipvillages that extended the entire Coromandel stretch from Chennaito Kanyakumari existed. These villages were bound by continuouscommunication and exchange up and down the sea coast, and couldrespond like a unit when required. Historically, this chain of membershipsprang into action to preserve unity and security in times of crisis,when threatened by external agents or during internal conflicts. Thischain of fishermen’s villages evolved over the centuries, and is thespine of the fisher communities down the coast.Over the years, the number of villages has increased down the coastline,and there is no such contiguous chain recognised down the entirecoast. The longest remnant of this contiguous chain is present in theNagapattinam and Karaikal, incidentally also comprised of 64 villages.The governance of this entire village chain is both decentralised andintegrated. Each village was a member of a group of eight villages 149
  55. 155. that are proximal to it, and then part of clusters of increasing size:the 8, the 16, the 32 and finally the 64.Each village had the prerogative to take critical governance decisions,like whether they permit boats from other villages to fish in their waters.For instance, while some villages completely ban such fishing, othersallow each boat opportunity to fish for one day in their waters onthe belief that the boat has drifted into them. This is true in determiningthe composition of the village panchayat also. The larger panchs (likethe head village) cannot rule in this matter.The typical procedure of seeking justice within the village is as follows:if the decision of the village panchayat was contested, the personapproaches the head village of the eight village chain. The head villagecan also be called to settle disputes between two different villages,for example, conflict in the sea while fishing. This head village willthen write letters inviting panchayatars from all eight villages and thejustice will be dispensed in a common meeting. Villages are also freeto choose a village in the chain to rule over internal conflicts. In this,it is not necessary to go only to the head village, though the headvillage maybe involved in settling the dispute. If the person still wishesto contest the decision of the eight village chain, he can approachthe next higher cluster of 16, and then 32 and finally invoking theentire chain of 64 villages.The entire chain was governed by a head village. In addition to thehead village, there were three other historically designated villagesin the collective governance structure, with specific functions. Onewas the chettiar (finance) village in charge of all the accounts ofthe village chain. The second was a sabha (secretary) village thatwas in charge of calling all the meetings of the entire community thatthe head village presided. Once the head village resolved to call acommunity meeting to sort an issue, they would inform the sabha village,who in turn will issue all the invitations. They would also act in casesfiled against the head village.The third was the podhu gramam. In moral authority, the podhu gramamwas higher than the head village. This village is considered common,150
  56. 156. neutral ground to the entire fisher community. If the head village itselfwas caught in the dispute, or if the ruling of the head village is seenas partisan, then the person could approach the podhu gramam forjustice. In many senses, it is like the Supreme Court. Cases that havenot been solved elsewhere can be resolved here and its ruling is final.In cases of dispute, the common village will call for a meeting ofthe contesting parties to be held within its grounds. The panchayatarof the common village act as witnesses, as the representatives ofthe common fishers and ensure neutrality. While they themselves donot actually rule in the matter concerned, their very presence is seenas indication of fair judgement. When in its boundaries, contestingparties are expected to conduct themselves peaceably. The customarycommon village itself claims that there has been no history of conflictwithin it for the last 50 years, and the caste panchayat is known fortheir exemplary character and conduct.Principled governanceThe evolution of the extraordinary Pattinavar governance systemsis based on the values held by the members of this community,their livelihoods, their entwining with the coastal habitat and theimportance of communities. The very nature of their occupationand their communities has forefronted certain individual and collectivevalues in the Pattinavar fishers.The foremost amongst them is the choice of marine fishing for Pattinavarsas an occupation as the purpose of their lives. ‘The main duty ofa fisherman is to go between land and sea’. Hence proximity to thesea is critical in their understanding of themselves.The second is the fisher community understanding of the sea itself.This is determined by the nature of the coast and the sea itself andtherefore the marine resources that they harvested from it for theirlivelihoods. In defining their purpose of life, fisher communities oftencharacterised themselves as stewards of the coast and the sea, heldin trust for generations of peoples. The sea itself was viewed as partof the larger nature and environment that they lived in and dependedupon, an entity (rather than just the source of their resources) that 151
  57. 157. they encountered every day, worthy of respect because it fundamentallysupported their lives. This understanding of nature and the sea itselfdetermined their meaning–making and actions. Historically, fishercommunities did not perceive nature as something that can be owned,either coastal land or marine resources.One aspect about the nature of the sea is its indivisibility, unlike landthat can be bounded. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to determineindividual ownership and boundaries. Ownership is only restricted tothe technology—the means for production—boats and nets. As a result,these fisher communities were more horizontal in their organising comparedto, say, agrarian communities that are clearly delineated on the basisof ownership of land, and are closer in their nature, perspective andstructure to indigenous peoples.This perception of community ownership restricted to usufruct rightsused for the sea was extended to coastal land and also perceivedas part of the indivisible commons of nature. This perception of collectiveownership was often used adversely against fisher community interestsas, for example, when in the 1960s the revenue administration establishedthe gram panchayat systems. With the establishment of these revenueadministration units, these coastal land commons was converted intopublic property delineated and administered by the revenue administration,and often sold without community consent to individual land owners,or market interests.Fishing is a hazardous livelihood, where fishers risk and lose theirlives. Fishing communities living on the shore and fishing in the opensea confront danger on a regular basis and value courage highly. Asone fisher said, ‘Fisherfolk (men, women and children) are the onlyones who run to the seashore to watch a storm. Running away fromthe sea does not cross our minds’. Staying out on the sea longer andbraving difficult seas are marks of bravery. In one village, a significantnumber of men died because they ran to the shore without understandingthe magnitude of the wave in the December 2004 tsunami.Further, given that fishers encounter danger to their lives regularlyon the sea, they have to depend on each other to ensure their safety,152
  58. 158. and trust between the crew of the fishing boats is critical. As a result,harmony is a critical element in the nature of their communities, andthere are some instances along the coast of villages with exemplaryrecords of unity and collective support. One of the Pattinavar villagesundertakes all medical expenses incurred because of accidents andillness for all members of the village, extending up to about Rupeesone lakh (Rs 100,000) in one instance. Post–tsunami, all the membersof another village decided to stay together in the temporary shedsin a gesture of unity, especially to support people who had lost dearones. By staying together, their hearts would be lightened by interaction.Because harmony is such a critical element to the success of theirendeavours, fisher communities have evolved clear and egalitarianmethods of conflict resolution, to enable community unity. Considerableenergy is devoted by fishers to maintain peace. During conflict betweenits members, the entire village acts to resolve it, restore balance andcompensate damages incurred. A critical aspect of this conflict resolutionis the free voicing of dissent and discussion while making decisionsthat are relevant to the community. Because of the relatively horizontalstructures of the community organisations, individual fishers activelyparticipate in collective decision making, and openly dissent and questioncommunity governance structures. Dissension itself is not seen asthreatening, but rather a matter of normal life.Fisher communities pride themselves on their unity and harmony.Communities are central to the Pattinavars right down the coast fromNagapattinam to Chennai. For instance, members in one Pattinavarvillage recounted that there has been no history of conflict in theirvillage to date. The people of the village argue vigorously in the meeting,but all animosity is left behind at the boundaries of the village meetinghall. This pride in their community harmony and the efficacy of theirconflict resolution measures might be one reason why they characterisethemselves as being short–tempered and given to fits of passion, butalso quick to forgive.A related critical value that fishers cherish is honesty. For instance,one fisher narrates that getting credit is never difficult for fishermenfrom villages in the merku (west, referring to non–fishing villages), 153
  59. 159. where their word alone serves as guarantee. This emphasis on honestyalso enables an atmosphere of transparency and accountability withinthe community institutions. This is one reason why the actions of manycommunity institutions in distributing the relief and rehabilitation resourcespost tsunami came under common community scrutiny and these institutionswere held accountable to the entire community.Fishers hold their autonomy and self-sufficiency dear. The unboundednature of the sea and the economy of abundance determined the waythat marine resources were distributed in the communities. Till thedepletion caused by modern development practices in the nature offishing in this region in the 1970s and 1980s, fishers recount that thecatch in the sea was abundant enough to guarantee their basic nutritionand subsistence needs, if a fisher went out to fish. Labour, more thancapital, determined community and individual income. Hence if a fishercould own a small, indigenous canoe, the harvest from his labour wasenough to sustain his requirements, and that of his family and community.Fishing as a livelihood has a certain degree of unpredictability encodedinto its nature. Fishers can go for days without sufficient catch duringlean times and occasionally earn a fortune in a day or a week. Itis a livelihood involving considerable enterprise, risks and profits. Becauseincome is erratic, determining individual and common entitlement becomescritical. Failure to do so can, and has, led to severe conflicts oversharing resources, escalating into blood feuds that extend over severaldecades. Several fishers take pride in their self-sufficiency in thisenterprise, and characterise themselves as independent, and not amongstthose who tie their hands in servitude to earn wages. All membersof the village are equal, and only depend on the sea for their lives.To ensure this autonomy and prevent internal conflicts, fishing communitieshave evolved complex methods to divide the risks and profits of theirlabour. These methods are characterised by their egalitarian nature.Each member is answerable only to himself and is not bound byhierarchical wage relations. Each member of the crew bears a portionof the risk and is entitled to a share in the catch. The owner of theboat and nets is paid a share of the total catch for the use of histools. Further, a share is also set aside for the village and becomes154
  60. 160. part of the village income, and can be given to the vulnerable (oldpeople) in the village, used for community purposes such as organisingfestivals, pooled to buffer individual distress or community requirementsduring lean times.Along with this emphasis on autonomy and self-sufficiency, fishersalso emphasise generosity as integral to their nature. One of the outcomesof the nature of their livelihoods is the lack of greed. Since fisherscustomarily lived on daily catch and their requirements were few, theydid not hoard their resources. Fishers fish and then give away thatportion of the catch that they did not use or sell. Community leadershipwas marked by practices of generosity, building temples for the villageand sharing periya valai catch, ensuring safety nets for the vulnerablepersons in the community. The principle of generosity engenders sharingboth to create common community resources, as well as social securitymeasures for the weaker members of the community.Cultural symbols and governanceTill date, many of the common resources (including land, catch andfishing gear) of the fishing communities are governed using commoncultural norms and values, for the most part, in a participatory andequitable manner. These governance systems of the commons werelinked historically with the temples that abound in these villages. Thetemple is the central community space and the collective values ofthe communities are embodied in the temple. For instance, it is consideredincorrect to speak the untruth in the temple. Therefore the accountsand minute books of the caste panchayats are stored in the temple.During relief distribution, all the relief material that arrived in the villagewas stored in the temple and distributed from there.Temples are also central in determining membership wherein the birth,marriage and death ceremonies are marked by temple rituals. Individualsof the village indicate their membership by contributing to the templefestivals, its construction and maintenance. Incomplete temple constructionsare treated as symbols of irreconcilable conflicts within the villageand signs of shame within the community. Even villages with seriousconflicts and fractures still organise the annual thiruvizha (festival) 155
