Our group is basically trying to acquire an understanding of present society and searching for solutions that are fundamentally just To this end, we have been documenting information on various issues that concern us in our endeavors for justice. This information derives from our traditions and practices and has to do with the interests and well being of our people at large. (Some of this documentation is mentioned here to indicate the kind of work that is being under¬taken at our centre.)

The idea that only holistic knowledge is valid knowledge was developed by our ancient Indian sages and the need for its revival is becoming more and more apparent as the crises in the Western development model become more obvious and threatening. For, Western society, by its stress on specialization, tends to hide the unjust interconnections between its various parts. When analyzed holistically, it becomes obvious that the Western system cannot be modified to make it sustainable and just There is also the increasing possibility of the collapse of this system because of its internally generated ecological, resource, nuclear and/or economic crises, in which case a self-reliant and just system to fall back upon should be available.

It is not enough to solely criticize and find fault with the present system, it is also necessary to find viable alternatives to it. And these alternatives must be seen holistically to ensure that they have only just interconnections. The best place to look for these solutions is where this nave actually sustained societies for a long time in the past, though they may have been destroyed or damaged by outside forces beyond their control. One vast mine of information is our old literature and the other is the knowledge that people, mainly Adivasis, still retain. ["Adivasis: Primitive or Civilised?"] Information from these rich sources has been collected and collated, examined for interconnections and the reasons why a particular custom was practiced or a technology used sought. Where possible, experiments have been carried out, especially in agriculture, to test as well as improve traditional methods.

The definition of justice used is that all people, those living now and future generations as well, must at least have their basic needs fulfilled. This leads to the conclusion that any consumption beyond basic needs - hyper consumption - must result in injustice. ["Cakes and Conscientization", "On Social Justice']. Many of our problems here arise from an uncritical acceptance of all that comes from the West because our minds are still occupied territories. It is necessary, therefore, to examine critically what is received from outside by looking at things from a perspective of oar own culture and traditions, [The Other Side of History", "Aid and Exploitation"]

Western society has been able to dominate and exploit us in colonial times as well as now because of its use of science and technology. These are being studied carefully at their fundamental levels, since what has been utilized for domination can hardly be expected to liberate us. (The Impact of Modernization on the Rural Poor", "Science for People?", Technological Intervention", "Water Driving")

Close study shows that the problems of the environment and population cannot be solved unless the problem of hyper consumption is tackled first This can best be done by following our ancient traditions on the understanding of and respect for all nature. [Re-Sourcing Our Environment]. The article "On Drought" discusses the social and other causes of these increasingly important phenomena. To combat the pollution that already exists, data on tactic chemicals, particularly synthetic pesticides is being collected. Information on how to detect pollution by its effects on plants and animals is also available, ("Spraying for Disaster", "Industrial Excreta")

The natural regeneration of forests is being observed and good results with this on a small scale have been obtained. The interactions between various plant species, animals and insects in natural forests and the question of the maximization of biomass as well as biodiversity are being studied. ["Natural vs Formal Forestry", "Forestry", "Agroforestry Notes"] Seeds of a wide variety of plants are being collected and made available to activists in other regions who request them because they no longer grow in their areas. Information is also provided on the cultivation and uses of particular species. [About thirty such notes have been prepared]. Rare and endangered plants are being collected and attempts to grow them in their original natural habitats are being made. In agriculture, the dangers in the use of synthetic chemicals are exposed (The Pesticide Malignancy", "Dangerous Pesticides"] while traditional methods of fertilization and pest control are studied, some of which are re-tested and are now being used. ["Botanical Pesticides: Neem", "Organic Fertilisers for Paddy", "Cattle Urine as a Substitute for Agrochcmicals', "Controlling Partheniiim hysteropbus"] Information on hundreds of plants that have been used or can be used for pest control ts available. Traditional varieties of paddy are being collected and preserved and their use encouraged. These have been sent to activists from areas where local varieties have been lost completely. Other traditional cereal and non-cereal crops, as well as "wild" sources of food and raw materials are being studied. The problems of dairy and poultry farming have also been considered. ["A Note On Dairy Fanning", "Cattle Fodder The Absurd Technology of the 'Grass Machine'", "Drowning in Operation Flood", "Poultry"] Some traditional methods of finding underground water are mentioned in "Water Divining".

