INDIA - Preindustrial Villages of Rajasthan

Thursday, 29 May 2014

    Here we present the synopsis from chapter 6 of the book “Elegance and Dignity – Stories from India”


India today exists on a multiple level including high industrialization and traditional farming communities, and this leads to a growing social gap. Talking about preindustrial society would make more than a historian upset, but this is exactly what is to be seen. Farming communities that are still in the preindustrial era, which do not know the use of machines to work in the fields and do not participate to modern life. These villages are obviously not impenetrable by modernity, which comes in the form of objects that elsewhere would be considered trash or waste. They don’t ignore what is in their surroundings. Their culture and way of life, however, are anchored to a preindustrial scheme and so are traditions, familiar and social networks, so the rules of the village and the religious codes. The people of these villages are not educated nor culturally prepared to face the challenges of the modern world in which they are increasingly going in contact. They are not able to understand the choices made at the top, by the governments, nor to politically organize themselves as a pressure group, despite the democratic principle guaranteed by the Indian system: “one man, one vote.” These communities suffer more than others the strong government interferences as a mediator of the multinational enterprises that would induce villagers to abandon traditional sustainable farming and to adopt intensive farming and OGMs. There is an invisible struggle that these villages face every day against very powerful enemies.


Despite being a desert region, Rajasthan is an area where water is abundant due to the monsoons. In the centuries the need to manage a resource on a seasonal base has created a true culture for water that is not only declined in the sacredness by which in this country waterways are venerated but also and especially into complex hydraulic systems that already the British did not completely understand and let them deteriorate. Rain is also called ‘megaphusp’ (flower of clouds) and there are at least 25 names that refer to as many hydraulic systems for irrigation and drinking water and made Rajasthan the most flourishing desert on earth. Throughout its ancient history there is not a single description of this desert as a barren and desolate land. Obviously these systems do not require electric pumps or fuel and allow villages that have preserved them to overcome the drought affecting on contrary the “modernized” villages. Traditional crops and irrigation systems have been first attacked by the so-called “green revolution”, which included monocultures of species that require a lot of water, fertilizers and pesticides; then by the large water constructions, financed by the World Bank, that have depleted aquifers. People travel miles to find a source of drinking water and it is a tragic reality that someone at home opens the taps and in a few minutes consume as much water as during one of those trips.



© 2013 Marco Palladino – all rights reserved

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