Newcomers show old-timers the way

Several farmers in this region have made a virtue out of imitation. Unabashedly copying farmers from Punjab who have settled here, some local paddy growers have prospered not from the former's agricultural practices besides acquiring their entrepreneurial instincts.

Babloo Choure and his elder brother Raju owned barely two acres in this village, about 10 km from Itarsi, and a marginal farmer's typical life of inadequacies and uncertainties until they learnt from their Punjab-origin counterparts who owned scores of acres of land.

Today, the family of 11 is left with only one acre but owns a combine harvester that is taller than their home. The giant machine is their breadwinner.

"We never thought we would grow rice because we were content with soybean and wheat. When we saw the Punjabi farmers making a lot of money, we simply imitated them," says Raju, who was tailoring clothes before the Punjabi farmers opened their eyes to new avenues. And Babloo says, "We saw how the whole family worked as a unit and toiled despite owning cars that appeared fancy to us. They were always ready to share their practices with us." He points to the combine harvester he bought from a Punjabi farmer he worked for.

Starting nearly two decades ago, many Punjabi farmers sold off their land back home for high costs and bought land in Madhya Pradesh, which was cheap until a few years ago

Rajendra Khanjua, a relatively rich local farmer from Bagra Mana village, recalls how Punjabi farmers bought vast tracts of land that appeared barren and converted them into fertile fields that became the envy of locals. The local farmers had sold their land willingly because there had been no takers back then. It was only when they saw the use of machines and vast agricultural output that they learnt what they had been missing.

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