It has been shown that education cannot be treated as an end in itself and how text-books used by the formal education system serve to support and sustain an unjust society. ["An Analysis of School Textbooks", "An Analysis of Civics Textbooks", "Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye P, "Education for Justice"] Instead of spreading the formal system's irrelevant knowledge, there is a need to learn from the people their valid traditional knowledge and to reinforce and extend it. The hoerative value of true knowledge was shown thousands of years ago by our own sages. Education, seen holisticaDy, embraces agriculture, health, culture and all other aspects of society. Results in other fields are partly fed back through demonstrations which people can observe and then disseminate themselves, if they find they are valid. Valid peoples' knowledge is also conveyed through adult education discussions and women's groups in Adivasi areas. Other information is spread in the form of articles, in Marathi and English, for activists, teachers, students and neo-literate people. Although the analyses have convinced many of the teachers in urban schools to work for change, their heavy curriculum prevents them from discussing in detail and presenting counter arguments in normal classes. So, in collaboration with the Social Justice Cell, a syllabus for Social Service classes for which no textbooks have been prescribed is under preparation. Requests from several "higher" educational institutions, in Bombay and out, for help in changing directions have been received. ("Rural Transformation")

Nutrition and pure water take priority in the area of health. Data on "wild" foods eaten is being gathered, and their use encouraged since much of the essential nutrients of the Adivasis in particular [though not only Adivasis, since many wild foods are still sold in Bombay's markets and can be obtained from its streets] come from them. ["Nutrition from Plants", "Purifying Water"] Traditional health systems have advantages over the allopathic health system, as far as the poor are concerned. ["AIDS to the GNP", The Bhagat and the Allopath"] Information on herbal remedies is also being collected from Adivasis and others, checked where possible against ayurvedic and other texts and institutions of "higher" education encouraged to carry out in vitro tests on some of them.

The bias in popular magazines and newspapers has been uncovered in "Time Warps" and "Nuclear Power Corrupts Absolutely". A study is being made of the effects of the latest communication and information technologies: the advertising media, television, satellite communication, computers and data bases. Attempts to change directions with other groups concerned with communication are being made.

Improvements in rural housing are sought in the use of unbaked compressed mud bricks, traditional waterproofing materials from plants and roofing sheets made of plant fibres and plant resins. Collaboration with urban housing groups is seen as a holding operation till solutions to rural land distribution and unemployment are found. ["Some Comments of the Housing Approach Paper"]

The use of non-renewable and renewable sources of energy is being studied. ["Nuclear Power Corrupts Absolutely", "The Chernobyl Disaster", "The Dahanu Power Station"] The "Transnational" (and Any Other Big Business Monitor) gives instances of the oppression of these organizations here.

It is felt that voluntary agencies by themselves will be unable to solve the enormous problems that we face today. So, valid solutions should be effective enough to spread by themselves, through the traditional, oral means of communication and through observation by the people themselves. Vast projects which serve as visible signs of "success" are, therefore, deemed unnecessary and, in fact, counter-productive.

No attempt is being made to produce a blue-print for a fully just society but if goals are clear there can, at least, be some certainty that the right path is being followed. Very rough guidelines for such a society have been sketched out, based on much that Gandhi had foreseen long before the situation became so disastrous. The search for practical solutions is directed mainly to rural areas because that is where most of the poor and marginalized are. It is obvious that the task is too enormous for one group to accomplish alone but that should not prevent an attempt being made to do whatever is possible within one's capacity and resource constraints.

Thanks arc due to all who have contributed data, suggestions and encouragement, here and abroad. Co-operation from others is welcomed in any form and in any field of operation.

The documentation centre, then, serves to collect and collate the material obtained from all sources. Besides a fairly good collection of books and journals, it has a lot of other information that has not been or is only partially collated. As and when it is put together, it will be distributed as articles, or offered as computer printouts to those interested. [Although "low” technology is preferred, the large quantity of data that has been collected and is still accumulating as also the difficulty in getting enough people interested in working in this field necessitates the use of computers]. The centre serves as a source of information for several educational institutions as well as other groups in and out of Bombay, who are convinced of the need for just solutions based mainly on our traditions. [The Documentation Centre"]

Author:Vinin Periera

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