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If you wish to know more about me please click on the following link www.eldredgeandassociates.com.au If reading this blog for the first time please make sure you go to the first blogs (scroll to the bottom of the page and click on older posts) as it will explain the journey

Friday, 28 September 2012

Northern India - Punjab - Land of 5 rivers.....


Oh India...you wrapped us in your arms and made us feel so safe and wanted...we have so much to learn from you........




Our second part of our Indian trip was to visit the Punjab region.....a rich agricultural state known as the land of the five rivers,  we were nestled next to Pakistan to the west and Kashmir to the North, most times we were only 30 minutes from the Pakistani border and the Pakistan capital Lahore.  This highly productive agricultural area is the "foodbowl" of India with rich soils and underground water for irrigation, given it is at the base of the Himalaya ranges it receives substantial rainfall during the monsoon season (up to 800 mm)

Flying into Amritsar and were greeted by our beautiful hosts, Mahli and Raj who looked after us for our time in the Punjab region.


The afternoon of arriving we were taken to the Sikh holy place....The Golden Temple... where the holy river flows into the temple area and the faithful bathe in the water...it was such a serene place and as we walked quietly reflecting around the temple calm waters, we were embraced by the people and religion, it was so serene and we felt at peace......


The Punjab region is heavily populated by the Sikh community with more that 40% of the region being of the Sikh philosophy, they believe in "one god, along a praxis in which the Sikh is engaged in social reform through the justice for all human beings"  They are commonly recognised by their turbans and long beards....the man below tapped me on my shoulder because he wanted a photo taken...whilst he looks stern, he was a gentle soul who saw other people having photos being taken and didn't want to miss out....



One of the most amazing sights we saw during our time in Amristar was an elephant, fully loaded with wood, hurtling down a busy street in amongst the trucks and cars....we were so amazed by the sight that none of us had the cameras ready to get a photo...I asked the driver to scoot across five lines of Indian traffic, do a quick U turn and "follow that elephant!!", for some reason he chose to not do so....cant understand it because anything seems possible in the road/traffic system of India...they have a unique driving and road law ethos....there are no laws...and they communicate by tooting constantly, it is a real language......I know how to toot when cross and how to toot when being charitable and friendly to other vehicles...might try it out in Oz...



Punjab is a fabulously fertile agricultural region with irrigation, wheat and rice yields of around 5t/ha. During the "green revolution" of the 1970's the Punjab region was identified as the region with the capacity to grow the stable crops needed by the Indian population...so the task of growing irrigated crops began, however the pumping from the aquifer of the water to grow the rice crops in particular (1kg of rice takes 600 gallons of water) has seen the water table drop by 40 metres in the past 30 years...hence they are worried about the sustainability of the farming system as it is currently. The current land holdings are still around the 2-5 has in this region and much is done by hand/labourers, however it is becoming increasingly difficult for landowners to get people to do agricultural work and as such there is a rise of small tractors and other machines becoming evident.  It seems odd that in a country where there is 1.4 billion people that they have a labour shortage, but with nearly 50% of the population under 25 years of age, they are finding that the younger generation are seeking life in the cities rather than labouring for $5/day on the farming properties.

There is foreign investment into Agriculture in India, however land ownership is difficult for foreigners, or not allowed so businesses like McCain chips are moving into the Punjab region and setting up factories for the Indian farmers to supply potatoes to them,  these potatoes are not exported, rather they are for Indian consumption....it was the same story everywhere we went, India is not really seeking to export, they almost have a closed loop economy where they drive their own growth by people purchasing power!!! 1.4 Billion people purchasing power!!

We were fortunate to be part of a field day run by the Punjab Agricultural University, where we were the special guests and given an honorary membership to the University and presented with a plaque that will take pride of place at home....30,000 students on 600 ha's at this University, again demonstrating the importance of agriculture to this economy.....


After the end of a fascinating few days in the Punjab region we flew back to Delhi to meet with Government officials, an Indian Investment fund and the Australian Trade Commission, all whom who further consolidated our learning about India, but we did also encounter some startling statistics about India...
- Ave land holding in India is 1.2ha
- They have 2.4% of the global land mass and house 16% of the worlds population
- Literacy is at 74% (Global is 84%)
- Life expectancy is 67 years
- 300 million or 28% live below the poverty line
- Global hunger they are 67 out of 84 countries
- 42% of children under the age of five are underweight

Interesting statistics for a country, who in my mind, really does care for everyone in their system, even though there are clearly social classes evident, there is still a great love and caring for everyone, and this was so strongly evident in visiting the ASHA centre in Delhi...

ASHA was set up by a Indian female Doctor who recognised that the 4 million people living in slums in Delhi had a high mortality rate at child birth (17-25%) and set about getting pre-natal and post natal care into the slums......since the inception of the organisation the mortality rate at childbirth has dropped to almost zero, during the past 12 months they have been set up with electricity to their little houses, and they now have wells and hand pumps for water in their community, rather than crossing the major railway line to fetch buckets of water, where many got killed in bringing the basic necessity of water to the community... we had the privilege of meeting with women of the slum who have been so empowered through the ASHA connection.  Through an interpreter they told us how life had changed so much for them in the past five years through ASHA and now they were confident to talk to us as equals, we met, and I played, sang songs and shared stories with their beautiful children who dressed up especially for the occasion, along with meeting with the young adults of the slums who through the ASHA involvement are now going to university, many studying to get a social workers degree....

Below is a picture of me with the children of the slum in the ASHA centre in their community...scroll below this picture and you will see the living conditions of the slums as we saw it.... as these wonderful, brave women and beautiful children showed us around, with great pride and honesty,  their community....











I wondered how I would feel being part of this experience in the Delhi slum, but what I saw and felt was great hope and happiness....never under estimate the power of positive empowerment, these people walk tall in the dream of a better life that is slowing emerging for them and their community....
"A woman is the full circle, within her is the power to create, nurture and transform" Diane Mariechild






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