  61. 161. where the deity often goes out of the temple around the village, andsometimes plays in the waters of the sea. These annual festivals arebelieved to be critical for the community well being, and failure toorganise these festivals is a failure of governance of the community.Till date, in many of the Pattinavar villages, the temple land is heldcollectively by the customary panchayat, and its administration is afunction of the village governance. In some instances, temples alsoown community land bestowed upon them. In many instances templeand village community land are interchangeable. The very origin ofthe fisher community coastal governance was through the bestowalof stewardship of the goddess temple associated with marine fishing.The narrative on how the head village of the 64 villages was chosenis very telling about this intertwining of cultural identity, values andthe commons. It is said that the Chola king had built a large templefor Neelaatchiamman, one of the Shakti incarnations, who is particularlygenerous to fishers. At that time, there were 64 fishing villages alongthe coast. The king felt that the maintenance of the temple and itsproperty—the coastal land, and the governance of all the villages—should be vested in a village that showed selflessness, courage andunity. The king had a big puja (prayer ceremony) and called the headsof all the 64 villages to it.In this meeting, he announced that he was seeking to appoint onevillage as the head of the coastal villages, and that this village wouldbe responsible to take care of the Shakti temple as well as the governanceof the entire fishing community chain. Four villages came forwardin this meeting: Karaikalmedu, Kilinjalmedu, Nambiar Nagar andAryanattuturai. To select one amongst the four, the king laid downa severe test of faith. One member from each village had to descendinto a boiling vat of oil. Whoever survived this through divine gracewould then qualify for the custody of the temple. The heads of thevillage returned to their villages to consult the other members, hesitantto ask any of their village members to undergo this terrifying test.In Nambiar Nagar, one of the villagers was renowned for his devotionto Siva. He came to hear about the king’s test and volunteered to156
  62. 162. undergo it. His only concern was for his three unmarried daughters.Recognising he was the one most likely to pass the test, the gratefulvillage promised that they would take care of all his daughters. Whenthe date for the test came, he was the only one to appear beforethe king. When the vat of boiling oil was brought before him, he remainedcompletely serene and prepared to immerse himself in the oil. At thispoint, the king stopped him stating that he had shown adequate evidenceof courage and faith to pass the test and that there was no reasonfor him to actually immerse himself in the oil. Thus the custody ofthe temple was given to the village and it became the thalai (head)village of the 64 fishing villages.Along this coastal stretch, some of the most evolved, spiritual philosophieshave co-existed side by side in people’s lives, including the AurobindoAshram in Pondicherry besides ancient Hindu temples, mosques andchurches. One reason for this cosmopolitan world view is that unliketheir tribal counterparts who often live in remote natural environments,the marine fishers have continuously interacted with others, particularlyfor trade—to sell their fish and buy other essentials. For instance,the sufi saint Nagoor Andavan invoked by all Pattinavars in timesof danger for protection in spite of their religious identity. All fisherspray to Mother Mary as the Cosmic Mother. Again, conversion toother religions is tolerated, though not encouraged. Along the coastin every Pattinavar village, there are three to four families who havechanged to Christianity for several reasons material and emotional,and on a lighter note, because one can eat fish on all days of theweek rather than having to fast on certain days.Threats to the governance institutionsEven while the sophistication of the Pattinavar governance systemis to be lauded, this system is under serious threat, both from internalfractures and external challenges arising from modernisation. Moderndemocracy, with its emphasis on numerical equality and disregard toindigenous people’s institutions and wisdom has eroded existing hierarchicaland autocratic power relations embedded in traditional systems. Formost part, development research and action concerns have highlightedand worked with these inequities. For instance, the Pattinavar governance 157
  63. 163. systems completely exclude women from public decision making spacesother than those related to marketing of catch. This in turn has createdopportunities for new ways of gender relating that is more equitable.Most caste panchayats do not entertain women in their hearings, leavealone include them in their membership. In recent times, there hasbeen some significant change in the decision making of the communities,partly because of the SHG movements, wherein women can cometogether to discuss collective matters. One instance of this genderdiscrimination was evident in the tsunami relief and rehabilitation whenold women, particularly widows, were completely left out of the villagemember enumeration in the beginning. Traditionally, only families withsea–going males are included in the membership of the village, itsdecision making and entitlements to village shares. In some villages,widowed women are included and receive a portion that a village memberis entitled to. For the most part, these women earn their livelihoodby selling dried, salted fish that they buy from the fishers and hadlost all their wares in the tsunami leading to abject poverty.Another internal stress engendered by modernisation is the conflictbetween trawler owners and artisanal fishers arising from mechanisationof fishing technology supported indiscriminately by the modern state.The introduction of mechanisation in the villages has also forefrontedeconomic inequity in villages, particularly amongst those who can affordto buy a trawler and those who cannot, transforming the more egalitarianshare system economy into a more hierarchical economy. Mechanisationradically changes the fishing technology used, making it more capitalintensive (requiring heavy investment in stock storage and fuel), aswell as depletes marine environments drastically with its indiscriminateand intensive fishing. Trawlers usually stay out on the sea longer,sometimes for a week, requiring higher capital investment comparedto a canoe and use large nets that drags on the ocean bottom to drawin schools of fish from deeper seas. They not only sweep the seaclean of fishing shoals, but also destroy fish breeding seabed, anddestroy fingerlings caught in the nets. Mechanisation also concentrateswealth, increasing economic power of some people within the community.This in turn has posed serious challenge to the existing traditional158
  64. 164. governance system. For instance, Nambiar Nagar has been replacedby Akkrampettai, a village that has a significant trawler owner lobbywith financial power, as the head village of the 64 village system.Within villages, this conflict of interest has adversely affected governancewhere, in highly mechanised villages,3 the panchayats often representtrawlers rather than artisanal fisher interests.Development approaches based on the modern emphasis on professedobjectivity to intervene in this context lacks complete sensitivity tothe indigenous worldviews, resulting in suppressing and distorting indigenouswisdom. They have little knowledge about the complexities of theinstitutions and cultural practices of these communities. While addressingsome of the challenges of the Pattinavar communities face, such asthe differences between mechanisation and artisanal fishers, or genderdiscrimination, they often apply standard frameworks, developed inagrarian or other contexts.Such insensitive modern development interventions to remedy theseinternal fractures often aggravate the challenges faced by these communitiesrather than rejuvenate them. For instance, any understanding of thegender discrimination within Pattinavar villages has to be contextualisedin the peculiar and stringent gender division of productive roles thatexists amongst fisher folk. Fishing in the sea, all over the world, isa male occupation and traditionally the fisherman when he returnsfrom the sea to the shore considers his duty to his family done.Fisherwomen are in charge of auctioning/marketing the catch andprocessing it. They also manage the household income, including handingout expense money to their menfolk. Women have their own marketand shop organisations run on the same membership principles as thecaste panchayat. Traditionally, Pattinavar fisherwomen enjoy greatermobility and financial authority than women in agrarian communities.The real threat to fisherwomen’s position in the Pattinavar communityis likely to arise from mechanisation, when the fishing economy shiftedfrom village shorelines where women had control, to distant harboursfor trawler fleets. Women in these new contexts, where the capitalinvestment in fishing operations is much higher, are no longer in chargeof auctioning and marketing fish. 159
  65. 165. Again, the lack of sensitivity to the peculiar perspectives that Pattinavarshave towards fishing and to other fishers has aggravated the conflictthat exists between mechanised and artisanal fishing interests. Forinstance, one of the important foci of rehabilitation work that emergedin the post tsunami context was organising artisanal fishers into labourassociations. However the term ‘labour’ can be misconstrued in thePattinavar fisher context. The assumption made was that artisanalfishers and trawler owners were bound by only economic transactions,particularly wages, similar to other agrarian or factory contexts. Inreality, Pattinavars see fishing as an enterprise where every crewmember has a share in the profit or loss of the enterprise, rather thanthat of an employer / wage earner relation. Further, both trawler andcanoe owners were related through complex kin and cultural networks,and the same fisher who fished as part of a canoe crew could fishas part of a trawler crew. In both instances, he was entitled to ashare of the profit and had to incur a share of the risk. The criticaldetermining element in this system was that each fisher retained theautonomy to go as a crew member in artisanal fishing boats as wellas mechanised fishing. The real source of the conflict lay not in theindividual fisher alone, whether artisanal or trawler, but in the largersystemic issues endangered by exploitative and competitive interestsand challenges of sustainability.The core challenge that the Pattinavar fishers face is the dismissalof their vigorous and live intelligence about themselves and their occupation,as well as the environment that they depend on, by modern developmentparadigms. At the heart of this dismissal and contempt is the premisethat empirical scientific knowledge based on ‘objective’ truth is allthat is required for meeting the challenges that they now face. Peoplewho hold this indigenous knowledge have been rendered powerlesspassive recipients of knowledge rather than active contributors in dialogues.Clearly there are critical links between cultural-religious symbols, governanceof commons and property rights, including land, and the egalitarian,democratic and inclusive functioning of the community governanceinstitutions themselves to people’s well being. These links are oftenforged by living stories and myths to inform individual values and action160
  66. 166. that personalise knowledge through emotions and experiential learningto create meaning and wisdom about human existence and purpose.For instance, values of selflessness and generosity, essential for socialsecurity and sustainable use of the coastal environment, are codedin myths and legends of the community. The value of selflessnessis exemplified through the legend of one of the Nayyanar saints hailingfrom the fishing community. It is said that Adipattanayyanar—oneof the 63 Nayyanars of Tamil tradition—was a fisherman who livedin Nambiar Nagar (the traditional head village of the Nagapattinamand Karaikal fishing communities). This saint loved Lord Siva so much,that he would offer the first share of the catch to the god and releaseit back in the sea. He continued this practice both during good andbad times. A time arrived when there was no fish in the sea, andhis family went hungry. The saint still continued in his practice ofgiving the first share to the god. Then, Lord Siva decided to test him,and sent a gold fish to his net as his first catch. He wanted to seeif adversity and greed would make the saint forget his practice. However,Adipattanayyanar remained unaffected by the gold fish and returnedthis too to the sea invoking the name of the god. Pleased by thisunwavering devotion, Lord Siva appeared to him and blessed him,whereby he became one of the Nayyanars.Modern development paradigms do not recognise the importance suchliving stories have in enabling the spirit of generosity and lack of greedwithin Pattinavar fishers. Instead, they often punish those who displaysuch behaviour. One of the consequences of the arbitrary distributionof relief and rehabilitation entitlements by varying agencies resultedin punishing honesty displayed by fishing communities. For example,one villager recounts that his village had suffered significant damageduring the tsunami but no one had died in it. When relief and enumerationagencies reached them, they redirected to the relief to their neighbouringvillage, where people had lost lives. This act of generosity backfiredon them, since subsequent enumerations and relief did not reach themat all because they were no longer considered eligible. Again, afterthe tsunami, some panchayats changed their members to include those 161
