23 Nov 2014

Experiencing the partial SCI (Cotton) wonder in water affected with salinity

System of Rice Intensification, practice which I came across for the first time when I was graduating
In the picture it can be seen that the lateral branch which is
held on left side is 3.6 foot long emerged from base of
the main plant 
from GBPUA&T (Pantnagar),  how the crop equal crop geometry of 25*25 cm increases the production in Rice. Though the practice is now accepted for all type of crops with basic principle of maintaining equal crop spacing not only row to row but also plant to plant giving a plant equal room to spread in all the directions and thus reflecting in productivity. When I joined Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Gadu Spear Head Team in Junagadh District, I was new to the practice as I had just theoretically known the practice but to implement the practice was something a far-flung thought to me. I was supercilious whether the practice will be successful for other crops too (I had known it to benefit Rice and Gram by experiential sharing by my close friend and colleague Yogesh Bhatt in Dangs). When the idea was first discussed with the cotton growing farmers in the Bhatia Cluster (Dwarka District, Gujarat, Western India), as usual there was high apprehension among the farmers for the principle of SRI, there were many reason given by the farmers of not adopting the same. In usual practice farmers here cultivate cotton at a spacing of 5 foot (152 cm approx) between rows while the distance between plants varied from 1.5 to 2 foot (46-61 cm approx). It was a tough task to persuade farmer to increase their spacing between the plants three folds in case of plants to plant spacing and 1 foot between row to row (the recommended spacing for cotton in SRI is 180 *180 cm or 6’*6’foot ~ as per Dr. Satish Subhedar). Forget about the farmers our own Extension workers did not wanted it to happen. As per them this will decrease the trust of the organization in the area and farmer will not listen what we suggested. 

I did not want to lose trust of farmers in the region and my recent joining in AKRSPI sent me to the
The plant of cotton grown in 4' * 4' foot spacing
irrigated in water with salinity as problem
back foot to promote the same. But it was Rajesh (Cluster Manager) who suggested to atleast ask farmer to maintain 4’*4’foot (122*122cm) spacing atleast for a very small area. After a lot of persuasion we could manage just one farmer to adopt 4*4 foot spacing, against the recommended 6*6 foot in a small area of 100 square meters. The farmer named Devabhai Alabhai Varu is from village Gojinesh. This is is to be noted that Gojinesh village lies on the west coast of Gujarat in Dwarka District and this particular plot identified is rarely 1.5 km from sea line, with irrigation water of poor quality, ranging a total dissolve solids from 500 to 1400 depending on season after rainfall. The farmer was again apprehensive initially though he took the suggestion as he was working with organization as Extension volunteer. The variety raised was obvious Bt Cotton, along with the recommended spacing the farmer, maintained proper nutrient supplement of manure and chemical fertilizers and timely pest management treating all its area equally.

We waited for the  crop to come in full bloom and I visited the plot when the balls started to bust and the team AKRSP-India was surprised to see the results. I will explain what I saw in little technical terms:
  1. The lateral branches which had come out of the main shoot of cotton in the identified area had covered the whole space and looked like a separate plant altogether with average length of 3’4” foot while in the control plot the lateral branches were weak and had average length of 1’5” foot.
  2.  The length of the plants was on an average 6’5” foot (198cm) while in control plot it was average 5’8” foot.
  3. The ball number measured in the random 5 plants was 115 per plant in the demonstration plot while in the control it was 82.
  4. The test weight of 5 balls taken from 5 random plants each from control and demonstration plot came out to be 124gm and 143gm per five balls respectively.

