Yesterday morning, when I came in to work, I found an over-sized grey envelope on my office desk with the words “Social Movements Calendar 2011” printed on it. Now, there was nothing unusual about receiving a calendar as my office receives quite a few calendars this time of the year. However, the calendars come rolled up and tied with a string and not enclosed in an envelope. Intrigued, I opened it immediately.
The Social Movements Calendar (SMC) 2011 is a themed calendar on “peoples’ struggles against international financial institutions(IFIs)”. Right from the cover (see photo above), which is a rally of protesters against land acquisition for mining in Jharkhand to the list of resources on this topic, each page of the calendar reflects the theme.
Originally conceptualised by the late Smitu Kothari and published by Intercultural Resources India, the 2011 SMC Calendar is in its third edition. This 2011 edition of the SMC is an effort to document peoples’ struggles over the last few decades in the country and provide a one stop source for references on social movements in India.
Each month has two pages dedicated to it. While one page has the days and dates—with each date square marked with the event that took place on that day—the other page has a photograph/ illustration/collage of a peoples’ struggle from India, though some movements from other parts of the world are also included. So, while January depicts a wall painting on the Zapatista Movement in Mexico, April has a photograph of tribal women belonging to the Adihaq Bhumi Raksha Morcha protesting against coal mining in Jharkhand (see photo on the left).
The photographs for each month also represent a sub-theme or a slogan within the larger peoples’ struggle against IFIs. For example, August 2011 is “World Bank Go Back”, while February’s is “farmers and agricultural workers’ struggles”. The other monthly themes are: another world is possible (January); women’s fight for justice (March); protests for human rights (April); clarion call for labour rights (May); water not a commodity, but a gift of nature (June); IFIs don’t damn our rivers (July); debt? don’t owe – won’t pay (September); leave nature alone in the north-east (October); mining fuels disaster (November); and World Bank out of climate (December).
As I am going through the beautifully conceptualised, designed and executed calendar, the meticulousness of the research and documentation that has gone into making it stand out. The other thing that strikes me is the sheer numbers of peoples’ struggles recorded in the calendar. Decades of a particular form of development, largely determined by IFIs and implemented by governments across the world, have made many communities victims of development rather than its beneficiaries. Using their economic power, the IFIs have forced governments to adopt and implement policies that are inherently pro-development, but anti-people. This has meant that we are now witness to
the tragedy of the commons, innumerable displacements, loss of livelihood, large-scale rural to urban migration, farmer’s increasing debt burden that leads to desperation and suicides, peoples struggles for land rights, fisher folks’ struggles for livelihood and sustainable living…the struggles are too many to be listed here. (SMC Calendar, 2011)
Not all date squares in the SMC are filled up; some of them are still blank. But this, I suspect, will be filled soon with the protests, agitations, and movements that are increasing in numbers every single day. The calendar is a sobering reminder to the “far-reaching social, cultural economic and ecological consequences” of a development that is not people-centred.
Having grown up in urban India and now living in its financial capital, “other” peoples’ struggles seem to be a world away and their issues alien to me. I am secure in a house I own, a job I have, a salary I get every month, with access to quality health care and nutritious food—it is difficult to even imagine a threat to my lifestyle or my very existence. It is a lifestyle that I and hundreds more like me take for granted. For some of it such a lifestyle is even a right.
And it is for this very reason that I can never throw away this calendar, long after 2011 is over, as it represents those people who gave up the security of their land, livelihood and environment to enable people like me to have a certain lifestyle. Hopefully, they will be able to hold on to their futures and that the generations to come—the peoples’ faces in the photographs show a steely determination to protect what is rightfully theirs.
P.S.: I have about 10 of these calendars to give away. In case you would like one, please write to me and I’ll ship it to you free of cost anywhere in India.