Saturday, August 25, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Of American bollworm and desi babas
Gayatri Rai

Bathinda, August 24
As farm scientists have failed to control American bollworm farmers of the cotton belt have turned to ‘tantriks’ and ‘babas’ for some remedy to the problem. And these ‘babas’ are minting money out of the helplessness of the farmers.

The farmers after spending huge sum of money on pesticides which were recommended by the Agricultural Department found that these were ineffective. The pesticides did ‘no good’ to control the bollworm and there was no hope for them. The ‘babas’ knowing well that the farmers had no option left have started exploiting the situation.

The already debt-ridden farmers are not willing to spend more on pesticides as these have proved useless. They are searching for some cheap supernatural and miraculous remedy to the problem. The ‘tantriks’ and the ‘babas’ claim they will make the bollworms ineffective although they will not be killed by using the supernatural powers that they possess.

The modus operandi of different ‘tantriks’ and ‘babas’ operating from different towns and villagers of the area is unique. All of them claim that with magical and divine powers they can control the bollworm.

A number of these ‘babas’ have been in this business for the past many years. They know that the farmers would do anything to get rid of the problem of bollworm.

The most famous of these ‘babas’ is one who is running his ‘business’ at Maur Mandi who claims to have ‘healed’ the cotton crop of atleast 72 villages of the area. He maintains a record of the farmers who have been blessed by him and their cotton crop freed from bollworm.

When this correspondent went to the ‘dera’ of Ujjwala Nand Giri at Maur Mandi a large number of farmers gathered there. They were there to collect water which was to be sprinkled in the field after which the bollworm would become ineffective.

Ujjwala Nand claimed that he wakes up at 2 a.m. every day and after chanting hymns for more than five hours the water gets blessed which is then distributed among the farmers. He claimed that the magical water prepared by him did not kill bollworm but made it ineffective.

When the farmers who were present there to get the magical water were asked about the effectiveness of the same, said they were not sure about it. They added that they had come to collect water in the hope that some miracle would happen. They said when the scientific methods of spraying pesticides had failed they had to come to the ‘baba’.

One of the attendants at the ‘dera’ said the popularity of the ‘baba’ had spread even by Chandigarh. He claimed that the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal had donated Rs 2 lakh to the dera.

Another ‘baba’ at Haboana village on the Punjab and Haryana border gives ‘dhoop’ (incense sticks) to the farmers. He recommends 1 kg of the material for one acre. Although he does not charge any amount from the farmers yet if they give him money he accepts it.

While these ‘babas’ have been in their ‘deras’ for many years, residents of Manwala village near Sangat mandi in the district were surprised on Thursday when a ‘baba’ came to their village for their rescue.

Residents said they were blessed by the God who had sent the ‘baba’ to their village. The ‘baba’ who did not reveal his identity to the villagers gives a thread to them after putting magical powers in it. He asks them to dig up one corner of the field where American bollworm has attacked and put the thread in it.Back

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