The plot was further used for field frontline demonstration for the farmers of villages in the vicinity to show the apparently seen magic of System of Cotton Intensification. The farmers were excited to see the results of the same. Although the constraint being that the practice cannot be adopted in all the cotton growing villages due to the extensive demand of water by Bt Cotton whether or not SRI plot. It is planned that in drought affected villages the indigenous variety Dhummad (Black Cotton), Baralakshmi, will be tested with the SRI technique as farmers used to cultivate local variety in drought situation and it used to give better response to drought then Bt Cotton. I am very hopeful for the next Kharif season to come. It has given confidence to me for carrying our SRI (System of Root InIntensification /System of Crop Intensification) in four other crops namely Wheat, Cumin, Coriander and Gram in the west coastal region of India which is affected with salinity of irrigation water if successful with the same endeavor, I am sure it will also be established that SCI can work in adverse water salinity problem. This reminds me words of Dr. Subhedar “Mother nature is ready to give all its bounty but one need to be careful with it how we should take it”.

19 Nov 2014

Understanding the live concert of micro/macro flora and fauna in soil: Review of  a documentary “Symphony of Soil”

Adam is masculine form of Hebrew word “Adamah” which means soil, so Adam literally mean Earth link, and it is described in 2nd Chapter of Genesis, Adam is fashioned by the god “Adef Adamah” ~out of earth. Eve means life giving, which literally reflects that life, is associated with Soil.
~ Dr. Daniel Hillel, Professor of Soil and Hydrology,     Columbia University
We are made of soil and will let leave our body back to the soil when we die completing the ecological cycle. But the current paradigm of agriculture which has seen the extensively raising crops for profit and the egregious profits (I maintain the power of word to enforce the harm “profit” has done to the planet) rendering land to erosion and degradation physically and biologically. Ever since I read the book “One Straw Revolution” and understood the idea of Conservation Agriculture which I recently came across, I started relooking the soil. It was once when I searched for best agriculture related documentary (thanks to Google) downloaded some and I came across this documentary named “Symphony of Soil” directed by Deborah Koons Garcia. It is one among such documentaries, which is very stimulating and actually changes the paradigm to look towards our soil, whether we want to treat it as a matter of despise like dirt/mud, which is ill or we want it to it treat as mother, giving life and receiving it back. (see “Dirt-The erosion of civilizations” by David R. Montogomery)

I want to bring some excerpts from the documentary which is of relevance and gives friction to current paradigm to see not virtually but actually to  our soil. The different types of soil which are presents on the planet are; Mollisols (grassland soil), Alfisol (forest soil), Entisol (baby soil), Inceptisol (young soil), Ultisol (old soil), Oxisol (tropical soil), Andisol (Volcanic Soil), Histosol (Wetland Soil), Vertisol (clay land soil), Spodosol (cemented soils), Gelisol (permafrost soil), Aridsol (desert soil). The important thing to note is that the soil type defines the type of life intensity which will thrive on them. The more the soil is richer the more the biodiversity will be seen around. The best example is the Indo Gangetic plains of Northern India where first civilization was said to be nourished and flourished and even today it is most densely populated area on the planet. People see it as civilization near river but the truth which cannot be denied all best civilization has flourished no doubt near water but had the best soils too.

It is eminent that the relationship of the soil is in harmony with the surroundings which makes it richer with course of time. The documentary very smartly shows how plants are in cordial relationship with soil and life present in it. Plants after photosynthesis and protein synthesis exudes carbohydrates and proteins around the root zone which attracts microbes and also feeds them. In response to the plants gift to the microbes, they make nutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Sulphur, Magnesium etc available in their root zone, as it happens in case of Rhizobium (converts atmospheric nitrogen to provide to roots) and Pseudomonas putida (solubalizing bacteria). The mycelia of fungus attached to rocks penetrate rocks and leaves cervices for plants to insert and that’s how weathering of rocks happen over the period of time.

The documentary also have widely shown about practices of Conservation Agriculture which is being practiced in different part of the world, with three basic principle of giving back what we have taken from soil in the form of mulch, minimum soil disturbance in the form tillage and maintaining crop diversity and rotation. Farmers have been extensively burning the trash which is not only adding Green house gases but also adds pressure on soil as it loses its biological and physical properties. Also deep tillage renders the soil prone to different type of wind and water erosions which is detrimental to nutrients in soil. The documentary also shows, a practical experiment on the different soils viz. Conventional soil, Organic soil, Organic soil with added manure lastly organic soil with manure and mulch added. It was shown how rainwater in conventional soil takes away the top soil and a very little amount of water gets leached to reach ground water the best results were seen in soil with mulch cover, this is what is endorsed in the practice of Conservation Agriculture if practiced by the farmer as it is sustainable form of cultivation of crops serving and preserving the soil, in Hebrew “Ul Lefdah Ul Sumka”.

