Earth Community Organization (ECO)
the Global Community
Dr. Jyotsna Bapat
for Discussion Roundtables 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 26, 35, 40, 54, and 55
Table of Contents|
By Dr. Jyotsna Bapat, Department of Sociology University of Mumbai.
The National identity of citizens and economic growth are given primacy by the state over the claims of the local communities to their natural resources. The only exception is when local claims are articulated in terms of a 'moral economy'. It is when local communities articulate their rights to local resource exploitation as being subsistence-based, that they are able to catapult a local issue into a national issue. The paper deals with two cases that of an amusement park and a National park and its related social protest or absence of it.
In the instance of the amusement park, the use of mass media and the strategy of articulating a local issue in environmental terms proved to be a partially successful strategy. It achieved three things. Firstly, the community was effectively able to resist the domination perpetrated by the promoters of the amusement park. Secondly they were able to force the higher level bureaucracy, in this instance a central government ministry instead of a local municipality, to address their issues. Finally at least the local bureaucracy had to back the community demand for a short while.
In case of the National Park the community is totally marginalised and could not succeed in protecting its basic rights to subsistence. The strategies to survive adopted by then have unintentionally put their ethnic identities are at stake. The state bureaucracy in this instance uses the global environmental conservation rhetoric and support from the elite NGOs and the mass media to ignore the right of the marginal community. Either communities could not, succeed in meeting all their demands in the long run but they continue to protest for their rights using different methods.
Environmental movement can be located within what are now called 'new social movements'. The 'new social movements' which emerged between the 1970s and the 1990s can be loosely identified as: (i) the women's movement; (ii) the anti-caste movement; (iii) environmental movements, and (iv) farmers' movements or peasant struggles over issues of market production (Omvedt 1993). The emergence of these movements is a result of people beginning to struggle in new ways and formulate new theories and ideologies in confronting new realities that do not fit the rigid analytical categories.
The 'new social movements' are social movements in the sense of having a broad organisational structure and an ideology, aimed at social change. They define their exploitation and oppression in new terms - related to conflict school, but having clear differences with it. These groups are exploited in ways which are related to the new processes of contemporary capitalism but which are left unconceptualised by 'traditional' conflict theorists. The environmental movements within the new social movements express the concerns of groups of people regarding depletion of water, degradation of land and other changes in ecosystems affecting traditional patterns of natural resource exploitation. These movements generally take place in rural areas, and the leadership for the movement generally comes from outside the community that is adversely affected.
In understanding the impact of the two parks, the moral economy argument put forward by James Scott (1976) in the context of a traditional agrarian system, is helpful. The core of the argument is as follows. In traditional agrarian systems, cultivators and landlowners share certain common norms. Various risk-sharing arrangements may evolve over time in different agrarian regimes, between the tenant cultivators and the landowners, resulting in a stable pattern of reciprocal obligations between the two. For example, in a bad year when the crops fail, depending on the risk sharing arrangement, the landowner has a social obligation towards his cultivators. He may choose to waive his share of the agricultural production, or may even provide food to the cultivators from his own surplus stocks, to ensure their survival. Scott (1976) then traces the changes in the distribution of risk that results from a change in regime from landowner to colonial capitalism. This often results in the breach of stable exchange that may threaten the survival of the peasant during a bad year and under the right conditions, lead to peasant revolt. The moral issue here is not how much of the surplus is taken away by the various claimants, but what is left for the survival of the peasant. Thus for the same volume of surplus extracted, there may be no dissent in a good year; but in a bad year in the absence of reciprocal social obligation between peasant and landowner, this may result in a revolt by peasant. Thus Scott argues for the 'survival first' principle in the subsistence ethics of the peasant culture to explain the emergence of peasant revolt.
But revolt is exceptional. Non-harmonious relations and coercion may exist, without revolt, under similar circumstances (Scott 1976), as evidenced in the local discourse among the affected people in the form of narratives, in pilferage when occasion permits, and in increased police control.
The present cases are not strictly a peasant economy, nor is the tenant-landlord relationship strictly relevant here. But the moral economy argument still holds. There is a breach of social obligation, in a different way. There is a breach of social obligations by three claimants in this situation: (i) the earlier landowners, (ii) the new landowners and (iii) the elected representatives of the constituency in the local, democratically elected government and (iv) the state. The social articulation of the discontent is however a reflection on the status of the community in the larger context of the society.
This part of the study is based on a retrospective analysis of an environmental protest movement against the construction of an amusement park, organised by people living in the park's neighbourhood. The park is a private enterprise located some 20 Km. away from the city of Mumbai in Gorai Islands.
