Conference, Quotes

#AIDCONF2014 Notes from Day2

Quotable Quotes

“The government is not implementing the laws.”
“You are saying Bihar is the most backward but let me tell you West Bengal has taken the place of Bihar.”
“For two days in the AID Conference we have a space where we can talk about the struggles we go through personally to stand against caste, sexism, lifestyle expectations.  If I have to ask, where do I get the strength to face these issues and not give into family pressures, it is from AID and discussions like the ones we have in the gender session.”

Volunteers returning to the AID Conference

Volunteers returning to the AID Conference

“To talk about climate change we got experts in climate change.  Why not for gay lesbian and transgender issues?  Why are we congratulating ourselves on how aware and liberated we are?”
“Can we also have a policy stating that we should not be prejudiced against the government?”
This is not a quote from the conference but it came to my mind during the talks by Jiten from the North East,  Emily from Global Green Grants and while Ravi was talking about the urgency of the struggle against exploitation and sale of natural resources:

From Churning of the Earth

Time is not on our side. We are on different coaches of a long, accelerating, burning train. The few air conditioned coaches in the front are insulated for the time being from the fire that is blazing in the coaches at the back, where the majority of the passengers travel. one of the coaches have already derailed (think of the 200,000 farmer suicides). However, the wealthy people in the AC coaches want the engine staff to run the train even faster. The latter are fully dare that the flames will be further fed by the wind if the speed is increased, creating many more derailments and casualties But they are either seduced by the thrill of the ride or appear helpless before the pressure brought upon them by the occupants of the luxury coaches (both Indians and foreigners (no less than by the international station masters (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) who are cheering on each such national train in the ruthless economic race that globalization has unleashed between nations.

– Aseem Shrivastava & Ashish Kothari, Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India

Let me unpack the lines I quoted above.

Ramesh asks Jiten questionThe first is by Jiten Yumnam.  Considering that he has faced torture in jail at the hands of the police for his work defending human rights and speaking publicly about climate change, I was left speechless by the calm he maintained throughout his detailed presentation.  And regarding the law and legal processes such as the Environmental Impact Assessment, Forest Rights Act and Schedule V he stated simply that the government was not following the laws.

Later in the day when one volunteer approached me and said that since AID takes many stands opposing the government we also need to add a line in our code of responsibilities not to be prejudiced against the government I reminded him that we are actually supporting the Constitution and the laws that the government is supposed to follow, and those in the government who are sincere and follow the laws need our support to govern correctly.  He persisted, that may be the case but what if a volunteer did not even support that and simply said that the government is wrong, even if they weren’t?  “Don’t we need a policy to say that volunteers should not be prejudiced against the government?”  I replied, that would be like having a policy that we should not be dumb.


Kamayani speaks about her work with Jan Jagriti Sangharsh Samiti in Bihar

Kamayani speaks about her work with Jan Jagriti Sangharsh Samiti in Bihar

There was a tragi-comic moment during Kamayani’s session on her work in Bihar, when Ayeshadi raised her hand and challenged the position of Bihar as India’s most backward state.  Firing off three pointed examples of injustice and insult that women of West Bengal face when applying for NREGA jobs or pensions, she asked, “Bihar mein aisa hota hai kya?”

ఏడిసినట్టుంది!  It was one of those times when you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  Of course these are the kinds of ground realities that motivate organizations like Jan Jagriti Sangharsh Samiti to hit the streets.
When planning our padyatra, why did we decide to ask people to provide meals for us? 
Kamayani asked this question during her talk about her work with the Jan Jagriti Sangharsh Samiti in Bihar.
Volunteers responded with various answers such as
– to eat with people of different castes, breaking barriers.
– to find out what they are eating
– to ease logistics and finances
– to establish rapport with the people
As they were discussing I recalled one time that I approached a house in a village for a meal and a place to stay as we walked from the Narmada Valley back to the bus stop in Khadipani.  We had passed the half-submerged Hapeshwar temple but we knew we would miss the last bus so we would have to continue the next morning.  Nirmal actually was the one to go and knock on the door and make the request on our behalf.  I remember when he asked if they could provide us with roti for the night, the woman at the door asked, “किसके साथ खाएंगे?”  We replied gratefully in advance, “गरम गरम खाएंगे!”

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