Maj Gen Goverdhan Singh Jamwal (Retd)
It is a matter of great satisfaction that after a toil of 10 years we have virtually felt ‘Dream Come True’ with the introduction of over 1 Lakh Tetra Packs of Phalsa (Grewia asciatica) Fruit Juice, Health drink (Shivalik Berry) by the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM) starting with the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) with the blessings of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji. In this regard we appreciate the efforts of the IIIM under the dynamic Director Dr. Ram Vishwakarma and his team and Shri M K Bhandari, CEO, SMVDSB who has made it available to the Vaishno Devi pilgrims at his counters, where it is most needed particularly by those who are trekking on foot as it not only quenches the thirst but is also a unique herbal drink known for its medicinal properties. It is said to be good for heart and blood disorders, fevers and diarrhea. The fruit is also good for the troubles of throat. According to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian treatise on medicine, the fruits are cooling, tonic and aphrodisiac, they allay thirst and burning sensation, remove biliousness, cure inflammation, heart and blood disorders and fevers. The bark is used as a demulcent. It cures urinary troubles and relieves burning sensation.
Since the plant is broad leaf plant it will also provide environmental protection against the devastating fuel gases being generated by ever increasing vehicles on the roads. Besides it is an ecologically friendly plant as it not only conserves water by ground recharging but also prevents soil erosion which has reached menacing proportions in the Shivaliks particularly after the Shivalik Nallahas have been denuded of sand and stones for the development. Infact it is an ideal plant to ensure “Eco Eco must Echo together” i.e. ecology and economy must go together. It is indeed a boon for the pilgrims to get a pure health drink prepared under the strict quality control requirements at the automatic plant at HPMC, Parwanoo, Himachal Pradesh in hygienic Tetra packs.
After initial success of 10,000 bottles IIIM has manufactured more than 1 lakh Tetra Packs produced from the choicest fresh fruit with a view to launch the product this year. IIIM had to source the fruit from other places to achieve its target of producing nearly 1.2 lakhs tetrapacks. Since the product has been appreciated and is selling as the choicest Health Drink as compared to prevalent juices and soft drinks, IIIM has decided to produce 1 million (10 Lakh) Tetra Packs for this summer. As Phalsa is an indigenous plant of Jammu region it is a boon for the people of this region to take to Phalsa Plantation in a big way which will not only offer something local to the pilgrims and tourists but will also generate income for the farmers / growers and vendors. IIIM Jammu is trying to increase the cultivation of this crop to increase generate raw material for the entrepreneurs to produce the products from this fruit.
As our Shivaliks have almost become bare, devoid of green cover, it is not possible for it to hold rain water with 1200 mm rainfall annually in the Shivaliks. The Phalsa plantation covering the entire area will not only transform it into a green oasis but will also improve water conservation through ground recharge in the wells in the plains area in the foot hills of Shivaliks which have now started drying up in summers with water levels dropping by 20 feet or so. It is indeed a boon for all, a win – win situation, which will improve income generation at village level through its products with end to end technology developed by the IIIM being made available.
It is a great challenge for the people of the Shivaliks who have been clamouring for Job opportunities and sustained development. There can’t be anything better than taking to fruit and herbal culture going for Mangoes, Amla, Behra, Harad and other Medicinal Plants of the Shivaliks with Phalsa for intercropping which will bear fruit within 3 years and will be viable as experimented at village Suchani and in the Chatha Farm of IIIM Jammu which has achieved a yield of 4-5 Kgs per plant, which means Rs 400 worth Phalsa @ Rs 100 per Kg. In other words a small orchard of 20 kanals (1 hectare with 400 plants is worth Rs 1.6 Lakhs), presently accepted as a viable unit by the Department of Agriculture and Horticulture for providing subsidies which includes assistance for irrigation also, will be economically viable for a farmer within three to four years. The Phalsa leaves will provide excellent fodder for milking cows which otherwise have to depend on expensive green fodder from the irrigated areas of Jammu plains along the Border. It can also provide an excellent alternative to Gujjars and Bakarwals in the area who are finding difficult to get fodder and space for their large hoards of animals.
It is a matter of great joy for the people of Suchani who started Phalsa plantation in an organized programme under J&K Paryavaran (Environment) Sanstha in 2000 in the barren land of Madan Lal Badyal. He and his Comrades deserve all the Kudos for perseverance in creating this success story which would not have been possible without the joint program of J&K Ex-Services League and Dr. Ram Vishwakarma, Director IIIM. Now it is the turn of the people of Jammu to take advantage of the success story and show to the Country what people of Jammu can do and, of course, the challenge is also thrown to the new State Govt. who have promised sustained and equitable development for all the regions of the State.
Maj Gen Goverdhan Singh Jamwal (Retd)