  67. 167. who were willing to prepare incorrect enumeration to get additionalcompensation. Even though honesty was a highly valued quality inleadership of the community, this was seen as being ineffectual whiledealing with the rehabilitation actors and shrewdness in acquiringcompensation became an eligibility criteria.Self reflexivity and relevanceWhat continues to be remarkable about the Pattinavar governancesystems is their spontaneous responsiveness to the demand of moderndevelopment and their resilience in adapting to the modern contextrepeatedly, by reflecting on their own nature and transforming themselvesto address current challenges. One of the most remarkable internaltransformations in the governance systems of the Pattinavars is theshift from the earlier chieftain governance structure that was authoritarianto that of a democratic panchayat that is nominated, transparent andis accountable to the community when confronted with the equalisationengendered by modernisation. Another significant transformation wasthe restructuring of individual panchayats to include those who areliterate to interface with the effects of tsunami and the relief andrehabilitation agencies, including the government. For the most part,this responsiveness attempts to preserve the egalitarian and cohesivenature of the communities.The transition from nattamayi is one instance. Traditionally, the castepanchayat was a nattamayi structure based on patriarchal and patrilocalkinship and governance of the village was through a chieftan. Thenattar (chieftan) was often the head of the most respected/oldest/most powerful family in the community, and the position was passedon from father to son. The selection of the nattar was usually a privatefamily affair where pangali (kin group) families decided amongst themselves,behind closed doors, who will be most appropriate as the village nattar.The nattar was also the owner of the nattu padagu (the large boatneeded for casting shore seines) as well as the maintenance of theshore seine itself. Till the 1970s, these boats and nets were seen asheavily resource intensive, and their use was dependent on cooperativelabour from the entire kinship community.162
  68. 168. The nattar in some villages was also assisted by karyadarsis (secretaries)and dharmakartas (temple custodian), who could preside as chieftainin his absence. The dharmakartas attend particularly to the administrationof the temple, its rituals and property. In villages that were comprisedof more than one clan, all the nattars together formed the caste panchayatof the village. These nattars and dharmakarthas then chose other additionalmembers of respectable standing within the village, as panchayatarsto assist them in their work. These additional members could counselthe nattar but did not have authority to take decisions. Marking respectand meting out humiliation were cornerstones of the nattamayi authority.For instance, villagers stand with folded hands before the nattar.The nattamayi came under severe criticism since it was increasinglyseen as authoritarian and oppressive in modern eyes characterisedby violation of human rights and humiliation of village members. Someof the other criticisms levelled against this system by its own memberswere the lack of transparency and accountability, particularly aroundcommunity finance records, lack of attention to civic service (electricity,water) and unwillingness to negotiate with the government administrationto obtain these amenities. Modernisation was characterised by greateraccess to technology for fishing and production, such as the availabilityof nylon nets that caused changes in community relations (nature oflabour, elections, state programmes) and acted as the context withinwhich this reformation could take place.The nattamayi structure was reformed as early as half a decade agoin a few coastal villages, particularly those close to Chennai. Howeverthe process of consistent transformation was first seen two decadesago, where neighbouring villages spontaneously transformed the nattamayistructure to democratic panchayat triggered by changes in neighbouringvillages. This reformation was not just in the Nagapattinam and Karaikalcoastal stretch, but spread down the entire coastal region from Chennaito Nagapattinam. It was triggered by collective meetings organizedby different internal fisher community leaders to educate/sensitizepeople about the oppressive nature of hereditary governance and theneed to change to a more democratic structure. 163
  69. 169. In this reformation process, two ideas were pivotal. One was the rightto express one’s views in the public space and the other was theright to inclusive and transparent decision making in the entire villagerather than within the family. The critical focus was on participation—inclusion of all the people within discussions and decision making aboutthe village. Thus the panchayatars were nominated in open yearlymeetings where every member of the village had a right to be heard.The nominated panchayatars then selected the thalaivar (the leader)rather than the panchayatars assisting the nattar. These open yearlymeetings were also instituted to ensure transparency wherein the panchayatmembers are required to report on their previous year’s performanceand disclose accounts of the community. This reformation was notalways hostile. Depending on the quality of the nattamayi in specificvillages, these communities integrated or replaced the nattars or diminishedtheir powers accordingly. Thus if the nattar of a village was considereda good leader, he was often integrated into the new panchayat alongwith other members while the annual meetings were universally adopted.This reformation to the democratic panchayat is not the only timethat these governance institutions have shown resilience. Post tsunami,more than half the panchayats and panchayatars were replaced bythe villages to ensure that the new panchayats were competent tonegotiate the enormous number of development actors including governmentrelief and rehabilitation efforts and were fair in their distribution ofthe entitlements that the tsunami victims received. Thus at this point,all the panchayats in Nagapattinam and Karaikal transformed to includeyounger and more literate members.Rejuvenating the pattinavar governance systems The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary. —Gabriel Garcia MarquezMarine fisher communities in the Nagapattinam district have a verysophisticated understanding of community commons, both symbolicallyand materially. This understanding is coded into their very nature,both existence and practice, as people and communities. They areclear about the importance of their commons to human and community164
  70. 170. well being and have evolved sophisticated, indigenous institutions,perspectives and methods that governed these resources over centuriesbased on strong human values. In its conception, the podhu gramamof the Pattinavars embodies the spirit of the commons within the Pattinavarcommunity. It arises from an understanding of an ‘active commons’:characterised by ‘neutral’ territory, with a body of witnesses to theircompact. This space provides the opportunity for peaceful resolutionof conflict and for collaboration. This highly sophisticated mechanismof enforcing collective authority is symbolic of the complex understandingthat Pattinavar fishing communities have about commons and the detailedstructures and processes that they have created that is both equitableand egalitarian over centuries.Modernisation has posed several challenges to these governance systems,highlighting internal fractures such as the systematic exclusion of womenfrom community decision making and governance; or the authoritariannature of the traditional chieftain system. For the most part, it hasreinterpreted the reality of Pattinavar fishers in new ways and in theprocess denied the merits of their systems such as the emphasis onprincipled governance and ensuring individual autonomy and communitysovereignty. This neglect has weakened these systems leading to increasein conflict within these communities and their fragmentation, renderingthem vulnerable to powerful, exploitative and divisive forces. Alongwith this weakening, there is also a corresponding weakening of communityrights over the coastal environment, and enables the enclosure of theircommons. For instance, privatisation of shore land for industry notonly prevents Pattinavar fishers access to their customary entitlementsbut also makes available these natural resources for exploitation withoutconsideration of their sustainability.For these communities to continue to enjoy their entitlements and livea life of dignity, it is essential that their governance systems are rejuvenated.Such a rejuvenation process at its very core has to honour their heritage,both wisdom and practice, as well as their self-reflexivity and resilienceshown in modern times. Such a process will restore pride in Pattinavarfishers about their origins and will help support their search for relevancein a globalising world. For this restoration of dignity, such a process 165
  71. 171. must engage in honest conversation about the relevance of these traditionsin the current context as well as confront internal disharmony throughtransparent self-examination, particularly around issues of gender andmechanisation. Pattinavar fisher communities, like other oral cultures,code their wisdom about values, principles and technology in stories.In the post-tsunami scenario, where coastal land and communitiesare coming under increasing pressures of development and threat,facilitating the exchange of these stories and codes that reflect culturalnorms and institutions is particularly significant. Such a rejuvenationprocess will ensure that the Pattinavar governance systems remainvigorous, self-reliant and just.In conclusion, the real challenge ahead of us is whether we can seethrough the glasses of the Pattinavar Podhu Gramam while consideringthe issue of community commons. At the core of this challenge isour ability to listen to the communities we work with, to witness theirchallenges and to freely enable them to come to their own decisionsEndnotes1 The author acknowledges the support of Edwin in completing this chapter.2 One way to understand this complex word could be as the willingness to bind individual actions to collective will.3 Village O: O lies at the junction of a river and the sea and therefore has both rich fishing grounds and fertile land. It is the last village lying to the north in the cluster. In 1983, a harbour was constructed and the number of mechanised boats in the village increased. Large numbers of people migrated into the village in the last two decades as crew on these boats. In the village, there is a hamlet of Vanniachis who work as crew on the trawlers and fish in the inland river. However a significant number of members from the same Pattinavar community also work as crew. They are usually poorer and have no boats. At that time, many of the people working as crew formed a sangam (labour union) and asked for a 2% raise in their share of the catch. This was violently suppressed by the boat owner association in the village. The community of labourers did not have the organising capacity required to hold firm. The labour association maintains that the nature of the village panchayat has changed considerably in the last two decades, with increased domination by boat owners and those with money. This is the only panchayat that is elected and follows electoral party factions.166
  72. 172. Women and commons Engaging with gender justice Anungla AierC ommons are not simply resources we share—conceptualising the commons involves three things at the same time. First, all commons involve some sort of common pool of resources, understood asnon–commodified means of fulfilling peoples’ needs. Second, the commonsare necessarily created and sustained by communities—this of courseis a very problematic term and topic, but nonetheless we have to thinkabout it. Communities are sets of commoners who share these resourcesand who define for themselves the rules according to which they areaccessed and used. They also need not be understood as ‘homogeneous’in their cultural and material features. In addition to these two elements—the pool of resources and the set of communities—the third and mostimportant element in terms of conceptualising the commons is the verb‘to common’—the social process that creates and reproduces thecommons.1 In general, the concept of a ‘commons’ is often defined andunderstood to denote having a ‘shared ownership’ and responsibility overthe said resources, be it natural resources such as land, human resourcesand knowledge, social capital and cultural wealth of a community.In being drawn to the idea of ‘common and shared ownership andresponsibility’, it is important to remind ourselves that the ‘sharing of thecommons’ takes place within the social and cultural confines of a community.Therefore, the cultural denomination ascribed to key social groups suchas gender categories and their strategic positions in the social hierarchyof the community is critical since it often determines the access and controlover the resources. Among the indigenous ethnic communities of the hillstates of northeast India, common land based resources, has been thetradition over the generations. This is gradually changing primarily due tochange in lifestyles and a moving away from the rural to urban setting.