Gorai Islands are a cluster of islands consisting of Marve, Manori and Gorai villages. They are described in the Gazetteer of Bombay (1920) as quiet sea- coast villages, inhabited by fisherfolk and horticulturists. They are linked with the mainland by a narrow strait in the northern part of the island and are separated from the mainland by the Manori Creek. The population of these islands in 1920, according to the Gazetteer was only 320; today the island population by the1991 census is 2750. The three main caste groups inhabiting these islands today are Kolis, Bhandaris and Dodhis, who up to fifteen years ago, were mainly dependent on fishing, rice cultivation, and coconut palm horticulture for subsistence. The religious composition of the group is of interest here: while the Dodhis and the Bhandaris are mainly Hindus, more than 85 % of the Kolis are Christians. Ninety-eight of the hundred families studied, were born on the island. All the groups are literate, and the island has two schools located within its boundary. Today, even though they retain a rural ambience, these localities can no longer be called villages. They have developed as a satellite town to the mainland of Mumbai. The communities have businesses in Mumbai. Some commute to the mainland for jobs, while others have trade relations with merchants in the city.
Before the park.
The coastline of the island was always a recreational area for the urban dwellers of Mumbai. Even today the beaches are used as a picnic spot for Mumbai dwellers, mainly during summers. The main visitors are students from the colleges of Mumbai and other picnic goers. A few shacks along the beach belonging to the Kolis cater to the needs of these picnic goers.
An amusement park called the Esselworld Amusement park was commissioned in 1989. The Park is built on sixty seven acres of the total 753 acres that belong to Esselworld Enterprises within the islands. Formerly a wasteland this land was sold by auction by the Bombay High Court in 1981 for just 25 lakh rupees (Manohar, 1993). The landscaped park has 30,000 trees of thirty-three different varieties, planted on it by the Esselworld enterprise. Construction for the park, which began in 1984, cost a total of 23.5 crore rupees. The money was borrowed by the resident and Non Resident Indian promoters from various financial institutions, including Tourism Finance Corporation of India, State Bank of India Capital markets, Twentieth Century Finance Markets Limited. The park had twenty-three "rides" when it opened in 1989, and a few more have been added since. It attracts 45,000 visitors daily, and about 3 million visitors annually. Each adult visitor is charged 150 rupees per visit (Tak, 1992). A boat service owned and operated by M/S Enterprise Holdings (EIA, 24/12/89), operates between the park and Manori Creek to transport the park visitors.
The Esselworld amusement park on Goria island is targeted as a leisure activity to promote weekend tourism. The target population for the amusement park is visualised as the urban upper middle class and middle class residents of the city of Mumbai. The average monthly income of the visitors was between Rs. 2500/- to Rs. 3000/- according to survey of visitors conducted for the Environmental Impact Assessment in 1988 (EIA, 24/12/89). The setting up of the amusement park is quite visibly a symbol of the way in which capitalism driven development projects - in this case, tourism may negatively affect local communities. Interestingly since tourism is seen by the state as a non-polluting activity, without negative physical or social environmental impacts, no impact assessment is deemed necessary.
Park related impact.
The promoters had procured this land on Gorai island with the intention of developing prawn fishing. In fact setting up an amusement park was a later idea. Plans for which were approved only in September 1983 (Bombay Municipal Commission file).
Discontent against the amusement park among the local communities started as early as 1983-84 during the construction phase of the amusement park. The park was constructed by reclaiming land from the surrounding mangroves of Goria island, and involved a considerable landfill operation. The park covers sixty-seven acres, with five Km. of internal road 300 000 trees were planted on a mangrove swamp and a three meter wide and 160 meter long jetty was constructed into the Manori creek area. This required a substantial labourforce during the construction phase. The promoters hired labour through labour-contractors. Local people were not hired even as manual labour on daily wages. The explanation by the promoters was that the park was a time bound project and the construction had to be completed within eighteen months. The park consists of twenty-seven 'rides' and there are plans for creating a marine park with wind surfing and water skiing facilities. Once the amusement park became operational, Esselworld hired one hundred and thirty employees at entry level for office jobs and other operations. Not one of these employees was from the island, even though there were enough young people living there who were suitably qualified for the jobs.
A ferry boat service began operating to transport tourists from the Mumbai side of Manori creek once the park was commissioned in 1989. Seven boats, each making 12 to 15 trips, cross the creek every day. This contract was given to a sister company of Esselworld Enterprise, and not to the local Fishworkers Co-operative Society which had long been operating a ferry boat service in the creek and had the resources to buy new boats if given the ferry contract.
Intensified operation of the ferry service has altered the local ecology significantly. The most important ecological impact according to the Kolis' is on the productivity of Manori creek. The creek had historically provided subsistence fishing during the monsoon when open sea fishing is closed for the local fisher folks. Now, due to the reclamation for the park, the spawning activity of the fish in the creek has been prevented and over the last few years almost no fish has been caught there. The Kolis' claim remains unsubstantiated, however, since without adequate baseline data it is very difficult for a marine ecology study to attribute the reduction in the productivity of an estuary to a single cause.
