Land Stories 

Land used to be like one’s mother in India as more than 70% people were connected to land. Before the introduction of modern agricultural equipment like tractors, bullocks were used virtually for agricultural jobs like tilling the land, pulling the cart which the farmer used for bringing the produce and fodder home for cattle. Agriculture was completely manual and commerce was not in force. Farmer produced only enough for his family needs. Agriculture was dependent on the surface water available through rivers and rains.

Now the story is different. Even small farmers own the tractors which is economically not viable for small pieces of land. But it is a rat race. Many of them take the loans which become difficult to repay. A tractor can do many days work in a few hours. Need for manual labor arises only during the sowing of the crops. Bullocks have been faced out and are facing the same fate as the girls faced: they have become unwelcome.

Land is so much precious to the owner that hawks are on the outlook to grab any piece of it by hook or crook. Wars had been fought over the land. Most prominent example is the epic story of Mahabharata in which cause of the biggest battle between cousins was about the possession of land and women.

But as the cities are expanding at a furious rate, the value of the land is increasing. What the land can do to its owners will be illustrated by three scenarios.

Scenario No.1

State of Haryana was carved out from Punjab. It is a fact that people of Haryana were neglected by Punjab and so the state was separated from Punjab. But city of Chandigarh, which was the capital of Punjab was not given to any one of these states but made a union territory. It was also made the capital of both the states. The reality now is that the capital of both these sites is located nor in the centre but in one corner of the states.

As Chandigarh could not be expanded more, both Haryana and Punjab decided to construct the extensions of it on their own sides. Haryana thus acquired the agricultural land adjacent to Chandigarh. There were many villages in the area with farmers having small land holdings. All were given a meagre compensation. Overnight they become lost what they were dependent on. Being conversant with agriculture only, they faced difficulty to carry on their lives. They migrated here and there and on their lands mushrooms the concrete buildings with their owners being outsiders who could afford to buy them.

Scenario No.2

This one is a really interesting and shows how in same country but at different time points, the fortunes can turn for some. District of Mohali in Punjab was carved in such a way that it’s one side touched Panchkula district of Haryana. So some villages which though were very near to Panchkula became part of Punjab and their lands were not acquired by government.

These villages are situated near the ghaggar river and land is very poor for manual farming. The reason is that where the land is situated, the river flowed once and thus has left huge amounts of pebbles and sand covered with alluvial. Thus it is full of pebbles and bullocks were unable to till it.  Additionally there were uneven land surfaces which again posed challenges for farming.

Thus the land owners eked out a pathetic life. They lived hand to mouth. But somehow, barring a few they didn’t part off with their land which in any case no other farmer will buy due to poor quality.

But the demon of city expansion and opening of information technology parks and some pharmaceutical companies resulted in the large influx of people from interiors of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh,and so on resulted in the construction frenzy. There was no scope for expansion of Panchkula. So these adjoining areas became the focal points of building activity. Overnight, the land which was useless became the gold mine for the owners. They sold portions for a windfall. The farmers who have not seen money were dazed and it took them days to come back to reality from dream.

They constructed palaces for living. They became educated suddenly. As the money came, so we’re associations with powerful people like politicians. Some of them even began to grab the unoccupied or reserved lands. With a part of money bought tractors and modern equipment for remainder of land and procured cheaper land in the nearby districts. The elderly still can be identified to have done back breaking work but new generation is all like managers and leaders.

Scenario No.3

This story is similar to previous one but with small difference. It is from Sanand district in Gujarat. As the Tata nano car factory relocated here, the villagers nearby had windfall. Their used to be working as labors, peon and other lower rung jobs in the future Factories and manufacturing units for monthly wages like rupees 6000 to 15000 as their land was not fertile or due to lack of resources was not providing them with enough. Suddenly the arrival of entrepreneurs they became millionaires overnight by selling their land. After the initial excitement, Many of them have decided to carry on with those peanut wages jobs to keep themselves busy. More than hundreds of millionaires are working as helping hands in the factories there. The interest on their fixed deposits is enough for their requirements.

Thus as the Mark Twain once advised someone who came to him for investing the money to “invest in the land because they don’t make it anymore”, land can catapult your future.

How clean was water of Sukhna Choe once upon a time 

“Choe” in local language in Punjab means a stream or a rivulet. Sukhna choe is the name of stream after which the lake in Chandigarh is called. The choe passes through area of union territory Chandigarh, Haryana and Punjab before merging with Ghaggar river. Many unauthorized settlements have mushroomed along it particularly in Union territory of Chandigarh. Some industries have also come near it.