  73. 173. A community is not homogenous in the real sense, as it essentially consistsof and is structured along gendered categories. It is therefore criticalto look beyond the ‘community concept’ and gain insight on how the‘commons’ of the group is projected, its usage regulated and the howthe intuitions are structured. This chapter revisits some of its aspectsfrom a gender perspective to identify the existing issues of exclusion anddiscrimination that hinders the purpose of the commons. The discussionsfocus on issues of land rights, power and decision making, and knowledge.Drawing on examples from several tribal communities who are indigenousinhabitants of Nagaland state, this is a gendered critique of the underlyingvalues and practice of the various commons among the indigenouscommunities. It takes a stand that the traditional framework has beenworking against the interest of women even in the post–developmentscenario and have perpetuated the continued discrimination of women,displacing them within their own community.Land rights and womenAs Fernandes stated, 2 ‘to understand the role of land and of othernatural resources in people’s lives and the thinking behind their useand management, one has first to study the difference ofstakeholders’. Making a distinction between the urban middle class andthe indigenous communities as two categories of major stakeholders inthe discourse on land, culture and modernisation in India, he furthercommented and rightly so, that whereas the urban middle class view landand the natural resources either as a commodity to be protected orexploited; the indigenous communities view land as the centre of theiridentity, economy and social systems.Though the instances in this chapter are drawn primarily from the Nagacommunities, many of the basic conceptual principles of land holdingsystems are roughly similar among all shifting cultivators of the Northeast.The specific procedures that characterise the operation of particular systemsmay vary considerably from tribe to tribe and even within the same tribe.There exist local variations between different villages. But in general theyall follow similar patriarchal principles. The basis for decision making168
  74. 174. regarding landholding, usage, management and inheritance of land isclosely linked not only with the social and kinship structure but also withthe history of the groups, which in effect take the strength of civil lawunder the aegis of the customary laws of the particular community.Among the indigenous communities of the Northeast, land and itsmanagement is intricately linked to the organisation of the society andthe use of land underlie the fundamental premise of various culturalpractices. In general, land is classified into two types of landholding basedon the nature of use to which it is put: (a) jhum or fallow lands whichare used for cultivation; extraction of minerals and forest products, and(b) residential or non–jhum lands. Both types of land are recognisedunder three forms of landownership, i.e., village land which is ownedand managed by the village council or chief on behalf of the community;clan land, owned and managed by particular clan(s); and individualland owned and managed by the individual(s). Whereas privately ownedlands are individually acquired and passed down from father to son, italso has more chances of changing ownership over the generation whereasownership of village and clan lands do not change easily as its ownershipis tied up with traditions of migration of the first settlers and eventualestablishment of the village (Aier & Changkija 1997).In this context, mention is made here that though the history of a peopleis a common, among the Naga communities it is quite commonplace tofind that women are not featured in the oral history and traditions oforigin, migration and the first settling of the village. Almost always, eachvillage has been established only by men (women’s names are customarilydeleted from such accounts). It is therefore not surprising to also findthat important landmarks, boundaries, water bodies and all other storiesconnected to the land are also associated with heroes who are men andare even called by their names thereby immortalising their claim ofownership and control over it. It is not possible to divorce such oral traditionfrom the management of land resources among the indigenous people.The cultural practices such as rules of inheritance, land rights as wellas any form of contestations such as ownership and boundary issues aregrounded and decided on the basis of such traditions. From a patriarchaland patrilineal vantage, the arrangement may seem logical but from a 169
  75. 175. gender perspective it permanently wipes out any possibility for womento find a space in the overall arrangement of power sharing structuresof the society or control over the land as a common necessity for theirlivelihood and survival.In reality, women are the ‘true managers’ of the resources—theyare the tillers, gatherers, seeders and harvesters of the land. Yet theyhave no right to own, sell and inherit any portion of the land theytend. The Naga dustomary law makes unambiguous statements pertainingto customary laws of inheritance and women’s rights to land and property.A few instances are given below (Aier & P.Khuvung 2009):a) Daughters and wives are not allowed to inherit land (land also includes house). If there are no sons, in the event of death the closest male relative on the paternal side will be the legal heir. Daughters may be gifted land at the time of marriage if the father is wealthy and possess several plots of land. This practice is not the norm but depends on individual circumstances and it is completely at the disposal of the father to give such gifts. In most communities, such gifted land is re– claimed by the father or his family in the event of her death. But in some communities such as among the Pochury, the gift is permanent (Pochury Public Forum 2006).b) Unmarried women and spinsters are allowed to live in the parental house and sustain on the land that belongs to her father and brothers for as long as she lives. But she can neither sell nor claim ownership over it.c) Divorced women lose all rights of access to her husband’s land and resources. If the divorce had occurred due to the husband’s infidelity, she can claim certain portions of moveable properties such as grains, livestock, cash but not the land. In some communities, she can claim the right to continue living in the house if they have children and she is given the custody. Whether widowed or divorced, if a woman who has been granted rights over the house wants to remarry, she must relinquish all rights over the house as well as custodial rights over the children and go to the new husband’s house.170
  76. 176. d) If a man dies leaving only daughters, customarily the deceased man’s father, brothers, and other male members of his family and clan inherits the house as well as any other plots of land. The wife and daughters stand to face eviction from their homes just for being women.The various customary laws regarding land rights and women clearlymarginalise women as they have no control over the resources. Theirrights to access land is also through the men in their lives—father, brother,husband or sons.Globally, it is recognised that land rights is critical for improving women’ssocial security, livelihoods and their social status. It is estimated that globally,‘though women constitute the majority of the agricultural workforce(70 to 80% in some regions) their access to and control over landis globally estimated at 5%, although there are variations in regions.Most rural families in Sub–Saharan Africa live under customaryregimes—access to land is determined by customary practices, withland use and the proceeds from land owned by male kin. Women’srelationship with land is therefore through husbands, fathers, brothersor sons. 3Information such as this emerging out of communities from across thecontinents reinforces the understanding that across the cultures, patriarchalvalues depends on the marginalisation of women. For rural and indigenouscommunities, whether in Africa, India or elsewhere, land is a crucialeconomic resource and source of livelihood and the communities havealways viewed land as the fundamental element of their economic well–being as well as part of their social and cultural identity.4 Reasoning suchas this coalescing with conflict situations, at least in the context of theNagas, may have contributed to the land ownership and control in themen’s domain who were also considered as the protectors of thecommunity. The resultant gender impact of such traditional negotiationswith conflict, land rights, natural resources and livelihood however resultedin the creation of unequal gendered stratification where women occupieda much lower rung in the social strata. Though indigenous societies,particularly the Naga society, have been projected as an egalitarian societyin colonial writing (eg Mills 1922, 1926, Hutton 1921), there is a strong 171
  77. 177. gender inequality which is nowhere more distinct than in the control andmanagement of land resources.In the case of the indigenous communities, particularly the indigenouscommunities of Northeast India, starting from the mid 20th century theentire gamut of the social process have been experiencing drastic changes.The religious, economic, political, education system have been transformedfrom the traditional base to a newer system of belief and mode ofoperation. Transition of the society from a rural based agrarian economyto urban based monetised economy took place introducing multipleeconomic options such as trade and education that opens avenues forjobs in the public as well as private sectors. The new priority and agendaof the various institutional structures underwent a paradigm shift wherethe focus was on development and the changing lifestyles. In this emergingparadigm of change and development, the issues of traditional land rightsbecame all the more crucial from a gender perspective. Whereas theconditions remained more or less unchanged in the rural areas, particularlyin the more remote and inaccessible regions, the issues of land rightsin the urban and semi urban areas become critical due to the interfaceof traditions and modernity.In the new settings, modern legal systems and constitutional provisionsand regulations of land acquisition are becoming an inherent part of livesside by side with the traditional system. For instance, land in the villagesare traditionally acquired which as mentioned is based on the kinshipstructure as well as on the historical background of the community.However, in the urban context, people who have moved out of villagesand resettled in the towns were acquiring land by purchasing. In manysuch cases, both men and women contribute according to their earning.Nonetheless, where ownership and control of the land is concerned, thecustomary laws prevail. Despite the changes, women finds themselvesfighting the same battle of getting access to these lands as it continuesto be controlled by men only.In the case of the Nagas, the special constitutional provision recognisingthe traditional customary practices and traditional control over the landvide Article 371(A) further strengthens the inherent discriminations thatalready exist. Many see the legal option of deeding the land in favour172
