Watching the Republic Day Parade this morning. The beauty of India’s rich and diverse cultures is visible in one place in all its splendor in the colorful pageantry of the human kaleidoscope that is this spectacle.
As I continue to explore this amazing land, there is unmatched beauty to be found in its people and their traditional performing arts of classical music and dance, magnificent historic monuments, revered places of worship, gorgeous national parks and their varied flora and fauna and, of course, in the country’s incomparable gastronomic delights. And then there is the advent of technology visible in the ubiquitous mobile phones and IT parks, space missions and, certainly in the continued promise of the demographic dividend that is expected from its population more than half of which is below the age of thirty. And yet, despite all this, India is and remains an essentially agrarian society with more than seventy percent of its population living in rural areas and engaged in agricultural activities.
Happily, great things are happening in India in this most important part of the national economy thanks to the imagination and pioneering work of visionaries like Padmashree Bhavarlal Jain and his companies in Jalgaon.
Last weekend there, I had the opportunity of visiting the Jain Hills, the environment-friendly manufacturing hub and the nerve center of this conglomerate of a variety of high-tech, agri-based industries.
Bhavarlal Jain, affectionately known as "Bhau" whose first death anniversary falls on February 25, 2017 was a gifted entrepreneur and the founder chairman of Jain Irrigation Systems, now the second largest micro-irrigation company in the world.
This is of great significance. The goal of micro-irrigation is the revolutionary idea of maximizing crop per drop of water and this is of paramount importance in water-starved India.
Bhau was a giant among men, a rare human being as a thinker/philosopher, an industrialist, businessman, writer, advocate of the poor, social activist, a staunch Gandhian and a philanthropist. But above all, he was a true son of the soil. He prided in calling himself a farmer and tirelessly dedicated his formidable talents and energies to the education and uplifting of the farming community through innovative technology.
Since his sad demise last year, his four very able sons Ashok, Anil, Atul and Ajit are carrying out this mission with great enthusiasm and determination worthy of their illustrious father.
Bhau is aptly recognized as the father of the Second Green Revolution in India.
But his life story is an incredible tale of imagination, hard-work and a relentless pursuit of excellence.
Starting with humble beginnings in the dry, arid region of impoverished rural Maharashtra, Bhau built an empire of industries that optimize local resources to produce a range of agricultural products providing employment to over 10,000 people all over the world.
The products include, just to name a few – plastic pipes and sheets, Drip and Sprinkler irrigation systems, greenhouses, solar pumps, and facilities for tissue culture, hydroponics, food processing and extensive R&D pertaining to these products, all unmistakably related to agriculture .
The sprawling complex of the Jain irrigation is spread over an area of about 2000 acres on a hilly area outside the city of Jalgaon. This complex is a spectacularly master-planned township in itself with beautiful residences, offices, manufacturing plants and labs, healthcare, educational and training facilities, farms and gardens, independent utility systems and all necessary infrastructure, all carefully laid out amidst greenery that would be an envy of a verdant tropical forest.
Once just barren and essentially worthless hills, this area has now been converted into cultivable land of magnificent orchards and expansive manicured landscapes. This is paradise on earth. Everything is so neat, clean, lush, and top of the line.
Once upon a time, comparing the wealthy Western nations in frigid climates with impoverished but sunny India, it was said that: The West is cursed by God and nursed by man. And India is cursed by man and nursed by God. Well, not true anymore. At least not at Jain Hills where there is every evidence of Mother Nature being further nursed by man ever so lovingly.
But beyond its success in industry and business, the most impressive and distinguishing aspect of the Jain Group is its focus on the environment, renewable energy, social responsibility and employment of the latest technology wherever possible.
The culmination of the sense of social responsibility is evident in the exemplary social projects like the Anubhuti School which is dedicated to creating the leaders of tomorrow, the ultra-modern and essentially cost-free-for-the-needy eye clinic, and the monumental Gandhi Teerth & the Gandhi Research Foundation, undoubtedly the magnum opus of Bhau’s impressive career that spanned half a century.
The Gandhi Teerth, employing the latest world-class audio-visual technology is on par with if not better than the finest museums of London and Paris. Beyond its educational value, it is a place for reflection, meditation and worship. And finally, in the making is Bhau's ultimate dream, the proposed one-of-its-kind University for Advanced Studies in agriculture and water resource management.
While much of this great work is happening quietly without fanfare, there is recognition and there are awards galore. Just for example, recently the University of Nebraska, globally renowned for quality education and research, and the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute honored Bhau for his lifetime achievement. They named their research project as "Bhavarlal Hiralal Jain- University of Nebraska Water for Food Collaborative Program," permanently. He was recognized for "his pioneering efforts starting a new green revolution through his achievements in effective research, sustainable use of natural resources by bringing together farmers, agronomists, scientists, technologists and industrialists for the same noble cause. The scientists joining the university will be honorably called as B. H. Jain Scholars".
Clearly, great things are happening even in the hinterlands of India. Companies like the Jain Group are doing transformational work. That is what India needs.
India is beautiful once we begin to look beyond the pollution, pot-holes and politicians.