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The Sikh Global Village BoliviaDownload Synopsis


Our contract stated that if we did not like the land our money would be refunded. Since we were dissatisfied, we approached the Company for refund but the promoters fled away to Costa Rica. The promoters comprised of three partners, a Swiss, a German, and a Bolivian. They sold these lands to Americans, Canadians, and Swiss. They promoted the lands all over the globe including Philippines and Pakistan. I was the first to arrive. Others arrived within the month. Since one-year time limit for refund of money if dissatisfied, was coming to an end the promoters fled. The Swiss guy was jailed for couple of days but he managed to leave the country. Because of language difficulty we could not file suit. We decided to stick out because we had already put in investments. Land is fertile and good for agriculture but there was no water and the country had no policy for developing agriculture. Inputs and seeds were difficult to get, marketing of produce was difficult. Additionally during the first five years, we had major problems because of run-away inflation. On arrival at our lands, we had to sleep on the railway station with no proper shelter in cold and rain. Local people tell lies and one cannot trust them. So we had to think on our own as no advice was available. In the face of so many difficulties we began to discuss options of going back. But the stigma of failure was difficult to face. We couldn’t even go back to Germany because of the changed laws for immigrant workers. Option to go to USA was also ruled out. We therefore decided to make the best of the existing situation. A start was made by clearing six hectares of land. We planted corn and had a good crop of 40 quintals per hectare. Due to inflation we could not sell the produce. We then decided to diversify into poultry and piggery using corn as feed. We faced the same difficulty in selling chickens and pigs. Now we had neither the corn nor the chickens or the pigs. After four to five years we gave up farming and related ventures. In the beginning, our visas were extended for 1-3 months at a time. After a year it was extended for two years and finally I got a visa for indefinite stay. We abandoned the land and decided to move to the city around 1985-86 to carry on some business. During the visit of my elder brother to Bolivia in 1990, I got married to a Bolivian.

She is a teacher in a school. I have a son and a daughter. With hard work I have made some success of the business and I was able to visit India with my family last year. I am presently a construction contractor having ten employees. Subsequent to abandoning the land, our ownership was cancelled.

Majority of Sikhs came in 1984 -85 when the Punjabi population grew to about 400. Subsequent migration was basically transitory, final destination being North America. Several of such immigrants had to cool their heels in Bolivia for four to six years during which period they did odd jobs or businesses. Most of them were on tourist visas, which were easily extended but the authorities have become strict now. Local Sikhs were always very helpful to sponsor their visa extension. Most of these migrants were from the Gulf who did not want to return to India”......

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