Oil boom: Harvesting gold from guar
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Till last year, the routine of Budharas Mali's life was set. For a quarter of the year, he was a farmer. For the rest of the eight months, he worked as a mason on a daily wage of Rs 500. Every day of the year, he dreamed, of providing a better life to his wife and three children.
Then the US saw a "fracking boom" (Hydraulic fracturing). Mali isn't sure exactly what that is but overnight, the price of his guar crop, that would often lie discarded around the village, soared. Courtesy the oil boom, his thatched hut has given way to a two-bedroom house with marble floors, granite counters and expensive tiles. His wife now flaunts her silks even as her rising stock of gold and silver jewellery stays locked for special occasions.
"Our guar crop changed our lives. All this is bought with guar money," Mali says, a glint in his eye.
With prices rising almost 10 times from Rs 3,900 a quintal to Rs 30,000, Mali has made a fortune selling just 12 of his 45 quintals.
His story is not an isolated one in Nokh village. Buddharas's uncle Kanwar Lal Mali hosted lavish weddings for two of his sons with his guar earnings. Around 200 of the 1,000-odd households in the villages have a tractor each now, some own SUVs, the women now boast of expensive jewellery and all the mud huts have been replaced with concrete and rubble masonry houses — replicas of upscale houses in nearby Jodhpur.
Budharas's friend Shravan Kumar Solanki, an undergraduate student who works as manual labour, has read that India grows 90 per cent of the world's guar produce and that the fields of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and some parts of Punjab spill over with the seeds. However, even Solanki has but a vague idea of how these seeds are linked to an oil production boom thousands of miles away.
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