There was a time about 50 years ago when the clean water flowed from the dam but these days if you pass by the gates of Lake hardly any water flows there. At that time I was about 10 years old. Our elder sister was married in a village called Gazipur which is in Punjab and this choe passes near this village. We used to visit our sister many a times and water in this stream was so clean that we used to swim and bath in it.

Then after doing my M.Sc., I got the job and left this place. After 35 years, I have returned. I went to see the choe and was aghast to see its plight. A workable bridge with big pipes have been constructed over the narrowed span over it. Building activity has reached all around.

In the older times, there was no pass over this choe. Hardly anyone came here with vehicles. Farmers who have their land on the other side of stream used to cross it with bullock carts or on foot.

The black frothy water flows under the bridge through pipes. It is giving nauseating smell. Industries and effluent from households is discharged into it. Although union territory administration has installed effluent treatment plant to treat the effluent generated in the area of there jurisdiction, it is said that Haryana is discharging the Untreated effluent into it. There seems to be no coordination between the three agencies and also it seems corrupt people in the environment supervision agencies have turned the blind eye towards its plight.

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Still, I found a big flock of one bird species in the stream. This bird is called Black Winged Stilt. I think they don’t have anywhere else to go or have adopted themselves to the changed circumstances. But they seem to avoiding the frothy area down the bridge. They were largely seen in the area near a place where another stream of relatively cleaner water was confluencing with this stream.

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These birds have very long legs and 60% of their body weight is in the legs. The longer legs have advantage in that they can catch their food in deeper waters. They usually live in the groups and catch the insects and other aquatic animals.

Searching the elusive Saraswati !!!!!

We have been taught in our school about Indus Valley civilization and how it was replaced by arrival of the people from west which have been called Aryans. That the Indus Valley civilisation was spread between Indus  and Yamuna rivers. Exacavation at many locations established many huge settlements like Harrapa in Pakistan side punjab and Mohenjodaro in Sind district. But it is not the end. So many sites have been established belonging to this civilisation throughout North India beginning from plains of Punjab and Haryana to as far south as Dholavira in the Kutcch coastal area of gujarat.

This civilisation thus was spread into the fertile flat plains served by many rivers like five rivers of Punjab, Indus River, Yamuna river and so many of their tributaries. These are perennial rivers with the origin in the glaciers of Himalayas. They bring about huge supply of water as well as rich alluvial soil. Thus the area is suitable for agriculture.

The civilisation is said to highly advanced as is evident from the town and unban planning, sanitary system, baths, water harvesting and trade with many countries in the west. But even then it is said that these people did not develop any language or whatever symbols are there still have not being interpreted.

Then it is also said that one fine day this civilisation disappeared. There are many theories like inundations due to changing course of the rivers which cannot happen short time. Another very strong reason is the invasion of these areas by fair colored people from the west. These are said to be pastoral people rearing cattles and riding chariots driven by horses. These were the people who are called Aryans and since they vanquished the native dark colored people who were pushed south wards or those remained were obliged to be inferior to their conquerors.

It is also said that the Vedas are their creation. How the pastoral people can create such profound literature? In these Vedas, another river figures prominently or rather dominates. It is river Saraswati. This river is said to have been responsible for the developments of the civilisation along its banks. It is said to be flowing between Satluj and Yamuna and going all the way down towards Sind after merging with Ghaggar river and then Hakra river combinedly called Ghaggar Hakra river.

Ghaggar which is sometimes synonym with Saraswati still exists but even the Vedas mention that at the Saraswati has dried down at many places is elusive today. It is definitely not the elusive third river of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati trio which does not fit the route mentioned in the Vedas. Since so many of remains of Indus Valley civilisation have been discovered in Haryana like Rakhigarhi-which is said to be spread over the largest area than earlier sites like Harappa fall near the path said to had been followed by the Saraswati . This means that Vedas existed at the time of Indus Valley civilisation people and invasion theory is not plausible. Many scholars like Michel Danino agree with this theory in his book “The lost river: on the trail of the Saraswati“. The following map is proposed by him.

But many like Doctor R.C.Thakran, professor of history at university of Delhi  who has done research on the geological and soil aspects of areas along the Ghaggar river contest the existence of river as being responsible for giving rise to such a big civilisation. It is too small a river with its catchment area in the lower Shivaliks. Thus at the most , this must have been a season river. The variation in the moisture content of the soil in the dry beds decline sharply with the distance travelled indicating that flow was not large enough so as to saturate the subsoil equally all along. Sediments are identical to those of Shivalik hills in composition indicating the source in the Shivaliks. Anyway the present reality is that river is not visible anywhere.