  78. 178. of daughters and wives by writing a will. But there are instances where,despite the existence of legal documents, women and daughters are deniedcontrol of such land by citing the customary laws and the constitutionalrecognition of the customary laws.Power and decision makingThat woman mainly gain access to land through marriage, although theyhave access to use land as daughters or sisters is already highlightedin the foregoing discussion. This brings us to the decision making processesand gendered power equations that control not only the use of resourcesbut also secure the social well being of the community as a commons.Traditionally, the position of the village chief or the council of village eldersis occupied by men only since appointment to all such positions arecustomarily made on the basis of kinship and clan representations andalso on the tradition of village establishment.For instance, among the Sumi Nagas only the son or direct descendantof the founder of the village can become the chief. Under nocircumstances a woman is allowed to become the chief. With regard toappointment as clan representatives in the council of elders, women arenot permitted to represent the clan in any official capacity. The bar onaccepting women as representative of the clan disfranchises them fromexercising their civil rights as citizens of the community on equal termswith men.The consequences of such customary practices effectively disempoweredwomen in participating in all decision making processes of the community(Aier 2008: 91). Thus all powers of decision making were vested on menonly. Naga men through the operation of such mechanisms select andallot plot for jhum fields. A woman has no active part in the selectionof land for cultivation or for that matter in any discussions relating toland. She may, however, let her opinion be known to her husband andif she is not satisfied with the choice of land she may also try to convinceother clansmen. The final decision however is taken by men though sheplays the major role in working the land (Aier 2008: 123).Despite the major contribution of women to agricultural production in ruralareas (women contribute 60 to 80% of the labour used to produce food 173
  79. 179. both for household consumption and for sale) women’s access and controlover their source of livelihood remains only through men. Gender relationsis one of the most important detrimental factors that contributes to thedisparities between men and women. Women’s access to and control overthe commons in this respect is therefore dependent on negotiating theseusually unequal power relationships, rather than as a general entitlementas is in the case for men.Apart from the traditional institutions, even in the modern state institutionsthe social processes that creates and sustains the concept of commonsremains very traditional which create a gender disparity in the proportionof gender representation. Once again, the Naga experience is veryrevealing in this regard. The state of Nagaland came into existence in1963 and in the entire 47 years of its existence, not a single women hasever been elected to the state assembly. As recently as 2007, the‘community’ protested against reservation of seats for women in themunicipalities despite strong protest from women. Women were notpermitted to file nomination papers and the election was kept on hold.Till today the issue is not resolved. The justification given against theentry of women to occupy seat of power and decision making in thesociety are based on the oral tradition and customary practices in whichwomen were never accredited with such positions (Aier 2008: 92).KnowledgeThis section focuses on the biodiversity based traditional knowledge asa common and women. Until relatively recently, the conceptions ofknowledge was bound by the philosophy and methods of western sciences.Few outside recognised that there are myriad ‘sciences’ embedded inthe culture of indigenous peoples and civilisations throughout the world.Today, there is an increasing recognition of the importance of variouslocal or culture–based knowledge systems, generally referred as ‘IndigenousKnowledge’ (IK) in addressing the problems of development and theenvironment. Knowledge is a fundamental component of culture, and mustbe considered and understood in terms of both its sacred and seculardimensions. To indigenous peoples, knowledge is not consideredindependently from its products and expressions, or from actions. Theseall form part of a closely integrated cultural system where the physical174
  80. 180. products and expressions of indigenous cultures are intimately connectedto the knowledge from which they derive, or with which they areassociated. Protecting all such systems of knowledge, and their productsand expressions are vital to benefit environmental conservation andsustainable management efforts and to ensure equitable development ofthe community (Aier 2005: 60–61).In indigenous communities, traditional knowledge about the managementof crops, forests, land and the application of these knowledge have alwaysbeen held as a common resource. Such knowledge is unwritten andremains mostly at the practice level. Biodiversity and natural resourcebased traditional knowledge permeates every aspect of the indigenouspeople’s lives. They depend on such knowledge for meeting their needfor food and food supplements, traditional healing purposes, artworks andcrafts as well as for various daily practical needs. As an inherent partof such knowledge, there exist a host of prescriptions instructionsregarding the usage of the materials and objects involved. It also containsinformation on the system and the order of things in their environs.An important element of such knowledge systems is that it is essentiallytreated as a heritage to be used for the good of all and not as commodityfor economic benefit. Perhaps, elements of traditional knowledge suchas this qualify it as a common in the true sense. For the indigenous people,knowledge such as these are a part of their history and cultural heritage.The knowledge is who they are, a part of their identity. Therefore suchknowledge normally resides in the realm of the collective community.Having said this, it must be mentioned here that gender roles being culturallydetermined, the field of activities, nature of work and responsibility ofmen and women differ and at times takes place in different social spaces.Consequently, their knowledge base and experiences also differ.In general, knowledge is a common to both men and women butconsidering their different field of expertise in managing the resourcesas well as responsibilities within their homes and society, there aredifferent areas of the knowledge which are gender specific.Among the Nagas the women are not only responsible for tending thecrops but also for selecting and preserving seeds for the next season.As women frequent the fields more often, they know the standing crops 175
  81. 181. much better than men and therefore are more knowledgeable to selectthe plants for future seeds. There is no formal training but the knowledgeof seed selection, treatment, storage and preservation is normally passeddown from mother to daughter while they work alongside in the fieldand at home. The knowledge is thus passed down from one generationof women to the next, orally and practically. Sons normally do not takepart in this process (Aier 2008: 128). They engage in other activitiesalongside the father and a similar process takes place there between fatherand son. Thus, knowledge in spite of it being a common, due to the socialprocesses that creates and sustain it, tends to have a gendered quality.The international discourse about the need to protect biodiversity basedtraditional knowledge is enshrined in a host of international conventionsand treaties most notably Article 8(j) of the Convention on BiologicalDiversity (CBD). The overarching discourse at the international level hasbeen to recognise the importance of traditional knowledge systems andthe contribution made by traditional/indigenous people. The importanceof women’s role in the conservation of biodiversity is highlighted in thepreamble to the CBD. However at the regional and local level, thediscourse has been of a very paternalistic acknowledgement of theimportance of women’s traditional knowledge in the field of biodiversitymanagement. The emerging formal legal structures have not tended totake into consideration the complex linkages between the transmissionof oral knowledge and the specialised role played by women in this regard.The discourse in terms of non–formal systems of law and knowledgehas always been hegemonistically patriarchal. The acknowledgement ofthe roles played by women as custodians of knowledge has only beenacknowledged in passing and do not get the recognition and the protectivebenefits it justly deserves. In the process, much of the knowledge repositorywhich lies with women gets lost.The invisibility of womenThe invisibility of women in the oral tradition is only a reflection of thetenuous right over the commons. Men control the resource but womenmanage production. But all rights flow only through the male. The normsof a society are always dynamic and changing to adapt to the changingexternal world. However, when it comes to the inclusion of women, even176
  82. 182. in the newly emerging spaces, they are prevented by invoking ‘tradition’and ‘culture’. However, for opportunities and power relations to theadvantage of men, the discourse is in terms of ‘politics’ and ‘rights’. Theformer invokes ‘permanence’ and discourages change while the latterinvokes ‘justice’ and encourages change. When these are codified intolaw, those who do the codification are men and they codify tradition tothe detriment of women, carefully stripping away and erasing those traditionsadvantageous to women.Though in tradition there were no problems of access or management,the changes in social structuring have thrown up new challenges. Oneof the most important challenge is to retain the relatively egalitarian accessin the face of misuse of these practices by others. Those not of the clanoften marry women from the clan and then claim the right to alienatethe commons. They use the language of gender justice against the veryexistence of the commons. In certain parts of Central India, there is apractice of calculated marrying of widows by non–tribals so that the triballand can be acquired. Since the land is immovable, this is a challengefor patri–local societies. One way in which the communities are facingthis challenge is to allow non–ancestral land to be owned by women.Changing the vocabulary is only the first step. Unless power relationsare addressed, gender justice cannot be attained.ConclusionThe purpose of this chapter was to explore the notions of commons froma gender perspective as experienced among the indigenous community.Although almost all the instances have been drawn from among the Nagas,the issues that has been discussed are relevant to all other similarly placedindigenous communities, especially in the Northeast of India. Within theunderstanding of commons as common pool resources that can beaccessed by one and all, what is seen here is that the processes thatcreate, sustain, maintain and regulate the usage of the commons dependson the community. The community in turn consists of men and women,who are positioned socially unequal terms. Therefore, the social andcultural mechanisms that operates the channel of access to the commonsalso favours one against the other where women finds themselves at adisadvantage and discriminated. Further, in changing situations induced 177
  83. 183. by development and modernisation or globalisation processes, when thecontents of customary regimes are subjected to new negotiations undernew institutional arenas, usually men fare better because the scale isalready tilted in their favour. It is therefore crucial that the discourseon the commons engage with issues of gender justice.ReferencesAier Anungla, 2008. “Folklore, Folk Ideas and gender among the Nagas” in Eastern Quarterly, vol.5, Issue II & III pp87–93.—, 2008 “Agricultural Cycle, Associated Rituals and the Role of Women” in Richard Kunz Vibha Joshi (Eds), Naga—A Forgotten Mountain Region Rediscovered, Musum der kulturen, Basel, Christoph Merian Verlag, Switzerland.—, 2005 “The Intangible Cultural Heritage of the North–East of India: Emerging Issues and Problems” in Interpreting the Heritage of the Northeast. INTACH, New Delhi.Aier. A & P.Khuvung, 2009. Status of Naga women with reference to customary Laws. Women Study Centre, Unpublished Research Report.Aier & Changkija, 1993. The Anthropology of North–East India: A Textbook.Anon. A Gender perspective on Land Rights; Source: http://www.fao.org/docrep/X0250E/x0250e03.htm— Land Policy in Africa: A framework to Strengthen Land Rights, Enhance Productivity and Secure Livelihoods. Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa, May 2009. AU, AfDB, and UNECA. Source: www.fao.orgYngstrom I. 2002. “Women, Wives and Land Rights in Africa: Situating Gender Beyond The Household” in the Debate over Land Policy and Changing Tenure Systems. Oxford Development Studies, Vol 30 No.1, Carfax Publishing. Source: www.uneca.orgPochury Public Forum, 2006. Pochury Customary Laws & Traditional Practices (Codified References of Unwritten Laws), Pub by Author, Dimapur, Nagaland.Fernandes, Walter. Land, Cultures, Modernization and Conflicts in India.Endnotes1 Massimo De Angelis, Professor of Political Economy at the University of East London in conversation with Stavros Stavrides; source: htp/www.e.flux.com/journal/ view/150 Accessed September 20102 Land, Cultures, Modernisation and Conflicts in India.3 Massimo De Angelis, Professor of Political Economy at the University of East London in conversation with Stavros Stavrides; source: htp/www.e.flux.com/journal/view/150 Accessed September 20104 Land, Cultures, Modernisation and Conflicts in India.178
