He was earning well in Italy. One fine day, he packed his bags and returned to Jammu … to do farming

Jammu-based Suersh Baru had to move out of India in 2003 due to family circumstances. He moved to Holland and then shifted to Italy, where he made good money. After this roller-coaster ride, one day, he packed his bags and moved back to India to be a farmer

Deepak KhajuriaDeepak Khajuria   16 Oct 2019 6:39 AM GMT

He was earning well in Italy. One fine day, he packed his bags and returned to Jammu … to do farming

"I feel educated youngsters should also take up farming. In terms of agriculture, our nation is growing at par with European countries as our farming techniques are as superior as theirs. For any country, farmers are as important as soldiers. After all, we all grew up with the slogan Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan," said Suresh Baru, 49, who lives in Kanaal village in Jammu.

His life has truly come a full circle. In 2003, at the age of 33, he had to move out of India due to family circumstances. Completely on his own, he found himself in Holland. Then some people suggested he moved to Italy, where he lived for more than a decade and earned good money. After this roller-coaster ride, one day, he gave it up all and moved back to India … to do farming.

"It's far more exciting to be a farmer in one's native land than working in a foreign country," said Baru, 49, who does farming, and also runs a small dairy business. He lives with his elder brother and his family.

Baru, who graduated from Sainik School Nagrota, Jammu, and has good command over Hindi and English, chose to speak to Gaon Connection in the local language, Dogri and claimed that he is too shy to give interviews to newspapers and magazines.

"I had to move out in 2003 due to family circumstances. I have a strong belief in astrology and some astrologers had suggested then that I moved to a foreign country if I wanted my future to be bright. I landed in Holland, where I didn't know anyone. I managed to get some work there. Then some well-wishers, who were Indians, suggested I moved to Italy, which according to them was a better place to work," said Baru.

Though he struggled to settle down before moving out of India, but things worked out for Baru in Italy. He worked at a factory and later was promoted as a managerThough he struggled to settle down before moving out, things worked out for Baru in Italy. He worked at a factory as a manager. Pic: Deepak Khajuria

Though he struggled to settle down before moving out of India, but things worked out for Baru in Italy. He worked at a factory and later was promoted as a manager. However, something kept him restless throughout his foreign stint.

"I could never think of settling in a foreign country. Though I managed to do well, I was feeling connected with my homeland and had this strong intuition that I would come back to my country someday and work here," said Baru, sitting in his lush-green paddy field.

When Baru returned to India in 2012, he was told that his stars were not aligned then and he was asked to stay away from public life for a few years.

"It occurred to me then that I could serve my own people. That's when I discarded my jeans and donned the traditional dress that farmers usually wear. It wasn't difficult to start a dairy farm and do farming as I had 14 acres of ancestral land near my home in our village," said Baru.

Baru started with paddy as the land is very fertile in this belt of Jammu region and paddy is the preferred crop just like in Punjab. Two types of paddy are grown here – local paddy and the hybrid one.

"These days, farming is not an easy business. But you can still make profits. Normally for one kanal of land (8 kanals is equal to one acre), one requires half kg of hybrid basmati rice seeds. It costs Rs 30 per kg. A tractor costs Rs 400 per kanal. Labour cost for seed sowing in a kanal land costs around Rs 300. Then there are other expenses too, like essential medicines to save the crop from insects and cost of motors used for irrigation. Once the crop is ready, it is time for cultivation and again the labour cost goes up to Rs 300-400 per Kanal," he added.

Since Baru has been doing this for years, he has learnt the tricks and trades of farming.

"When it comes to selling paddy, the government rates this year for the best crop is Rs 1,825 per quintal for hybrid and Rs 3,000 per quintal for the ordinary crop. From one kanal of land, we get 1.5 quintal hybrid paddy crop, which means it is the best possible crop in this area. If a farmer chooses to not hire any labourers, he can still have good produce and save at least 50 per cent margin after selling the crop," said Baru, adding: "The same basmati rice then sells at Rs 9,000 per quintal in the wholesale rice market.

Back in the day, when he had decided to switch to farming, his family, friends and relatives weren't very excited. After all, he had managed to earn a fortune in Italy.

"I don't have any modern farming equipment, not even a tractor. But I had a will and I took it up as a challenge. I wanted to prove a point that by sheer hard work, I had managed to do well in a foreign country and I wanted to do the same in my country. I wanted to prove a point to the youngsters here that our land is a goldmine and one should think twice before heading abroad and working under foreigners in their country," said Baru.

Baru ventured into his dairy business around the same time he took up farming. "I purchased a Jersey cow. I had no experience of handling a bovine, but I managed as I come from a family of farmers who live in villages. I now have 5-6 Jersey cows and supply around 80 litres of milk to the market.

One Jersey cow costs around Rs 50,000, but back then, it cost him Rs 30-35,000 per cow. This breed of cow normally gives 20-25 litre milk daily, depending on her fertility.

When Baru decided to switch to farming and dairy business, his family, friends and relatives weren't very excited. Pic: Deepak Khajuria When Baru decided to switch to farming and dairy business, his family, friends and relatives weren't very excited. Pic: Deepak Khajuria

Earlier, Suresh began by selling milk to his fellow villagers at Rs 20-25 per litre a few years back, but later when he started getting orders from the nearby town of Bari-Brahmana, he increased the price to Rs 25-30 per litre. And now he is selling at Rs 45-50 to the market.

"A new system has started in our villages. Some private brand has started Bulk Milk Collection Centres (BMCC) in our villages. It's feasible, but their rates are little low as compared to private markets in nearby towns," he added.

Dairy farming is a tough job, but it is cost-effective as we feed the cows raw oats in summers and black grams in winters in addition to green grass and some medicinal plants as advised by veterinary doctors.

"Overall earning from a dairy farm is good and I am planning to expand it now. I am producing two crops in a year and I am also growing seasonal vegetables," said Baru. He recently led a delegation of villagers to the Jammu Member of Parliament Jugal Kishore. They requested for construction of a link road near his fields so that the villagers can plan some agriculture-related projects for the welfare of youth living in his village. He urged other villagers to be in touch with the authorities which could help the village.

"I don't do these things for publicity, but being the son of a farmer and an indian villager, I feel that there is no big service than being a farmer in our country. I would feel very proud if my cousins, friends and other villagers also take up farming.

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