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The Sikh Global Village BoliviaDownload Synopsis


Some had to face jail terms. With the arrival of bad times, it is clear from the interviews that it brought the worst amongst the immigrant community in terms of personal values, relationships, jealousy, backbiting and generally a poor community spirit despite earlier initiative to set up a Gurudwara. The immigrants do not seem to have done their homework properly and failed to learn lessons from earlier immigrants’ experiences.

The alternative of buying more costly land but with better irrigation prospects was not pursued by any of the immigrants. There was more of herd mentality and attitude of bravado rather than an investigative and properly planned strategy. Many invested large funds in co-operative ventures where no proper accounting or systems were put in place resulting in all kinds of bad blood, quarrels, legal cases and some imprisonments. Many of the negative traits of the “Jat Sikh” came to fore. However the faith in “Waheguru” still exists amongst those who have stayed back.

The Gurdwara
In the Eighties, Sikhs built a Gurdwara, 60 kms from Santa Cruz in a picturesque location along the rail road track to Brazil. The community cannot afford any more a full time “granthi” and the earlier incumbent has moved to Argentina. A part time clean-shaven Sikh helps run the place. Although earlier on most Sikhs used to attend the Gurdwara on Sundays, “Sangrads” and Gurpurbs, it is now only the very devout who visit Gurdwara regularly. But “langar” is available for a visitor and it does still provide a gathering venue on occasions.

A Failed Co-operative Venture:
This is a story of one of the larger ventures. It would appear that two brothers had master minded one Co-operative Group of about 35 persons. The project involved units of two hundred hectares each but partners were free to subscribe to any number of units including part units. There were 38 units, each with initial purchase price of $ 6,000 making a total investment of about a quarter million dollars. Additionally, all partners were asked to contribute about $ 30 - 50 a month totaling about $1500. A bulldozer was used to uproot the trees and they themselves would clear behind the dozer saving labor cost. Some of the partners did not migrate themselves but sent their representatives to Bolivia. A tented village about 130 kms from Santa Cruz was set up for living. Provision for water had to be made. There were a lot of mosquitoes and living conditions were tough. It was a slow process of development but money was coming in from the partners. When the funds got exhausted, additional contribution was asked for against which some partners contributed but some did not. The first call was for $500 per partner which later became $1,000. This was repeated for two years. The project investment mounted to almost a million dollars. Since no profits were in sight disenchantment set in. Some people went away feeling disgusted. Although initially every one was enthusiastic, fissures started appearing within a couple of years. Infighting, bickering and quarrels became the order of the day. The complaints were in regard to absence of proper accounting by the sponsors. The project was bound to create inter-personal problems due to lack of transparency, cost over-runs, absence of systematic accounting and reporting system. The professionalism needed for a project of this size and complexity was totally missing. It was run more like an H.U.F. by a “Karta” and not as a corporate entity with 38 shareholders. It was decided in 1992.....

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