Status Report on TKS Seminar October 2002, Binsar, India
by DP Agrawal
As planned, the TKS Seminar was held at Binsar, near Almora in Uttaranchal,
on 4-7 October, 2002. It was supported by Infinity Foundation and organised
by Lok Vigyan Kendra and INHERE. The list of final participants and titles for
their papers are given at the end of this document (Encl.1).
It's a matter of satisfaction and encouragement that all the participants realised
the importance of such meetings. It was indeed a diverse group with historians
of science, grass root development workers, Gandhians, archaeologists, ethnobotanists,
sociologists and historians and others.
The seminar developed a consensus about the following:
- Traditional Knowledge Systems are a body of knowledge, which is very ancient
and deep rooted. They have the origins in the remote past, their systematisation
and canonisation gave rise to the elite (the Greater Tradition) science.
- We all realise the importance of this ancient knowledge and technology,
which incorporates the wisdom distilled through millennia of experimentation
and trial and error.
- The elite tradition which was reduced to writing and which was also reflected
in the archaeological remains is relatively better preserved, though needs
to be better recognised by the Western historians of science. The projects
sponsored by Infinity Foundation and PHIPSC (Project of History of Indian
Science, Philosophy and Culture) are excellent and much needed efforts to
bring to the notice of the world the great contributions of Indian science
to evolve a balanced history of global science. These efforts need to be fully
supported and augmented.
- The Traditional Knowledge Systems, which are essentially the desi (The Lesser)
tradition of Indian science, are oral, unsystematised, undocumented and under
imminent danger of getting lost with the onslaught of globalisation and Western
culture. This body of knowledge is also part of the great heritage of humankind,
which needs to be preserved and documented and used for benefit of the possessors
of such knowledge, their region and humanity at large.
- On one hand Western science has created hegemonic categories of science
vs superstition, technologies vs magic etc, which are both arbitrary and contrived.
On the other hand, the multinationals are mercilessly exploiting the herbal
and mineral wealth of these remote areas, using the same Traditional Knowledge
Systems. They throw some crumbs to the local people and make millions out
of this traditional knowledge. This farce has to be exposed.
- Since the multinationals are only interested in making quick profits, they
are not bothered that some of our precious plants, and the natural biodiversity,
are driven to extinction. We have to identify the areas in which such traditional
knowledge can be used for local economic uplift, generation of wealth and
local employment. Globalisation is not the answer for the poverty and the
inequity that prevails in most of rural India.
- We discussed that collection and processing of medicinal plants and minerals
could generate local wealth and employment by developing some herbal drugs,
aimed at incurable diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, leucoderma, cancer
etc. We could produce value-added products of which the main benefits will
go the local people. This type of work has been done in Kerala where the Kani
tribe's knowledge of plants was used to produce Sanjeevani tonic, the benefits
of which went mainly to the tribe.
- Similarly, copper is a traditional ancient technology of this region. By
producing copper on small scale and producing a variety of copperware, which
could be sold in the region, in the plains, as also abroad, a lot of employment
could be generated.
- Many other viable and valuable proposals were made regarding the best use
to be made of agriculture, rain harvesting, empowerment of villagers to save
forests, be augmentation of bamboo forests to produce domestic items, cottage
industries like agarabatti, tea, ginger, rope making, mineral water, gharat
- Even after independence, many British laws against TKS' have continued,
even though their original intent was to destroy India's massive domestic
industry and foreign trade and to replace them with Britain's Industrial Revolution.
Today less than 10% of India's labour works in the 'organized sector', namely
as employees of a company. The remaining 90% are individual freelancers, contract
labourers, private entrepreneurs, and so on, a lot of them still practice
their traditional trades. However, given the perpetuation of colonial laws
that render their work illegal, they are highly vulnerable to all sorts of
exploitation, corruption, and abuse. The descendents of India's traditional
knowledge workers, who built massive cities, technologies, and dominated world
trade for centuries, are today de-legitimised in their own country under a
- Our laws come in the way of all such technologies, which need to be drastically
changed in favour of traditional skills. In Uttaranchal we will have to modify
the laws to be able to use the local natural resources, using traditional
technologies for the benefit of the rural poor.