The soil which is mainstreamed to be dead is rich of life, micro flora and fauna rich soil, speaks it all in a symphony and it is soil which reflects upon us. Our life and health is a mirror of our doings to the soil as well as on our surroundings. The documentary also tells that the microbes which acts as friends to the plants in poor soil condition they become in lower in quantity  as a result harmful pathogen starts to dominate resulting in increased pest problem for the plant as it happen in the case of Trichoderma and Aspergillus relationship in Groundnut crop. In the absence of Trichoderma the Apergillus niger makes groundnut hosts and cause maladies like collar rot. Taking the example of termites, which feeds on the dead and decaying part left in soil and fastens the decomposition in soil was never a pest (as reported by farmers of Saurashtra, associated with AKRSPI), has now become a problematic pests in many crops as the use of mulch, organic matter in soil has fallen drastically which they feed on. The more the pest problem arises the more a farmer uses pesticides, as I had said in my previous blog on groundnut growers, “farmers use fungicides to control fungal pests which also kill friendly fungus like Trichoderma spp, making crop vulnerable to increased pest incidence in every consecutive season.” This process is an egregious vicious cycle which needs to be checked and that can be done through amelioration of soil health.

The documentary is a complete package to understand soil, its formation and its role in giving and maintaining life in a sustainable manner. It has become dire need to revitalize our soil in order to take sustainable crop production and decrease the detrimental effect on climate and human generation and prominently giving back live to soil which has become dead due to intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides poured in the current paradigm of agriculture. Remedial practices can be like Conservation Agriculture, use of bio-fertilizers, bio-manures, crop rotation and intercropping along with the use of bio-controls and let nature decide for itself, but this can be attained with patience, consistency and perseverance. In the end I quote from the documentary.

“Only rarely have we stood back and celebrated our soils as something beautiful and perhaps even mysterious”

16 Nov 2014

There you go development !! The other side of Goa

“Nilesh a local agitator was beaten till he fell unconscious with his broken hand.”
 “3 cameras of Mr. Rama Velip, were consecutively broken while taking picture of illegal expansion of mine, and he was also interrogated by intelligence in Quepem police station for his movement against mining.”

The mine wash affecting the cultivated land in the downstreams
 These are some incidence of life threatening actions against whistle blower of extensive and illegal mining in Eastern Goa. Mining a highly profitable business of iron ore has taken a toll on people’s life nearby mines, post liberalization of economy. Goa second smallest state by area, contributes 60% of total iron ore export from India. Iron ore production in Goa has always been 100% export oriented. The first export of 100 tons was in 1947. The figure rose to 1 million tons by 1954, 10 million tons by 1971, and 13-15 million tons in the 1980s. Today, due to the high demand of even low grade ore from China, the quantity has reached 33 million tons.