  84. 184. Children and the right to commons Enakshi Ganguly ThukralA few months ago a lady arrived in our office with a huge pile of legal papers. She wanted our help because her neighbour had filed a case in the courts to stop children in his colonyfrom playing in the park next to his house and to our surprise, thehonourable court had decreed that the children were ‘restrained fromusing the park No. Block 2 of Vijay Mandal Enclave, Kale Saraifrom playing foot ball/cricket or such other game or using it forany other purpose which is prohibited by law’ (Order 39 RI &2CPC) and the Station House Officer (SHO) of the local policestation was directed ‘to personally ensure no such nuisance wascreated by the defendants and to file a weekly report in the courtafter continuously monitoring the site’.This case has now been going on for over a year and reams andreams of papers and documents have been generated. Precious timeof courts which already has a huge backlog of judicial matters to contendwith, has been lost. Time and energy of the SHO—the head of apolice station—who should be using it maintain law and order, havebeen spent; not to even account for the money spent on fighting alegal battle. And all because children have claimed what is rightfullytheirs—a colony park which is part of the ‘commons’ in an urbansetting. And clearly this is not the only case.The children’s right to play and access to these common spaces isbeing pitted against the requirements of elderly people to the samespace, aesthetic concerns of maintaining ‘pretty’ green spaces and,of course, the demands of corporations who have invested in settingup training institutes and sports facilities, and hence need childrento be using them.Ishan is a young boy of about 14 years living next to a huge glitzymall in Delhi. He is one of the boys that HAQ 1 has been workingwith. One day while talking to him, we asked him if he had ever enteredthe mall. With a wistful look he said ‘never’. Would he like to?—
  85. 185. of course! A few days later the HAQ team took Ishan and his sistersto the mall. The security guard at the gate would not let them in.‘We have orders not to let such children in’, they said. ‘You can goin, but not these children, others who come to the mall do not likeit and will complain…’ Yet another common space, this time the globalmarket space, that ‘some’ children do not have access to.The study conducted by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights—Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan (NCDHR—DAAA) found that Dalitgirl children in school were seldom allowed to use toilets and Dalitchildren were kept out of even functions like Independence Day. Dalitchildren in schools of Uttar Pradesh were also assigned menial caste–based tasks like cleaning the yard, filling up water buckets and cleaningthe toilets, leading to other children treating them badly and consideringthem inferior. The morning assembly was invariably always conductedby dominant caste children. In the class, Dalit children were madeto sit at the back and in some schools of Bihar on the barren floorwhile mats were given to dominant caste children. Even the notebooksand homework of the Dalit children were not checked by teachers.In secondary and higher secondary school, the survey found that teacherspromote private coaching. But many Dalit children dropped out2 asthey could not afford private classes. 3 As if that is not enough, itis not unknown for Dalit children to have to sit outside the class room,not be touched or even served mid–day meals by dominant caste oreven OBC cooks and not allowed to drink water from the school tap.The list of ‘commons’ inaccessible to them is endless.Physically handicapped children are unable to access basic facilitieslike schools, public transport, play grounds and other common spacessuch as theatres, cinemas etc. because of their disability and becausethese spaces are not designed to be accessible to the disabled.In the modern day context along with what has been interpreted ascommon property resources such as grazing lands, forests, ponds etc.newer spaces need to be included. These would include schools, hospitals,markets, religious and cultural spaces, and any other such spaces thatchildren need and use. This chapter will discuss access to commonsin the context of this wider definition of ‘commons’.182
  86. 186. Schools as commonsChildren dropout of school, or find themselves squeezed out of theeducation system because of the situation of the schools as well asbecause their own socio–economic status. Analysis of available dataclearly indicates that it is some groups of children who are excluded orpushed–out more than others. Many others are unable to make in–roadsinto schools because they are poor.Hence, despite its goal of ensuring every child was in school by 2007,7.6 million children continue to be out of school, according to the Ministryfor Human Resource Development.4 According to some other estimates,almost 21 million children, that is, close to 17% of all children of primaryschool age (6—10 years), continue to be out of school. Of those in primaryschool, 52% are boys and 48% are girls. About one quarter of all childrenof primary school age live in urban areas and the remaining three quartersin rural areas. 5As the District Information System for Education (DISE report)6 states,while almost 94% of habitations have got access to primary and 89%to upper–primary schools, it is important to see the retaining capacityof the education system. In other words, how many children are ablego through with their education without having to dropout?7 While theapparent survival rate has improved, more boys than girls survived upto class V, and the children enrolled in schools in urban areas were morelikely to survive in school than their rural counterparts. A retention rateof 71% indicates that about 29% of children dropped out of schools beforereaching grade V.8 The average promotion rate is 83.76% and about 9.99million children repeated elementary grades in 2005–06.With the poor standard of many government schools, there is an increasingdependence on market forces to fill the educational deficit.9 This is leadingto a situation, described by P. Sainath, the acclaimed journalist, as onewhere ‘your educational attainment has very little to do with your qualityas a student and everything to do with your ability to pay’.10 Accordingto the CABE Committee, almost 25% of secondary schools in India arenow private, unaided schools, with students coming only from the privilegedsections of society.11 A huge 46% of all secondary school students areattending private schools.12 183
  87. 187. It was to ‘right’ this imbalance that in January 2004, the Delhi HighCourt passed an order saying that all schools should reserve 25%of the seats for poor and the Supreme Court passed an order in April2004 directing schools that had received land from the governmentat concessional rates to admit 25% students from the economicallyunderprivileged groups. Drawing from these, the Right to EducationAct included the provision 25% reservation of seats for poor childrenin private schools (referred to in India as Public Schools). school school Children of primar y sc hool age out of sc hool (million), hildren India 2000 and 2006 2000 2006 Change 2000 to 2006 Male 13.0 9.5 –3.5 Female 16.4 11.2 –5.2 Urban 5.0 3.7 –1.3 Rural 24.5 17.0 –7.5 Poorest 20% 9.4 9.8 0.5 Second 20% 8.5 5.3 –3.2 Middle 20% 5.2 3.1 –2.1 Fourth 20% 4.3 1.7 –2.6 Richest 20% 2.0 0.8 –1.3 Total 29.5 20.7 –8.7Data sources: India MICS 2000, India DHS 2005–06 in International EducationStatistics, Analysis by Friedrich HueblerExclusion is faced on the basis of gender, caste and ethnicity as wellas religion. Even more important is the fact that the design of the SarvaShiksha Abhiyaan (SSA), the flagship programme of the government isitself flawed and designed to exclude children from ‘equal opportunityto quality education’, as is the Right to Education Act that accommodatesin law different streams of schooling for different students, thereby going184
  88. 188. against the very tenets of equality and equal opportunity based on samequality and availability. Hence even while promoting right to educationfor all, these are not designed to provide equal education for all. Much–advertised programmes, such as the Education Guarantee Scheme,promote parallel systems of education in which less qualified, under paid,local para teachers are replacing trained professional teachers. Also thepractice of multi grade teaching, in which one teacher is responsible forteaching many classes, each of them overcrowded, continues, leadingto children dropping out or more pertinently being pushed out of theschools by the system.The differential access to the ‘school commons’ is manifested in educationstatistics in the country.• In rural areas 7.80% of children are out of school against 4.34% in urban areas;• The proportion of children out of school is relatively higher among those in the age category 11–13 years (8.56%) compared to those in the 6– 10 years age category (6.1%);• Percentages of out of school boys and girls in the age group 6–10 years are 5.51% and 6.87% respectively. For the age group 11–13 years, the%age of out of school children is relatively higher among girls (10.03%) than boys (6.46%);• Amongst social groups, 9.97% of Muslim, 9.54% of ST, 8.17% of SC and 6.9% of OBC children are out of school;• 69% of the children out of school: Bihar (23.6%), U.P. (22.2%), West Bengal (9%), M.P. (8%) and Rajasthan (5.9%);• Bihar (3.18 million), U.P. (almost 3 million), West Bengal (1.2 million), M.P. (1.08 million) and Rajasthan (795,000) have the highest number of out of school children.Ministry of Human Resource Development, Chapter on Elementary Education (SSAand Girls Education) for the XIth Plan Working Group Report, 2007, pp. 12.Despite a recent increase in the number of girls attending school,gender discrimination is still evident in education in India. The traditionalplace of the woman is in the home and so many parents and childrenconsider education for girls to be a waste of time, especially whenthe child can instead be working or performing domestic chores. 13Only 38% of Indian women are literate and, at 64% for men, thegender parity in literacy rates amongst Indian women and men is oneof the most unequal in the world.14 The number of girls enrolled into 185
