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The Sikh Global Village BoliviaDownload Synopsis
 

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unemployment. A huge gulf still separates this divided society, with half the population immersed in the contemporary world and half who remain subsistent peasants. La Paz is the world's highest capital city at 3,600 meters above sea level. The adjacent city of El Alto, at 4,200 meters above sea level, is growing at a fast pace. Santa Cruz, the commercial and industrial hub of the eastern lowlands, is experiencing rapid population and economic growth.

The Eighties Immigrants
The Lonely Planet Travel Book says: “Santa Cruz’ longstanding reputation as a drug-trafficking Mecca is now being eclipsed by an agriculture boom. The region boasts rice-growing Japanese colonies as well as settlements of Italians, Indian Sikhs, and thousands of German-Canadian Mennonites. The region has attracted Brazilian opportunists, foreign oil workers, agribusiness tycoons, drug traffickers, scientific researchers, missionaries and environmental activists”. Into this conglomerate and diverse environ and a scenario of conflicting interests and politically unstable country, rushed in the Sikhs of Punjab. Jat Sikhs have a passion for owning farm land and what could be more attractive than owning hundreds and thousands of acres at dirt cheap prices - $30 per hectare. The prospects were all the more tempting for the Sikh immigrants from the Gulf countries with ready cash and the high prices of land in India. The Sikh problem in India in the Eighties was a powerful trigger for migrating and settling abroad. In this background a proposition of buying land to settle abroad, never mind how far away the location ( or in some emotional way the farther from India the better!) struck as an opportunity not to be missed. In this emotionally charged times, caution was thrown to the winds. There was already a talk by Sikh Separatists of setting up Khalistan Headquarters in Ecuador which was also in South America.

International magazine and news papers had tempting advertisement for vast areas of farm land being sold in Bolivia at cheap prices. Many Sikhs started buying land. The entire project seems to have been master minded by a few groups of Immigrants many of them working in the Gulf countries but some involving even senior Government employees of Punjab since retired. It was a well spread-out network but with limited investigative scrutiny prior to venturing out. Even in the recent interview words were used to claim that “Punjabis are expert farmers!” and that they were bound to succeed. It was with this high moral stand that they rushed in. The initial years were good but instead of consolidating their gains, most rushed into buying more land, machinery and chemical inputs in the hope of harvesting gold. The problems got compounded due inadequate rains. With heavy loans for machinery and debts for fertilizers, pesticides etc, the Immigrants faced hostile creditors and Government Agencies. Where the original defaulters had run away, the compatriot guarantors were in deep trouble.....

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Article Published in The Sikh Review - January 2005 - No. 625
 
 
 
 
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