Mining talukas Quepem, Sanguem, Satari, Bicholim have face the jolt of degrading living conditions due to suspended ore dust, degrading potable water, devastated agriculture, frequent accidents caused by speeding trucks and abysmal health conditions causing miscarriages among women and bronchitis to common people. No doubt the mining is generating income for local people but on cost of poor health and breaking society. Inspite of the discord in the mine areas government is considering mining as backbone of Goan economy based on three myths.
Myth 1: Mine brings development; out of 72 mining districts of India 16 mining districts are poorest. In Goa development in mine areas is of only roads to ease the movement of ore to nearest jetties or ports. In contrast to this health service are intact in mining areas inspite of increasing case of bronchitis, asthma and paralysis. Presently there are 172 sub-urban health centre, 30 dispensaries, 123 private hospitals and 24 primary health centre in Goa and while in mine areas they are only 65, 13, 16 and 8 respectively.
The irony of development
Myth 2: Mining generates employment; due to heavy mechanization in mining lease, they don’t need people anymore. A report of National Council for Applied Economic Research provides that mining provides income to 28,750 people Goa out of total work force of 582,274 and out of which not more than 4000 have perennial employment (mere 0.69%). In contrast, tourism industry provides employment to 84,150 (making 14%).
Myth 3: Mining generates state revenue which in returns is used for welfare schemes; mining share in state GDP is 5% in contrast to tourism 14%. The mining stakeholders pay a royalty of Rs 10 per ton of ore and sell it at an average rate of Rs. 5000. The royalty can be escaped by back door or fly by night export of ore as it happened in Karnataka. If a transparent check of irregularities is done will surely reveal a scam bigger than Karnataka.
The issue is on toil; the current Union government on one hand is making the country more conducive to investment and on the other hand is sending our natural bounty to be abused by multinationals and local goons. Union Minster of State for Environment Forests and Climate Change, Prakash Javedkar cleared up 240 projects in initial 3 months of government, the time which is not enough to conduct Environment impact assessment and public hearings in the area of projects. With the tag line of “Make in India”, the current government is all set to take the nation on a development path and growth competent to its neighboring giant (ironically some see this as come Make PROFIT in India). But the question arises what is the cost on which such a growth will be taken. The madness towards achieving high GDP growth rate is egregious in nature which will lead further the huge impact on climate our surroundings and ultimately human beings and also affect the consistency and sustainability of this growth. I am scornful about the development paradigm and longevity of this planet if the madness kept rolling.
When I keep on looking for the answers to alternatives, it reminds me of these lines from a song.

“ ..the answer my friend in blowin’ in the wind”

8 Nov 2014

Ghed: A region practicing Conservation Agriculture by default.

“…sir yahan pe koi bhi hal nahi chalata hai, pani sukhte hi seedhe chane ke beej ki buwai hoti hai” (nobody plough the soil as soon as water subsidize, farmers sow seeds directly)

It was the answer of Bharat- an extension worker of Aga Khan Rural Support Programme-India (AKRSPI) gave to me when I first explained the idea of Conservation Agriculture (CA) to him. CA was an alien thought to me, as it was a friction and an aberration to my paradigm of agriculture i.e ploughing soil to raise crops. CA what I understood has its 3 root principles viz. minimum soil disturbance, maintaining crop rotation with crop diversity and last but not least adding soil organic cover or mulch. Dr. Amir Kassam whom I met in his India visit, made me aware of the revolutionary idea to raise crop without tillage. Although initially it was hard to digest down the gut as I have read and seen farmers raising crops since ages, on pulverized soil and smoothly prepared soil beds, with the help of ploughs and chisels. The inquisitive sessions which Dr. Amir took on the concept and field demonstration given it seemed to be very persuasive in balancing the soil organic carbon and maintain flora and fauna in soil ultimately endorsing sustainability in longer run.  CA on one hand brings sustainability and altogether is believed to cut down the cost of cultivation (like expenses on ploughing)

We in our organization AKRSPI has planned to start with this innovation in its Gadu SHT in Saurashtra region in Districts of Junagadh and Porbander for which farmers are identified in Junagadh District  and for Probandar district which is unique in itself. The region of Porandar district, comes under our working area is called Ghed which means saucer or Pot. The region occupies an approximate area of 28,000 hectare of land (as calculated with the help of Google Map) which are under the similar type of geographical challenge. The geographical challenge which I am talking is that the region receives rain water from its upper catchment and seasonal rivers and gets submersed with water in rainy season (mid July to first fortnight of October). The farmers do not raise any form Kharif season crop (15 April to 15 October) as the rain water submerge not only their lands but causes their house standing alone in between water. The imminent thing is that the natural saucer or Ghed has only two small outlets for drainage of rain water accumulated over the period of rainy season, which open up in Arabian Sea. The coast line length of the region is 32 km approx when calculated through Google Map, where on west is long stretch of seas coast while on East is the long submerged Ghed region. The farmers raise crops in just one cropping season i.e Rabi ( 15 Oct-15 March) with major crop being Gram (Cicer aratinum), Urdbean (Vigina mungo). The selection of crop is based on the residual moisture content in the soil which is gained by the rain water collected in the region.  The type of soil being black loam soil is less percolating and maintains water in the top soil. It is notable that farmers sow Gram, Urd bean as the water starts subsidizing. The soil when seen by naked eyes can been seen deep black in colour, as the water from the upper catchment brings in large amount of top soil to this place along with washed nutrients. While visiting the place in rainy season it can be seen that how grim the life of these people would be but as per one farmer I met, the more the rain the more area will be under gram as the duration of water will be more and which will match with the sowing time of Gram. What we see as problem is of opportunity and livelihood significance for locals.