But government in Haryana is bent on its revival. Based on the scriptures, it will excavate the river said path to revive the past Aryan glory with which we North Indian identify ourselves. There are plans to pump the water from underground through tube wells into the excavated river.

According to the report the work is already begun. As reported in the times of India newspaper reproduced below.

As part of its attempt to revive Saraswati river, Haryana government on Tuesday initiated excavation work at Rolaheri village in Yamunanagar district.

Inaugurating the work, Haryana assembly Speaker Kanwar Pal said the project would once again take the culture and heritage of India to the golden period. Officials say that south Indian scholar Dr Ratnakar has shown interest in initiating the work on the project.”

Let us hope to be positive. But the conclusions based on the facts not the sentiments.

 

Travels along Morni Hills Road

Morni is a hill station about 55 kilometers away from Chandigarh. Morni in local language is referred to peahen. The name is derived from the name of girl of a local ruler. There were many small princely states all over Shiwalik hills. The rulers were mostly Rajputs many of whom owed allegiance to Mughals.  Morni hills were ruled by Rajputs from Sirmaur which is near Nahan in Himachal Pradesh.The place is situated in Shiwalik hills and can be reached through a road from Panchkula. The map of the road is given below:

The road is serpentine because hilly area begins just after crossing the Panchkula and after a continuous climb for about 20 kilometers from Panchkula, the path begins to descend. I have gone up to point where this descent begins.

There are hills covered with wild shrubs and trees including teak. When you begin the journey towards Morni from Panchkula there are hills covered with thorny acacia trees. Hordes of monkeys roam along the road. All day they are there squatting on edges of road and climbing on the adjacent trees. People who came to visit Shiva temple near Berwala, gave them banana and other eatables. This causes the menace to normal visitor who is afraid to get down.

On the way, is Gauri Shankar temple which is seldom open. It seems more of a private property of some Guru who enjoy immense clout over politicians rather than a public place as the temples are generally opened to public. After about 8 kilometers there is small bridge on a seasonal branch of Ghaggar river which is dry in the summers. There is a place with dense trees and foliage along the river which is marked as a bird sanctuary. But you have to be very patience for sighting the birds.

There are few fields where farmers can be seen working. The area beyond Panchkula suddenly takes on an idyllic character. Hills along gorges seem like walls of brown mud completely devoid of greenery except the exposed roots of some trees at the top. In these walls, one can see parrots clinging  on to the holes which they must have dug for raising their nests.

One can also come across, the men and women sitting in the cars stopped at different spots engaged in cavorting activities from the city giving slip to their legal partners. Groups of young boys and girls can be seen drinking and making merry. Due to the drunken driving in the hills many a times fatal accidents have been reported.

There are Langoors also hiding in the bushes and occasionally coming into open on the road or to cross the road. They seem to be shy of humans and avoid humans unlike the monkeys. There are many birds and trees which bear flowers and adorn the landscape.

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Animals

Owl on the wall

I regularly go out for morning walks. Since there is no park near, you have to walk cautiously to avoid being hit by speeding vehicles which continuously pass on the road. So the fun of the morning walk is marred but one has to live life compromising since we are not kings. I found the recourse to going out into the chunk of fields which are still intact despite the greedy eyes of the builders for acquiring the piece of land for any price and turn the land into concrete jungle.

Secondly, i go to walk into the river bed of Ghaggar river which in winter and summer is dry and occupied by tall grass and thorny shrubs. Many beautiful birds inhabit the water and the grasses. There are water wading birds. There are ubiquitous wattled lapwings which makes alarm calls at your approach and begin flying and circling over you. There are green parrot like birds which are very fast.

Anyway, since it has become unbearably hot it is not possible to go out unless you go before the sunrise. So these days, I walk inside our society along the path adjacent to the boundary wall. It is about half a kilometer in perimeter. Here you are distracted by the people who come from all the sides.

One day while walking, I spotted the young owl sitting on the boundary wall near a tree. I took the pictures with mobile camera. Usually other birds are easily scared off and does not allow you to approach near and fly away. I took chance to approach it. It saw me but did not make much effort to fly. It will rotate its head and see through half closed eyes. I could almost touch it. It was very lovely bird.

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After some rounds, I found it sitting there. On close inspection, I saw one of its parents sitting on the scaffolding of electrical distribution system. It did not allow the approach and flew away as soon the camera was trained on it. Then I spotted another one sitting on a neem tree outside the boundary. Whole family was there.

Outside is the fallow land with bushes and grass. Nearby are dense woods where peacocks roam making the calls. These owls must have found their prey like small rodents or others small birds here.

After that day, I could not find them any day except once.