Tag Archives: Punjab

Mottled Wood Owl

It is a species of large owls found in india. They are very rare in our area in Punjab. I was lucky to spot this beautiful owl in a forest near my village.

As such, it chooses its roost so cleverly that it completely camouflage itself. Only sometimes it is noticed by crows , treepies and babblers who make a hell of noise near it and force it to fly away. Only during one such cacophony I spotted it. After many unsuccessful efforts finally I was able to photograph it.

Some Winter Visitors

During the winter season in North India, many migratory birds come here from even intensely cold areas like Europe. Most of these birds come here to avoid intense cold and availability of food. Some raise chicks here and by the time temperatures become high here they go back.

Many ponds in Punjab present beautiful scene with the arrival of these visitors. Some birds pictures from one such huge pond.

Place of Rivers in Humanity

A River not only create conditions for settlement of the people on its banks, it sustains the people living near it. It provides them with all the things of human requirements. Water for washing, irrigation, fish. It had been held in great esteem by many civilizations. Rivers are revered because they nourished the life. Many saints and great men loved to live on its banks.

Rivers are held in great esteem in Sikh religion. The region where the religion flourished is aptly called the land of five Rivers.

First Guru Nanak is said to have experienced enlightenment after a dip in holy river. Legend is that when he emerged out of river Kali Bein which merges into the confluence of Beas and Satluj rivers at a place called Harike in Punjab after three days, he was glowing and a completely transformed. He recited the “mool mantra” .

It seems that Guru Gobind ji, the tenth and last Guru had a great affinity for rivers. His Life revolved along the different riverbanks of India.
He was born in Patna and spent his early days on Ganga river.
Then he came to Anandpur sahib which has Satluj river close by. And during wars with hill royalties he stayed in Paonta sahib on the Yamuna river and wrote prolifically.
And then finally he moved to Maharashtra where he stayed on the banks of godavari river.

Alas , due to the unlimited greed of some people, these rivers are being contaminated by discharging the effluents from factories, city sewage and sand mining.

50 Years of IR8 :: The rice variety which saved the world

Rice is the staple food of millions in South East Asia. People in South India and North East grow rice as the main crop. It is eaten with fish. It is the rice, that ushered green revolution in India and brought India back from the jaws of starvation. Punjab became the leader in growing the rice, a crop which was alien to North india as most people liked wheat. It is another matter that Punjab has to pay a untold price for feeding the Indian population.

Story of IR8 Rice

A few days back, it was 50 years ago, the rice variety nicknamed IR8 was launched and it saved millions in Asia and particularly in India from starvation and acted as a launchpad for Green Revolution in India.

It was almost a famine like situation in this area. The available production of edibles was insufficient to cope with the requirement. Traditional varieties of rice took 160 to 180 days for the crop cycle and yields were low.

The rice variety was developed by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) which is based in Manila and works under FAO. The strain matures in 130 days and has higher yields for the same nitrogen consumption.

In the year 1962, the Institute made a cross variety using Peta, a Indonesian tall, pest resistant and vigorous variety with a dwarf Chinese variety called dee-geo-woo-gen (DGWG) in the laboratory.

During field tests in Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan using the variety named IR8-288-3 showed great promise and yields it gave were almost 9 times the existing from 1 ton per hectare to 9 ton per hectare.

In Andhra Pradesh, a farmer called Nekkanti Subba Rao, experimented and sowed this rice in 2000 acres in Atchanta in West godavari. He earned the nickname of “Mr.IR8”.

The variety was commercially introduced in 1967 in the Vietnam during the American war.

The variety became popular worldwide and earned local nicknames worldwide. For example in Burma it is called Magyaw, Padi Ria in Malaysia ,Peta Baru 8 in Indonesia, Milagaru Philipino in Mexico . It was grown in Pakistan, India, Taiwan, China, and even in US.

In an interesting tale, a farmer K.N.Ganesan of Tamil Nadu named one of his sons “Irretu” meaning IR8 in Tamil.

Similarly in Vietnam the rice came to known as Honda rice as its bumper harvest enabled one farmer to purchase an Honda motorcycle.

 

 

Rediscovering the house sparrows 

The very name of sparrows, harks the mind back to my childhood days when we lived in a village. Most of the houses were made of mud and roofs supported by wooden logs. These left so many awnings which acted as the niches where these creatures made their nests for raising their chicks.

Whole day, they will dart inside and out bringing semi dry grass stubble for construction of the nest. There was chirping all day. There was a mulberry tree in our courtyard where in the evening these birds rested in its cool and secure boughs. The cacophony in the evening would be ear deafening.

They were so common that we hardly noticed them. They were the part of Punjabi folklore. For example, the unmarried girls were compared with them, saying that these girls are like sparrows chirping all day in the verandahs of their parents and will also fly away when married.

As the time passed, moving towards modernisation, the cities began expanding and eating away the agricultural land in the neighbouring villages. The houses in the villages also gave way to pucallpa houses which left no scope for these birds to make their nests. In other words their habitat was destroyed and factors like mobile towers radiations from which are supposed to be interfering with their lives, added the more trouble.

But still there are places in rural areas which have awnings and bushes for them to survive. I discovered them at many places in my neighbourhood.

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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.

Brown Rock Chat

Everyday while sitting in the balcony of my flat, I see this bird in the playground below. They don’t sit idle for long at one place. They suddenly dive to ground, catch some insect and fly to roost on the top of poles, basketball board or on the wire net along the boundary.

While sitting, they usually lift their head and wag their tails. Sometimes they sit in the bushes from where they swoop to grass to catch the insects.

The common name of this bird is Brown Rock Chat and the scientific is Cercomela fusca. It belongs to the category of Flycatchers, Chats. It is usually 17 centimeters long.

It is usually found in pairs, around ruins, dusty villages, rocky hillsides; often approaches close; tame and confiding; captures insects on ground; rather aggressive when breeding. It’s habitat in India is North India and to South till Narbada river and to east up to Bihar and Bengal.

They are reported to possess a wide variety of calls. As many as eight type of calls have been recorded. These include territory call, alarming call, threat call, begging call, contact call, distress call.

Although, they don’t sit still for long, I managed to take many pictures over many days. Here are some of these.

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