While sowing was ongoing I went on to visualize the sowing of Gram in the region. The farmers were sowing seeds with the help of tractor mounted seed drill without any ploughing or pre tillage done or seed bed formation. As the land, submerged for three months by the water which had washed the top soil of upper catchments and filled in this region during rainy season, is now ready to sow seed as the land is soft and free from any form of weeds (as in submerged situation weed seeds lose its viability). Another observation which I had seen if the farmers adopted tillage in the region it would lead to two issues, first being stickiness which will adhere to the ploughs and second that tillage will expose the soil to sun and cause water loss by evaporation. The soil when observed by naked eyes after the water dried in the plots, it showed flakes on the top soil as if in a drought area while digging just one inch one can see plenty amount of residual water which flourish the crop without irrigation support. The crop is totally raised on the enduring water which had saturated the soil profile and this can be a bounty that this residual water raises the crop for complete season giving an average yield (1417 kg/hectare) which is higher then national average of India. There is hearsay for the farmers belonging to this region that they go to their field twice in a year, one while sowing and second for harvesting. To some extent it is true, due to the geographical bounty they don’t have to till the soil, sowing is done directly in the soil with seed drill, no fertilizer is applied initially nor thereafter, no weeding is done as it does not arise above economic threshold level (as due to submerged situation weed seeds gets unviable), the only intervention which is done sometime is pest management with chemical control. Although the above mentioned crop cultivation pattern is though not uniform for all the villages of Ghed as there are variation in the region itself but a suitable amount of area is under the practice. What I see this natural zero tilled form of CA is done in the villages which are at the centre of the catchment and getting highest accumulation of rain water. Although we in AKRSPI are about to start with test plots of Conservation Agriculture with Wheat growing farmers in Junagadh district with the combination of System of Root Intensification technique. SRI, of which AKRSPI is now one among the lead organizations to adopt and scale with full gust and fervor, a technique which increases yield at lower cost of production. I am hopeful to integrate the two interventions in a new region and take it further to satisfy as our ultimate end beneficiaries which are farmers and that’s whom we are working for altogether saving environment from ill impact of agriculture interventions be it use of pesticides or carbon loss due to excessive tillage. 

"One picture speaks thousand words"~ Anonymous. Here are some pictorial understanding of Ghed

Ghed region lies in the extreme west of India in State of Gujarat. The red mark in circle shows the location along the seas coast

The marked region on the map shows the Ghed regions its catchment area. The ridge line of one side borders the west-coast.

In the picture arrow on left side shows one of the two outlets of the vast area of Ghed as shown in previous pictures, due to lack of drainage rain water the region remains deluged for whole Khraif season.

The above picture shows four situations viz, submerged land, drained land with rotten stubble of Gram of previous season, sown land and land with germinated seeds. The farmers of Ghed starts direct sowing of Cicer arietinum and Vigna mungo as soon as the water recedes.

The Ghed region when sown completely with Cicer arietinum and Vigna mungo, in the extremes are Windmills installed on ridge line of  Ghed and west coast. 