- The road ahead is difficult and the obstacles look insurmountable but we
are sure that our joint effort will lead to definite results if we are able
to develop a common platform, which could act not only as a pressure group
but also coordinate activities of different units both on the academic and
the development fronts.
- The seminar successfully helped the participants in forging links and it
was hoped that soon the delegates will be able to meet physically, through
Internet, letters and other media.
- This summary is being circulated to initiate discussion and to invite proposals,
projects, ideas etc so that a comprehensive document could be prepared for
circulation and implementation.
Lok Vigyan Kendra,
- Pavan K. Gupta: Traditional Knowledge Systems, Science and Globalisation
- Vibha Triptahi: Traditional Indian Iron Technology: Problems and Prospects
- C.K. Raju: Traditional Knowledge, History, Science and Culture
- D.P. Agrawal: Traditional Knowledge Systems and Uttaranchal
- Nita Mathur: Native Categories of Thought and World-View
- J.S.Rawat & G. Rawat: Traditional Hydrology: Illustrations from Vedic
- Ramashray Roy: Ayurveda as Praxis
- Ravi Chopra: Traditional Sustainability: Reviving Community Water Management
in the Himalayas
- Rishiraj Das: Standing Firm: Traditional Aseismic Architecture in the Western-Central
- R.C. Agrawal: Traditional Building Techniques: Material and Process
- V.P. Bhatt: Ethno-medico-biology in Uttaranchal Himalayas
- Shanti Pappu: The Stone Axe Tradition in Indian Pre-and Protohistory
- Hema Joshi: Traditional Conservation of Fodder Plants in Kumaun Himalaya
- Rohita Shah, P. C. Pande and Lalit Tiwari: Folklore Biomedicine for Some
Veterinary Diseases and Disorders in Western Part of Almora District
- Lalit Tiwari and P. C. Pande: Himalayan Medicine System (HMS) and its Ayurvedic
- Shampa Shah: Craftsman as Mythmaker
- Ila Shah & Manikant Shah: Developing Uttaranchal: the Traditional Options
- Alakhnath Upreti: Folk Science in the Folklore of Uttaranchal
- Durgesh Pant: Role of Informatics in Traditional Knowledge Systems
- Reema Pant: Traditional Environment Management: a Participatory Approach
- Jeewan S. Kharakwal: Traditional Rice Cultivation in Central Himalayas
- Diva Bhatt: Significance of Harela, the Greening Festival of Uttaranchal
- Krishna Bisht: Woodcarving in Uttaranchal
- V.N. Misra & Malati Nagar: Ecological and Technological Knowledge of
Hunter-Gatherers in India: Some Examples
- D.L. Verma and Kamlesh Sirari: Indigenous Method of Extraction of Vegetable
Fat from the Seeds of Bassia butyracea Roxb and the plants' medicinal properties
- N. Koranga: Brahmakamal in the Life and Culture of Uttaranchal People
- Nirmal Joshi: Architecture & Settlement Pattern in Kumaun Through Ages
- Babul Roy, Nehal A. Farooquee and C.P. Kala: Indigenous Knowledge of Wool
Dyeing and making
- G. C. S. Negi: Indigenous methods of soil and water conservation in Uttaranchal
- Balaram Tripathy: Traditional Knowledge System of Riverine Boat Making in
Central and Western Orissa: an Ethnographic Approach
- Smritikumar Sarkar: 'Lokavidya: Conceptualizing People's Housing in India,
a case study of the Koch-Rajbangshis of North Bengal'
- Ritu Sogani: Women the preservers of biodiversity and traditional
knowledge in Uttaranchal
- S.S. Samant: Status and Conservation of Medicinal Plants of Uttaranchal