Every year, I get an opportunity to travel around the country to get a sense of what the ground realities are ahead of the budget. The programme called ‘Budget Yatra’ is also about reflecting the state of affairs through interviews with people associated with agriculture, industry, exports etc. In the process, I also get to meet some of the best minds in the country.
This time, I travelled around Punjab first, meeting progressive farmers who have been able to break the mould and sustain themselves better. In a village near Bhatinda, a bee keeper decided to do something different when he discovered that traditional farming was not enough to take care of the needs of his family. Today, he is an award-winning honey producer; he is also helping train other farmers. He has also started breeding fish on his 25 acre farm and plans to grow trees in order to start carbon trading. Beekeeping is a tough job and required him to travel with his bees, following the flowers. The travel takes Gurucharan Singh and his team almost all over North India, from Punjab to Rajasthan to Himachal. They travel only at night after the bees return to their hives.
Near Jalandhar, another farmer is consolidating land, he farms in over 200 acres of land – some his own and others leased from his family and friends. Pawanjot Singh believes that the days of subsistence farming are over and that farmers with small landholdings must get out and skill themselves in other professions. He has his own cold storage facility and sells only when the price is right. He has a Japanese company conducting trails for a machine that they plan to introduce in the Indian market. In Hoshiarpur, I met two brothers Varun and GauravVashist, both MBA and Mtech respectively, who gave up their MNC jobs to do marketing for over 300 farmers around their village. Today, they produce, process and even sell their own produce.
Away from the anger, angst and divisive narrative running across the country, these people are focused on doing what they do best!
In Chennai at a shoe factory of the Farida Group, one of the largest exporters of shoes in the country, workers are doing their morning exercise before they begin their day. This shop floor is different because the machines are all manned by women. Infact, over 90% of the workforce is women. The Chairman of the company, M Rafeeque Ahmed, believes women are best at making shoes and also in taking care of his expensive Italian machines. He is driven by passion; I asked him how he deals with all the negatives of running a highly competitive business with external factors not always in his favour. He says he just concentrates in making the best shoes. He felt terrible when he saw thousands of pairs of shoes floating in the water during the floods that hit the region, ‘They are like people, all were crafted with much love’.
These people and many more define what true India is all about; they are passionate about what they do and find solutions. We need a nation of those who seek to mend, not those who are always complaining and seeking protection on one garb or the other. Innovators will always find a way, no matter how tough the environment.
Karma Paljor is Business Editor, CNN IBN