2 Nov 2014

The Bio-control and a larger picture for Groundnut growers of Saurashtra

Groundnut a major crop in Saurashtra of Gujarat is seeing a shift to Cotton as an alternative. The major challenges which is confronted by the growers the increasing cost of cultivation and unavailability of labor during the harvest of the crop. The two reasons for increase in cost of production firstly being, high pest infestation, leading to increased use of pesticides and secondly being high cost of inputs, including labor. The groundnut which was exported from the region to other countries has now declined in mass as the groundnut is being rejected at international market due to high percentage of Aflatoxin content in the seeds, produce by soil borne Aspergillus niger.

India stands second in cultivation of Groundnut in world after China. Being a major economic crop of Saurashtra, it is seen to play notable role in direct income generation but also has supported the additional livelihood of animal husbandry as the fodder obtained from the crop is very rich for animals. Farmers majorly are affected with low yields and high production cost which is being incurred in the region for which the organization Aga Khan rural Support Programme is working. After a base line survey of the farmers it was found out that farmer are experiencing high cost of production due to exorbitant use of inputs like seeds and pesticides. The major pest which farmers are struck with is different fungal rots of Groundnut viz. Stem rot (caused by Sclerotium rolfsii), Collar Rot (caused by Aspergillus niger) and Root Rot (caused by Rhizoctonia bataticola and Macrophomina phaseolina) infesting at different crop stages.

Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Saurashtra is working since 1984 on issues of drinking water and salinity related problems in coast line of Junagadh District. The intervention under the organization has led farmer to adopt a very simple technology of multiplication of a natural bio-control named Trichoderma viridae which can effectively be used for the control of all type of soil borne fungal disease due to its antagonistic nature. In Kharif-2013 we supported farmers in availing the inoculation i.e. 1 kg Trichoderma viridae bio-control from Junagadh University and trained farmers to multiply it at household level. The process is, mixing 1 kg Trichoderma in completely rotten manure (20kg) and mixing the same. An optimum moisture level is maintained in the mixture kept in shade for next one month by sprinkling water on covered manure. The resultant mixture is now Trichoderma enriched manure, as the live spores spreads in the inoculated manure. This manure mixed with more manure (with as ratio 1:10) is then applied in opened rows behind the seed drill so that the manure remains in contact with seed.
The above said practice was practiced by 140 farmers under supervised demonstration of the organization. After the emergence of first problem of Collar rot due to short rainfall, monitoring data was collected where controlled plot and demonstration plots were compared. In 800 square meter plot infestation rate was calculated by selecting five rows in W shape and counting plants infested with collar rot. Infestation rate was calculated by percentage of healthy plants in comparison with infested plants. Same was done in control plot. The results were very encouraging.

Figure 1: Rate of Infestation in Control and Demonstration plot comparison

In the figure 1 it can be seen the rate of infestation calculated in 40 sample demonstrations done to understand the impact of the bio-control Trichoderma in control of collar rot. The Y-axis represents rate of infestation while X axis represents plot no. It is lucid the rate of infestation was lower in treated plots. And in 10 plots it was nil and linear regression was lower as compared to control plot.
During maturity the crop faces a problem of root rot, in case of rainfall occurrence at the time of harvesting. It was seen that the demonstration plots were totally un-affected by the root rot while the adjoining demonstration plots were affected by root rot. There was rush among farmers to avail the bio-control from the organization, due to non-availability in Junagadh University from where earlier it was brought, contact private players were contacted for Trichoderma and availed to around 546 farmers. There is a very positive wave among the farmers to bring this bio-control in cultivation and I am hopeful that it will be not be a daunting task to scale the use of this bio-control. Talking about the cost reduction of with this bio-control it was calculated with the farmers how cost effective this bio-control is. It was seen farmers had to use chemicals like Mancozeb and Hexconazole as chemical control of the pest which was replaced by the Trichoderma. The cost of engagement of Trichoderma was only Rs. 75 as compared to Rs 499 for chemical control (when used in seed treatment and post emergence control) cutting down the cost of input by whopping 85% which is very remarkable and a success for us.