  89. 189. schools, both at the primary and the upper primary level is less thanboys. The average of 604 districts in 2005–06 indicates the GenderParity Index (GPI) of 0.91 in primary school and 0.83 in the upperprimary stage. Getting girls into school is only the first hurdle; oncethey are there, greater efforts need to be made to retain them throughsystematic monitoring of education quality.15 But lack of toilets anddistance from the home are other major reasons, particularly in thelight of increasing levels of crimes against girls, sexual abuse andassault cases within the schools. According to information collectedby DISE, not a single state has provided common toilets and toiletsfor girls to all of its schools. In 2005–06, 52% schools covered underDISE across 604 districts had common toilets in school, whilst only37.40% schools had separate toilets for girls. 16Dropout rates too remain high amongst Scheduled Castes (SC) andScheduled Tribes (ST)—59.42% for SC and 70.05 for ST in 2003–04 for classes I to VIII.17 The proportion of SC and ST girls droppingout of school is even higher. Recognising the gravity of the situation,in 2007, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) cameout with a Performance Audit of Educational Development of ScheduledCastes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in India (Report No.14 of2007). Examining two indicators of educational development, i.e. grossenrolment rate (GER) and gross dropout rate (GDR),18 the audit reporthighlighted, among other things, alarming gaps in policy implementationin the Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) for the SCand ST children. The CAG report found that the gap in GDR betweengeneral candidates and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates,which was 6.7% and 15.1% in 2001–02, deteriorated to 10.4% and16.6% in 2003–04 respectively. The range across states was between0.04 to 28.98% in 2003–04 among SC children. Similarly, the dropoutrate for ST boys & girls also increased in 2003–04 in several stateswith reference to 2001–02. 19In 2001–02, the government made education a fundamental right forchildren through the 86 th Amendment to the Constitution, in whichit put the onus of a child’s education on the parents as their fundamentalduty to ensure that their children are in school. In a country like India,186
  90. 190. where a large section of the population lacks the means to send theirchildren to school, the government’s dilution of its own responsibilitytowards providing education is a big blow. For the disabled children,who anyway face exclusion, it becomes even more difficult,20 especiallywhen the parents are poor and have no means. The Third Joint ReviewMission of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan states that out of the total populationof out of school children, the disabled were the largest in number,constituting nearly 38.11% of the total population.21 On the basis ofthe survey, a child with disabilities would therefore appear to be twelvetimes as likely to be out of school as a child in the general population.22Girls with disabilities face double disadvantage and double discrimination.Health facilities as commonsRight to health is not recognized as a fundamental right in our constitution.However, it has been recognized as one in all international humanrights instruments that India has ratified. As with any right, the rightto health is also about equal access to health care services. However,an examination of the disease burden clearly shows that some groupsare more vulnerable than others. There is an uneven distribution ofthe disease burden as well as access to health services across regionsand socio–economic and religious categories. Clearly, discriminationand exclusion continues to affect children’s health status.Children’s health has never really found a space in the government’sefforts at improving health care in India. Usually subsumed in thegovernment’s population control and family planning efforts, child healthcontinues to be an extension of reproductive health care programmes.In the 1960s when the Family Planning Programme was at its peak,child health primarily implied immunisation. This continued till the mid–1970s as sterilisation was the main focus of the National Family PlanningProgramme. In 1979, when the Family Planning Programme was renamedthe ‘Family Welfare Programme’, a number of initiatives were takento improve the health and nutritional status of women and children.However, the child continued to be part of efforts directed towardsensuring safe birth and population control.While there are a few paediatric hospitals, better known as children’shospitals like the Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital in Delhi, most 187
  91. 191. are part of the facilities for family welfare or mother and child welfare.Most big hospitals of course have paediatric wards for their youngpatients. These are what we could refer to as the ‘health commons’.India’s health care system at present is predominantly catered to bythe private sector contributing 78.05% of the total health expenditure,while public sector accounts for 19.67% and external flows, 2.28%.Health expenditure formed 4.25% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).23Out of pocket expenditure, a huge burden that the people of Indiahave to bear, constituted more than two third of total health expenditurein India during 2004–05. Component wise, about 66.10% was spenton out–patient care, followed by 23.48% on in–patient care, 3.43%on delivery and 2.83% on family planning services. In per capita termsRs. 564 was spent on out–patient care which was highest among allthe services. 24When costs are so high and availability is scarce, discriminatory practicesset in. The already marginalised find themselves pushed back evenfurther. The problems of gender disparity manifest in various forms—declining female to male population ratio, social stereotyping, violenceat the domestic and social levels, and continuing open discriminationagainst the girl child, adolescent girls and women in access to healthcare and nutrition. A strong gender bias in care seeking against femalenewborns is conspicuous at all levels of the health system. For example,for every two sick male newborns admitted to a facility, only onefemale infant was admitted.25 Like in the case of education, the situationof children and the differential situation by socio–economic statusreveals how accessible the health commons are to children.Infant and child mortality rates still remain cause for alarm. The ratesare much higher in rural than urban areas across the country. Eachyear, 26 million children are born in India. They constitute 20% ofthe world’s infants. Of them, 1.2 million die within four weeks ofbeing born. This figure comprises a huge 30% of the 3.9 million globalneonatal deaths. According to the report State of India’s Newborns, 26India has the highest number of births as well as neo–natal deathsof any country of the world.188
  92. 192. The geographical, socio–economic and gender differentials show theunequal access to what must be equal access to ‘common services’.The rate of neonatal mortality varies widely among the different states,ranging from 10 per 1,000 live births in Kerala to around 60 in Odishaand Madhya Pradesh. The undivided states of Madhya Pradesh, UttarPradesh and Bihar together contributed over half of all new–borndeaths in India in 2000, or roughly 15% of the entire global burden.The disease burdens too differ across states. 27SC and ST children have higher mortality rates. It is also higher amongfemales. According to the National Family Health Survey–3, the under–five mortality rate is 88.1 for SC children and 95.7 for ST children,as compared to 59.2 for other children, revealing how continued casteand tribal–based discrimination still plays a key role in child survival.28Unequal access to food is reflected in the high levels of malnutritionthat persist despite India’s booming economy, being home to one inthree malnourished children in the world. Severe malnutrition has claimedthe lives of around 125 children under six years of age in four districtsof Madhya Pradesh since May 2008. According to a petition filedrecently in the Supreme Court by Right to Food Campaign, 64 Bhiltribal children have died of malnutrition in Satna district within thepast four months. Similarly, Spandan, which works among the Korkutribe in Khalwa block of Khandwa district, has reported the deathsof 39 children in the past 45 days. The Saharia Mukti Morcha, whichworks with the impoverished Saharia tribe in Shivpuri and Sheopurdistricts, said 16 children had succumbed to malaria in Shivpuri andfive in Sheopur over a few days in September 2010, because theirimmunity was destroyed by severe malnutrition. Most children belongto abysmally poor tribal families whose daily earnings—when theyare able to find work as labourers—rarely cross Rs 50—70.29 Thisis not the first time that children have been starving and dying in MadhyaPradesh. In 2006, UNICEF officials have claimed that the biggestreason for malnutrition is not a lack of food, but instead social aspectssuch as the low social status of women, early marriage and little gapbetween the birth of children. 30 189
  93. 193. A similar picture can be seen in terms of households belonging to90% of rural ST households in Assam, 79% in Arunachal Pradeshand 68% in Chhattisgarh being excluded from the PDS.31 In strivingfor ‘efficiency’ by developing a narrow targeting system, the schemehas resulted in the exclusion of households that should be entitledto basic food security32—an issue which is becoming ever more seriousin the wake of the current food crisis.Displacement and loss of commonsDisplacement and inadequate resettlement has not only resulted ina decrease in land holding among the evicted families but the lossof access to forest produce whether for consumption, as food, incomegeneration, or for medicinal purposes. This has had severe impacton the very survival of the children. Reduced incomes due to displacementhave meant lack of access to timely health care, loss of access toeducation and even results increasingly in children being forced outof school and into work.Communities have depended on forests for their daily life for generations.With forests being declared reserved forests and sanctuaries tribalsand others who depended on the forests lost access. This had animpact not only on the life and livelihood of the community as a whole,but children in particular. For example, children lost their homes, andsubsequently their lives, to save the tiger and conserve forest coverin Melghat, which became a part of ‘Project Tiger’ in 1974 displacing Malnutrition Statistics by Caste/Tribe–India–NFHS 3 In percent Children under 3 years Scheduled Scheduled Other Caste Tribe Backward Others Classes Stunted 44.1 44.3 39.2 31.1 Wasted 20.5 25.7 18.9 16.4 Underweight 52.2 56.7 46.4 37.3Source: NFHS–3 2007190
  94. 194. and restricting access of the Korku Adivasi community to the forestand minor forest produce. Although the government would like us tobelieve that the cause of malnutrition and mortality among Korku childrenis poverty and ignorance, it is clear that forced displacement, apartfrom loss of livelihood and forest produce, is one of the main causes.Close to 5000 Korku Adivasi children were reported to have died ofmalnutrition in the years 1992-1997. In 2004 NGO estimates pointedto a 1000 deaths while government figures totalled to 59.A survey by the Punarvasan Sangharsh Samiti 33 in 22 villages andtwo resettlement sites of the Sardar Sarovar Project on the Narmadariver, had brought to light some shocking findings, that further corroboratethat forced evictions and loss of access to commons have huge negativeimpact on children.In April, May and June 2005, 98 children died in the Akkalkuwa blockalone. Of these, 71 children were malnourished. Of the malnourishedchildren, 45 were found to be malnourished in the second stage. Obviously,the government has not accepted that the children died due tomalnourishment. The cause of their death would be lost in the long listof such causes. The figures quoted here are obtained from thegovernment under Right to Information. And yet, the study team foundthe government is unaware of the scale of malnutrition in the area. Thegovernment records only 10% of the malnourished children.Not only are the children malnourished, but so were their mothers. Therange of weights of fully-grown mothers has been found to be between40-45 kgs. The number of girls is half the total, indicating the precariouscondition in which the ‘future mothers’ are nurtured.According to the Samiti, the root of this malady is deprivation fromnatural resources, i.e. resources of livelihood. The measures in fieldslike health, education, employment and supply do not create resourcesof livelihood and therefore these cannot be the decisive remedy ofthe situation. These would have to be supplemented with the measuresin the sector of resources of livelihood, otherwise these peripheralcommunities face the danger of extinction. 34 191
