“Rajya ke khajane par aapda-prabhaviton ka pehla haq hai…” Nitish is quoted as saying on the title page of the government of Bihar’s roadmap for disaster risk reduction 2015-2030.Considering 73% of Bihar is annually subject to floods, that is practically everybody. In the roadmap it says that a resilient village programme will be initiated in partnership with Panchayats and other civil society organizations including interested UN and other agencies. It will focus on disaster risks recognition, Gram Panchayat level development planning, risk reduction actions and capacity building. The budget is to be borne by the respective line departments, money for capacity building will come from the disaster management department and support for districts will come from the state disaster response fund.
But as we know, taking money from the line departments is old wine in new bottles. This is not helpful. Risk reduction actions for resilient villages according to the roadmap are things like investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience. The roadmap says that community skills, knowledge and capacities will inform decision-making. It is supposed to be an inclusive and participatory process, with special emphasis on context-specific differential needs of social groups.
But the promised commitment of the requisite financial and human resources for such investments are not forthcoming from the Centre or from Patna. Otherwise why are not all the district plans ready?
The knowledge of what is to be done on the banks of every nalla, stream, river, pond, lake or tank, and how to use a water body most effectively,is known by all to rest with members of gram sabhas who have known the place their entire lives. Templates will not work. Every flood plain and river and field is different. For example, high lands in a particular village may be just a few inches higher than low land, but the cultivation practice is different because of the different inundation that happens during the rains.
In any case at the Bihar level it turns out, according to A.K. Ghosh et al from A.N. College Patna, who studied the spacio-temporal changes in the wetlands of Bihar through remote sensing, there are geological and geomorphological processes taking place in the Earth’s crust in Bihar that have very recent and even current causes. These motions and deformations that are taking place under the alluvial plains make entire river beds shift their cause for reasons one was hitherto unable to explain. The labourers cultivating the fields who experience the shifts from one season and one year to the next will be better equipped to decide how to respond than someone sitting at a desk.
The resilient village programme should be something self sustaining and self-enabling. It should not rely on line departments and schemes and budgets from the Union or from Patna. What then should it rely on? Under Article 39 of the constitution of India the State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing—(a) that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood;(b) that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good;(c) that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment;(d) that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
And how will the State organise this? I think there should be a new Reserve bank of India Act 2019 that any new Parliament should pass. It should have the following salient features:
- The state shall not consider foreign currency the reserve value of the country, but the reserve value for the Rupee shall be the labour power of all the adult citizens and the natural resources of their localities.
- The State shall spend an adequate amount of Rupees into circulation to fulfil every adult Indian’s right to livelihood and every child’s right to education and all Indian’s right to life meaning health and an intact environment.
- The planning about how much money is needed should be done by building on the processes established in the MGNREGA, expanding the system to towns, with the emphasis being on reducing the dependence on creating money in the private and nationalised banking system and increasing the amount of money spent into circulation by the government.
- The role of taxation in the State shall be to manage inflation. Debt shall be outlawed and all transactions between citizens and residents of the country shall be on the basis of buying and selling goods with money created by the State at the Gram Panchayat and town ward level.
Will such a policy oriented towards 100 per cent employment in the age of man-made climate change not give an enormous boost to the resilient village programme? Would this not inject a fantastic new energy into the State’s efforts and the people’s will to create resilient villages?
Instead of all the worthies from Yashwant Sinha to Chidambaram bickering about Arun Jaitley not sharing the benefit of the fall in petroleum prices with the public, how about all of them confessing to their complete and abject failure to resist the global ideology of world trade and austerity.
These two ideologies singly and together have caused 50% of all Indian children to be stunted, half of India’s women to be anaemic, 90% of Indians to have no assured livelihood, 57 Indian individual men to own money and assets than the poorest 70% in the country, and manmade climate change to go from bad to worse because of the inability of the State run by these so called affluent sections of society to legislate to outlaw private and nationalised banks. It is after all thesecorporations who wield enormous power that keep supplying the companies owned by the affluent sections with the money that ruins the livelihood chances of the rest of us. Sadly they are also the paymasters of the political parties.
I guess unless and until we have a political party whose first demand is that there shall be government funding for all political parties, we shall not have a government at the Centre commitment to making resilient villages a reality. A chicken and egg situation if ever there was one.
Anandi Sharan was born in Switzerland, lives in Bangalore and last year worked in Araria District Bihar, India. She works on trying to find the best money system to help people adapt to climate change especially in India.