It is very well know that our Groundnut was rejected by European importers due to high aflatoxin content leading to discouraged prices for farmers. In a paper of International Food Policy Research  (FARID WALIYAR, 2013) it was is endorsed to use Trichoderma to control aflatoxin as use of the bio-control can reduce by 79%. In the wake of an optimistic drive towards natural control and organics all across the country, this experience with the repercussion of a bio-control seems like a tributary to the huge river of organic movement and I am hopeful for the change. 

1 Nov 2014

Following the roots: A tale of twin subjugation

I,  Gurpreet Singh “Dubb”, a low born from Potter caste with his roots from Mannawaliya village in Sekhupura District in Lahore Constituency, in Divided Punjab, now in Pakistan, brings you a account of the struggle of self and family against the powers of caste and communal forces. Although it might be a story of many low born Sikh, it can be reiteration of the same.

My great grandfather Anoop Singh Dubb was one of many families of potter caste, who are also known as Kumbhar (Marathi) Prajapati, Prajapat, Kumhar, Ghumiyar, Ghumar, Kumbhkaar or Kumawat. Today, the Kumhar caste is mainly found in Pakistan and Punjab, Bijnor(U.P.) of India. Some Prajapatis/Kumhars trace the origin of their community to the beginning of civilization when the man started using utensils to prepare and eat food. My caste i.e. dub used to do a particular work of burning/cooking the pots in the furnace.

My Grandfather lived in his hey days in Pakistan, it was the Ghost of partition which in August of 1947 led him to pack his belongings with his one son and the set up he had build over the period of time along with his brothers. He reached India boarding a train in the wake of communal riots all through; it was his fortune that he escaped death narrowly. His only gold belongings which were taken away in exchange of his and family’s life, not many families were lucky enough. The country was falling apart, devastated by the communal riot and the divide which the nation was facing not just being geographical divide but a dividing gorge in relationships between the communities which had conversed with a common language Punjabi and lived a culture with shoulder to shoulder. He reached Amritsar with the family, stayed in relief camps in Amritsar with no imagination what will be life ahead. He worked as laborer in Bahgra Nagal Dam and collected some money to buy some land in Punjab itself but he could not do so due to social pressure and social immobility of caste, as land ownership was social right of the only community i.e. Jat Sikhs. He then moved out of Punjab seeing the oppression done by the upper strata of society. He made a deal of 4 acres of land near Noida (which was a vast forest land earlier). Due to brawl between the owner brothers, the land was not sold even after the half of the money as given to the owner. Later my grandfather moved to Jamghain village in Pilibhit district of Uttar Pradesh, India where he bought 6 acres of land and started his life. With course of time the family size increased and he raised his family of 6 sons and one daughter with tough times.

My father, Mr. Gurmukh Singh, was second older son who took up the education to bring the family out of poverty and the caste oppression and completed his Bachelors in Medicines and thus shifted to a new location Shaktifarm, Udham Singh Nagar District of Uttarakhand. The place where I was born and brought up, is a cosmopolitan place of migrants. It has a diverse population of East Bengal Hindu migrants, post formation of Bangladesh, Sikhs migrants post Independence, Bihari migrants due to severe flood and famine during the independence and lastly hill dwellers or aboriginals of Uttarakhand (Kumaoni) migrated from hills due to land slide on hills. The land which is now a one of richest irrigated flat alluvial plain, was made worth living by the hard work of the four different type of people above mentioned else the area was one of the worst malaria breeding marshy land.

Seeing the importance of land in social relationships and economical support which land ownership gives, my father made a priority to add land to his ownership. Even though the Ghost of caste haunted the family as many a times it was a matter of ridicule for someone from Potter class owning land and cultivating. I still remember one incidence when I was travelling to my village in UP, with my family and a man from upper caste Jat clan had mocked us taking our clans name. I could not understand it much as I too young to make out of the situation. It was also due to the reason as I was raised in Shaktifarm, a town which was heterogeneous in nature and my Sikh caste identity was a matter of shame only in a homogenous population of Sikh, while I was living with Hindus from different origins mentioned earlier. One can see here the eminent fact that heterogeneity brings down the social oppression. In an another incidence from my work, in Gujarat where I was asked for my caste by a farmer, I made a serious talk with the person regarding it and how it is irrelevant today and an archaic attitude but in the end, what I came to hear from him that, “..hum neechi jaati walon ko pani bhi nahi dete” (we don’t normally give water to low born). Now I was no one to make an argument with the man which I saw was in darkness of old mythology.