  95. 195. Child Death and Malnutrition in Resettlement Sites Month No. of Child Death Malnutrition Grade Male Female Total Grade I Grade II Grade III Grade IV Total April 24 19 43 11 16 0 3 30 May 11 15 26 5 13 1 0 19 June 15 14 29 5 16 0 1 22 Total 50 48 98 21 45 1 4 71The forced eviction also impacted the children’s right to education.Around 6000 children used to study in government schools and privateschools in Harsud, the town submerged by Indira Sagar Dam in MadhyaPradesh. In addition to the government college, there were eight governmentprimary schools, three government middle schools, three higher secondaryschools and six private schools in Harsud. These 14 government schoolsin Harsud have now been accommodated in two school buildings anda few tin sheds in New Harsud and a nearby village. Since the schoolbuildings are not yet constructed, eight schools are held in the twoschool buildings in shifts. Seven other schools are being held in tinsheds. Surveys of 299 families living in the five sectors of New Harsudshow that 25% of the children studying hitherto have dropped outfrom schools forever after displacement. 35 Weight range of the mothers (village-wise) Range 30 kg 30-35 36-40 41-45 46-50 50-55 > 56 Total Andharbari 3 4 9 8 5 0 0 29 Khai 0 5 7 8 3 0 1 24 Dahel 0 9 31 29 12 0 0 81 Rojkund 4 16 36 22 7 2 3 90 Dab 0 4 8 18 9 3 0 42 Gorjabari 0 9 14 18 7 1 1 50 Ohwa 0 7 11 9 5 1 0 33 Narmadanagar 0 13 33 46 21 2 2 117 Rewanagar 0 21 63 68 18 6 1 177 TOTAL 7 88 212 226 87 15 8 643192
  96. 196. The last few years has seen some very large scale and brutal urbanevictions. From December 2004 to March 2005, close to 4,00,000 peoplewere forcibly evicted from various parts of Mumbai to ‘clean up’or ‘beautify’ the city. A lesser noted fact is that among those evictedand made homeless overnight were close to 1,80,000 children as estimatedby YUVA, a group working on housing and children’s issues in Mumbai.36Most of these children belong to Dalit, Adivasi and nomadic communitiesregarded as some of the most marginalised communities in the country.With no resettlement for a large section of those evicted, many familiesalong with their children were forced to live in the open. Two childrenare reported to have died due to exposure to the harsh climatic andliving conditions.What better example of urban dislocation than what was witnessedin the wake of the Commonwealth Games when thousands of familieshave been evicted. The South Asia Regional Programme of the Housingand Land Rights network, Delhi has estimated that nearly 2,50,000people in the city lost their homes as a direct result of the Gamessince 2004. The preliminary findings of the ongoing study37 suggestthat due process for demolition of homes in various parts of the citywas not followed, in addition to police presence and use of force,injury and adverse health effects, loss and destruction of possessions,adverse effects on children, death, loss of livelihood and income andno compensation or resettlement offered to the evictees. The childrenhave lost their rights to common resources. The press release notes,the psychological impacts on children who lose their homes and witnessa demolition, are severe and long-lasting. Several children have beenforced to dropout of school. Many have lost a year because the demolitionshappened immediately before or during examination time. Pyarelal’sson lost an entire school year as the Dargah Bhure Shah Camp demolitiontook place on 14 May 2007, during school exams.It is worth noting that 27,000 families displaced from Yammuna Pushtahad come in as workers in 1980s for construction of the Games Villageand stadiums when Delhi was to host the Asiad Games, and are now 193
  97. 197. being ushered away in the follow-up to the Commonwealth Games in 2010.38Thus not only do they face loss of commons in the homes they have leftin the villages, but once again where they had created a new access.Inadequate and inappropriate resettlement which seems to have becomethe norm rather than an aberration, does nothing to restore the rightsof these children to the ‘commons’ they are entitled to.Basic facilities as commonsWater, sanitation, roads and basic infrastructure is integral to everychild’s right to adequate housing and standard of living. 39 Water isthe most basic of needs. And yet it is one common facility that dividesany urban setting between those who have and those who don’t. Conflictover water at an urban water tap or a tanker, in which children andwomen are main contenders for the scarce resource, is an almostcommon sight in any city in India. Children, especially girls, spendhours standing in queues to fetch water when it ‘comes’, often havingto miss schooling for this.According to a United Nations survey, while over half a billion cellphones are active in India, enough to serve about 45% of the population,only 366 million people have access to a toilet, or only 31% of thepopulation had access to improved sanitation in 2008.40 When toiletsare scarce, it is the children who have the least access—forced todefecate and urinate wherever they can find the space—on pavements,road sides, railway tracks, parks and open spaces in urban areas;and fields or forested areas etc in the rural areas. Needless to saythis makes them vulnerable to abuse and violence, as also accidentsand injury. As they grow older, girls find it harder and harder to find‘private and safe spaces’, both in the rural as well as the urban areas.Roads in India are child unfriendly, disabled unfriendly and old peopleunfriendly. Public transport is not designed for children. That is thereality. Footpaths if they at all exist, are too high, have no ramps orslopes. Hence yet another set of urban ‘commons’ that children finddifficult to use.194
  98. 198. Deciding for the commonsThe dilemma of children and the commons is much more fundamentalthan just a matter of access to services. It arises out of treating childrenas ‘citizens of tomorrow’ when in reality they are citizens today, andas miniature adults, which they are not. Though the rallying cry ofsocieties has been ‘women and children first’, and most people believethey are creating a better world for children—at least their children—the reality is that children’s rights and spaces are the first to be violatedfor adult needs.Adults have traditionally determined usage, access and control overchildren’s spaces. It is assumed that children do not have the capacityto make a choice and hence little or no effort is made to determinewhat they may wish or want. In the aftermath of the December 2004tsunami, the schools and playgrounds of the children were taken overfor mortuaries. The village community centres were spared becausekeeping cadavers there would defile the building. The schools of thechildren routinely double up as bunkers and forward posts in armedconflict. In conflict areas such as the North Cachar Hills were eitherbeing used as camps or given to the Security Forces to house theirtroops.41 In Dantewada District of Chhatisgarh, children had lost accessto schools caught in the crossfire between the state and the naxalitesand the salwa judum. Police and security forces occupy them, andnaxalites target them because they are government buildings. 42Children who live on common spaces in urban areas—streets, platforms,under flyovers and bridges find themselves vulnerable to abuse andexploitation on a daily basis. This is by other adults, older childrenand even their peers. What is the most dehumanising is the treatmentmeted out to them by the police that is meant to protect them. Homelessand vulnerable they may find themselves in institutions. But our experienceof visiting homes for children, both government and non governmentand reports that appear in the media remind us again and again thatthese institutions set up for their safety are in fact unsafe and violent.The choice between the street and these homes is the proverbial choicebetween the devil and the deep water. 43 195
  99. 199. The exclusion of children from decision making has led to their accessto commons becoming even more tenuous. The standard argumenthas been that ‘when a community itself does not have rights, thenhow will the children have rights?’ This reflects the truth only partially.Children can and do have better insights and in some cases even bettermanagement skills than adults. They are socialised into the roles thatthey later exercise in life. Therefore the institutions of decision makingcan be made more democratic starting with children. In the traditionalpanchayats of the fishing community along the eastern coast of India,only the seagoing males from a particular community were included.There was stiff resistance to change. The children’s panchayat promotedby some NGOs had girls and boys of all communities. These childrennot only consider inclusion to be the norm, but were extremely successfulin decision making even the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami.They could decide on the reconstruction and rehabilitation to a largerdegree than in the traditionally governed villages, and even mediatewith the local administration. Democratic structures can be built bottomup by including children.ConclusionFor decades, commons and common property resources have signifiednatural resources and areas within villages such as pasture lands, forests,ponds, waste lands and other designated common resources. It hasseldom, indeed never, been in the context of all children, whereverthey are. This chapter has attempted to redefine common spaces andexamine children’s rights in that context. It has examined only a fewexamples of what else could be defined as commons in today’s context,and is by no means comprehensive in its listing or interpretation. Ifwe were to pick each basic service or facility and analyse its ‘childfriendly quotient’, we will come up with a number of deficits leadingto exclusions. The idea is to move towards redefining spaces andexamining their accessibility to children as a right.196
  100. 200. Endnotes1 HAQ: Centre for Child Rights is a not-for-profit organisation, started in October 1998 and formally registered in June 1999. HAQ seeks to recognise, protect and promote child rights, and believes that there is a need for realisation of human rights of children through policy, law and action. The recognition, protection and promotion of three rights form the cornerstone of HAQ’s work: the right to survival, the right to childhood and the right to equal opportunity.2 Children who ‘dropout’ are in fact pushed out by the system.3 Dalit kids cannot use school loo but have to clean them—India—The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Dalit–kids–cannot–use–school–loo–but–have– to–clean–hem/articleshow/4699387.cms#ixzz0ym39oMJ5 Accessed on September 6, 20104 This information was given by the Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Shri M.A.A. Fatmi in reply to a question in Lok Sabha, Tuesday, April 29 2008.5 International Education Statistics, Analysis by Friedrich Huebler, Tuesday, November 13 2007. http://huebler.blogspot.com/2007/11/india–has–21–million–children–out–of.html. Accessed on September 7 2010,6 Arun Mehta, Elementary Education in India, Progress Towards UEE, Analytical Report 2005–06, Published in 2007, pp. 152 also see www.dise.in7 Ibid8 Ibid, pp. 1569 Richa Nigam, Inequality in India: Income, access to health care and education for the poor. http://infochangeindia.org/200501086156/Other/Development–Dictionary/ Inequality–in–India–Income–access–to–healthcare–and–education–for–the–poor.html.10 Ibid.11 Report of the CABE Committee, Universalisation of Secondary Education, 27 June 2005.12 Ibid.13 i–india. Gender discrimination. http://www.i–indiaonline.com/sc_crisis_theproblem.htm#gender.14 Ibid.15 Ministry of Human Resource Development. Chapter on Elementary Education (SSA and Girls Education) for the XIth Plan Working Group Report. pp. 39.16 Education Statistics from DISE, 2005–2006.17 Ibid. pp. 14.18 Gross enrolment ratio is the percentage of the estimated child population in the age group 6 to 14 years enrolled in classes I–VIII. Since the enrolment in these stages may also include underage and overage children, the total percentage may be more than 100% in some cases. The GER of both SC and ST boys and girls in 2003– 04 decreased with reference to 2001–02 in several states. http://www.nsa.org.in/ Policybrief/27072008GERGDRforSCST.htm. Accessed on 13 August 2008.19 http://www.cag.gov.in/html/reports/civil/2007 and http://www.nsa.org.in/Policybrief/ 27072008GERGDRforSCST.htm. Accessed on 13 August 2008. 197