There is statistically significant change in the ownership of land, boats, animals and vehicles by the local communities (Bapat 1997). The number of people owning land, boats and animals has reduced. The reduction in land ownership is due to 'outsiders' buying land and using it as beach houses. The number of auto rickshaws has increased, and the number of tongas decreased. Similarly, employment has shifted from the primary to service sector (ibid.). Spin off from the tourism has generated employment in the service sector as self-employed small businesses provide cheap snacks and drinks to the tourists on their way to the amusement park.
Infrastructure facilities have not significantly improved since operation of the park began. The area suffers from acute drinking water shortage. The approach road to the park has not been widened or maintained. This is because there is a dispute between the then Grampanchayat of Meera Bhayander and the Greater Bombay Municipal Corporation (GBMC) over the maintenance of the access road. In spite of a 2800 Mega Volts substation set up by the Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Company, power failure in local households and extreme voltage fluctuation during peak hours is very common (Bapat, 1997).
Articulation, method, and outcome.
The communities were able to organise themselves and use mass media to articulate their discontent: The movement addressed the following issues: i) Reduction of drinking water due to over extraction by the park for its visitors; ii) Creation of the parking area for the park out of government (common usage) land, which was a sweet water lake during rains and served as drying grounds for fish in summer; iii) Loss of productivity of Manori creek due to the activities related to the amusement park; iv) Loss of easy access to privately owned lands due to the park boundary walls; v) Loss of fuel wood due to privatisation of 753 acres of government lands resulting from the sale of this land to the park promoters. Thus they articulated their protest in environmental terms, natural resource assess linked with subsistence but in addition to that they also had employment and gender related issues on the agenda.
This resulted in a sustained agitation for over five years and it culminated in a morcha, a demonstration before the government. The community was able to raise the level of conflict to higher levels within the state bureaucracy as a result of organised protest. But there has no substantial changes beneficial to the local communities because of state refusal to support them on a sustained manner. The elected representatives succeeded in providing short-term measures aimed at mitigating the difficulties faced by the community.
Role of state.
There were internal conflicts among the various state authorities involved with the project namely the ministry of environment and ministry of tourism and the local government. These tensions were explored by the local communities to their advantage but only temporarily. In the net the state seemed to have supported the promoters, ironically, by maintaining neutrality.
This part of the study is based on an analytical curiosity about non existence of environmental protest movement against the formation of a National park. Sanjay Gandhi National Park formed in 1983, straddles the two urban centers of Mumbai and Thane. This park is located some 32 Km. away from the island city of Mumbai, is owned by the state.
The three groups inhabited the forests before the declaration of the National park. According to 1991 census is 970 families belonging to Warlis and Mahadev Kolis and non tribal Dodhis inhabit these forests. They are mainly dependent on fishing, cultivation, small game hunting and basket weaving, for subsistence, and live in huts made of mud and straw. They all plant vegetable gardens in their yards in front of their dwelling houses during monsoon and marketing of the surplus, provides them with additional income. They also sell firewood, liquor, fruits and other minor forest products. Most other tribal communities living in the Western-ghat forests share a similar lifestyle. The forest even today provides ample resources for survival.
They follow 'tribal religion' have their own gods and their own rituals and at the same time broadly follow Hindu festivals like most tribals in western India. Ninety-two of the hundred families were born in the forest. All the groups are illiterate and state government is making special efforts through an NGO to open schools and provide health care facilities.
Before the park.
The lands were owned by different sources and had different land uses. Commercial exploitation of timber, stone quarrying and rainfed agriculture were carryed out on these lands. Some of the tribal families owned agricultural lands. Contract labour was a major source of money for the community. They worked for the contractors engaged by the state to carry out economic activities in the forest such as timber collection and stone quarrying. Minor forest produce like small timber, grass, fruits flowers, fish and small game provided another source of money. Hunting and gathering of these natural resources from the forest was carried out by tribal people as part of their livlihood.
The national park.
Declaration of the national park made all the above activities illegal for the tribal people as well as the contractors. Presently the park extends over an area of 103.09 Sq. Km. It was pieced together by merging the lands of different classification and ownership in 1983. Of this an area of 5.75 Sq. Km. is set aside as Recreational Zone known as Krishnagiri Upavan and 10.38 Sq. Km. is assigned as buffer zone (Bharati 1992). Thus according to the state only recreational activities are legitimate economic activities in the park.
Operational phase impact.
Discontent against the park among the local communities started as early as 1983-84 when the tribal settlements were involuntarily displaced and relocated in Kuthal village in Thane district some 10 km away as the crow flies but four to six hours journey by public transport, almost overnight.