My father after he migrated to Shaktifarm had completed 5 years approx with a mix population. Days were passing peacefully for my family in the diverse place where my father migrated for a new life, until the evening of 31 October, 1984. It was 16 days later when my family was bestowed with a boy child my older brother Baljeet Singh, tension broke in town where my father had lived for 5 years, had to leave the town late night to the village Jamghain in UP, where my rest of the clan was living. Who knew the ghost of Indira Gandhi Massacre is going to affect our family too. It was after a month when my father returned from the native village to Shaktifarm, realizing that all his belongings were looted from the thatched house. So it was a start again from ground zero, but salute to my dad who never lost hope and kept a great driving force.

Narrating about my Mom’s family my maternal grandfather Late Rood Singh who was a very hard worker lived in undivided Punjab of India, with his 4 sons and 4 daughters. It was when he had to migrate to Uttar Pradesh Sahjahanpur district village Amariya. I realized lately that he migrated due to the brawl with the upper caste Jat Sikhs. He wanted to buy some land and did a deal with a local person in Punjab. Seeing the rising status of a Prajapati Sikh to come at par with Jat Sikh, my maternal grandfather was beaten twice and thrown considering dead. It was then, my grandfather decided to migrate to Uttar Pradesh after selling all his land and property in Punjab and buy fresh lands in Uttar Pradesh. Although it was tough task to adjust a total alien environment in UP as he had no other choice to make.

Currently though the overshadow  of the suppression which my clan had faced might not be seen in the form of direct subjugation but somewhere the identity is covered with the surname of “Maan” as earlier the surname was known from the village one dwelled from (in our case Mannawaliya). Although the surname Maan gives a ease of identity but the root still lies in “Dubb” fearing the humiliation  of society (though it might have changed its form it is still in our society). Somebody said in hindi “Jati hai jo Jaati nahi” (Caste is something which does not leaves your shadow). Not just the only fear but the fear of community of being a minor among the majors also gives a sense of trepidation many a times. It was once when I was travelling by bus from Tuljapur to Sholapur (During my Post Graduation from Tata Institute of Social Sciences), the buses were being stopped by the Nationalist Congress Party workers and their followers as Sharad Power was slapped by a Sikh on live TV. I was worried that my identity will surely make me suffer in the situation; it was when some fellow travelers asked me to hide below the seat. It was one of the reasons when I had to go for a hair cut although there were many other ones too like frequent bullying, neglect of opinion as I had seen this world to be racist and marginalizing. The fear is weakening though but to fight a system one needs to have a immense strength for which one needs to have education, knowledge and more importantly self-veneration

So the narrative just has not only showed the vertical impression of immobile caste but also a horizontal of communal subjugation too not in this generation but since past three generations. I have seen my inclination against the power players in the system, question them, question their strategy and act. Bheemrao Ambedkar said Educate, Agitate and Organize to challenge the system. We see the current India as very non-responsive and educative to the issues of caste but as I previously mentioned caste is very integral to Indian gene and society although there is phenomenon change due to migration to the cities but there are examples from my relatives where the situation is same in Cities. With the changing paradigm of Indian masses and increase in education the logics of Indian masses yet can be seen to be played by communally polarizing the agents in current politics. The current government who is laying the ground on neoliberal communalism to get a win-win situation among voters and the fate is that the collective consciences are relying on them, a bitter truth we are facing today. Although the resistance is still ongoing in a number of parts of country I consider the roots is what still makes u remember what you have gone through. I remember from Games of Throne something said by a character Tyrion Lannister 

“Never forget what you are, the rest of the world will never. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”