Saturday, July 19, 2008
The Great Indian Journey 6
BOMBAY TO BIHAR - A ROAD LESS TAKEN
The Real India
By Manuwant Choudhary
Real India is not on the tourist map.
It’s not even on India's national agenda.
Real India still lives and suffers in its villages.
Many Indians are still poor, others just manage to survive on basics and governments do everything to drive people away from the land by making agriculture unviable, resulting in rural unrest, even violence and a politics of a kind that undermines the very existence of this country.
For people in this real India, there is nothing `Special’ about the Special Economic Zone (SEZ), even the land reforms imposed in the sixties were a policy to drive out agricultural entrepreneurs from their land.
This policy continues to this day and farming becomes unattractive and unviable.
So when world food prices are high one should not blame the farmers, blame the politicians you elect and worship.
As a journalist I have met many people but a few encounters are extraordinary.
My journey is nothing compared to a German whom I had interviewed in Bombay who had walked all over India and Pakistan within a year!
I had interviewed him when he completed his journey. I asked him what next, and he replied, “I plan to walk similarly in every continent in the world.”
But after the interview he told me something I did not publish then, “You know India will break-up.”
This one line has worried me more than any and in every act of the politician I see a design that could prove the German right. I hope he is wrong. So how does India exist?
When you look at our public services, roads, airports everything wherever the government has a hand, I’m sure you will cry for your country.
How is it that governments cannot even fill the potholes on our roads when the Indian farmer can cultivate, plant and irrigate every inch of land he owns?
Between Agra and Kanpur we stopped for lunch at a dhaba. After lunch I chanced to look at the agricultural fields behind and what a sight. I had never seen such well-cultivated farms in India.
I saw some farmers and I asked them did they do this themselves? And they told me, “No, we use machines.”
Three locally manufactured machines were used to cultivate, plant and harvest potatoes, with only 7 labourers. The machines could plant 20 acres of potato in a day and the three machines together cost less than Rs.1.5 lakhs.
This was the farmers way of overcoming the farm labour shortage and thereby making agriculture a viable occupation.
I understood how India survives.