The promoters developed the recreational zone with the help of contractors. But local people were rarely hired even as manual labour on daily wages with no explanation given. Currently there are food stalls in the recreation zone run by contractors which also do not employ the local tribal people. The stall owners do not feel that people living there who were suitably qualified for the jobs.
When the ownership of lands changed from a state level agency to a national one, there was a breach of obligation to the community. In spite of living there for generations all the families from the local settlements were not considered worthy of compensation in the displacement and involuntary resettlement procedures followed by the state. Collection of forest produce, with which the identity and survival of the community is inextricably linked was not allowed by the forest department as it did not recognise customary rights of the tribal communities to do so. Only limited access to benefit streams from the buffer zone was granted to them at the new site.
In spite of tilling these lands for generations, the owners had only lease rights to these lands. Economic loss due to loss of traditional rights of local communities was not accounted for in the consideration of compensation. Only those families who had land lease were given lands in Kuthal by the forest department. But these so called 'agricultural lands' were virgin lands that needed two to three years of land development inputs. No monetary compensation was given for moving to the new site. Only transport was provided and that too only for those who had lease rights and were given lands in Kuthal. Other families who lived in the settlement and owned only houses were not considered as beneficiaries.
Articulation, method and outcome.
There was an organised protests against the state action to evict the 'encroachers' in the park a few years ago. This was aided and abated by the elected representatives in the local municipal corporation. But there was no overt protest exclusively by the original inhabitants of the park. However discontent among the tribal communities against their eviction exists in the form of local discourse among them. While preventing eviction is a general agenda for all the people currently living within the park boundaries the specific issues are different. The majority are migrant labour coming into the city of Mumbai in search of jobs and live here because housing is cheap. But the issues around which the discourse by the original inhabitants is linked with their ecological vulnerability. Their main demands are: (i) their rights to cultivation of vegetable gardens (ii) their right to brew liquor (iii) their right to own house-plots (iv) their traditional rights to natural resources (iii) their right to proper relocation. If these rights are respected by the forest department it would ensure their survival independent of urban dependencies.
The method adopted by them is what can be described as 'every day forms of resistance'. They came back from the resettlement sites to their original settlements within a few months of their relocation. They continue to cultivate the vegetable gardens every year. In order to survive they have rented their house-plots to 'outsiders' and continue to upgrade their dwelling units by constructing bricks and cement for walls, get 'illegal' electricity and water connections. These are routinely destroyed and confiscated respectively by the forest guards because according to them these are temporary residential arrangements.
The outcome of the formation of the park is the major problem they face today as they are now outnumbered by these 'outsiders' and are summarily clubbed together with them as 'encroachers' by the forest department. Voice of the original inhabitants, who are small in numbers and marginal in status, is lost in the dominant rhetoric to evict the 'encroachers' in the park. This dominant rhetoric, which includes a conservation and preservation of the pristine environment in the protected area exclusive of human settlements, is supported by elite environmental NGOs, national and local press and even the court of law. The High court of Mumbai has passed orders declaring these settlements as illegal and has ordered the state government to work out a resettlement plan for them.
Role of state.
The conflicts and tensions among the various state authorities dealing with the project which in the earlier case were used by the local people, appear to be absent here as the new and old owners of these lands are both government agencies. The state by backing up the claims of the environmental pressure groups is perpetuating a system of exploitation and domination of the original inhabitants or the tribal communities. On the other hand by promoting social welfare schemes exclusively for the tribal people state appears benevolent to the tribal communities. Thus the state appears multifaceted through its institutions in this case. Hence the tribal people are ambivalent to the state.
Thus to conclude 'environment tourism moral economy' impulses that have become prominent in the protest movement or 'every day forms of resistance' in the two cases mentioned above have came from the people themselves. They are part of the diffuse but widespread development of a mass based Indian environmentalism that is arising out of the popular experience of capitalism-driven development projects - in this case urban tourism. They are an outcome of the state strategy to give the National identity of citizens and economic growth over the claims of the local communities to their natural resources.
Bapat, Jyotsna. 1997 Amusement parks environment and social protest : A case study of Mumbai. project report, 30 June 1997. New Delhi: Indian Council of Social Science.
Bharati, A. R. 1992, June Brief Note on Sanjay Gandhi National Park - Borivali. Mumbai: Deputy Conservator of Forest, SGNP Borivali (Mimeograph).
EIA. 24/12/89. Environmental impact assessment of Esselworld amusement par. Consent application and report, submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi
Omvedt, Gail. 1993 Reinventing Revolution: New Social Movements and the socialist tradition in India. New York: M E Sharpe Inc.
Scott, James, C.1976. The moral economy of the peasant: Rebellion and resistance in south east asia. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Tak, Devendra. 12/10/1992. Setting a fantasy. Bombay: Business India.
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