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Changing Demography of Punjab

Er Gurcharan Singh

The invited scholars will speak on specific areas of changing demography of Punjab. All of them may not be able to cover the entire gamut of changes. Therefore it is in the fitness of things to give an overview of all aspects at least in qualitative terms. Details of each area could perhaps be handled by future writers as the importance of this subject becomes a matter of concern.

I admit I am not a professional sociologist, economist or a population expert. My own observations and analysis therefore may be viewed in this background.

The areas which need to be studied are:-
1. Population growth in general and its effects.
2.Out- migration and in-migration in Punjab.
3. Gender inbalance by social evils like infanticide or foeticide of females
4. Effect of Govt policies on education, public health, industrialisation, transport infrastructure, information technology on employment and lifestyle of community.

1. Population Growth
Population of Punjab has grown from 7544790 in 1901 to 24289296 in 2001, Growth rates varied between 6.26% in 1921 and 19.76% in 2001.

The growth is eating up all that has been done in terms of housing, schools/colleges, hospitals, industries, transportation sector etc; but surprisingly population control is a forgotten subject.

After the fiasco of birth control movement of 1975 during emergency, nobody is concerned. Whereas China has introduced one –child norm, we are shying away from the subject.

The result is growing unemployment, long ques in hospitals, bus stands, railway stations; chaotic traffic, crowded markets, tense parents while seeking admission for their sons/daughters in schools/colleges etc. Because of getting things done anyhow from govt agencies, rampant corruption prevails.

The priorty of population control has to be put back on rails.

2. Out-migration and in-migration
Because of serious unemployment, and not satisfied with conditions at home, educated youth are looking for greener pastures abroad. Even others, hearing stories from their brethren and allured by the dollar, take recourse to illegal and unfair means. They are outright cheated by unscrupulous agents who charge and grab their hard earned money, or money obtained by selling their small farms. More often they are arrested enroute and rot in foreign jails facing untold misery and causing great pain to their dear ones.

In-migration started after the green revolution from over- populated states like UP and Bihar etc to provide cheap farm labour as a result of mechanized farming..The traditional helpers having gone to other trades to man the small scale manufacture of trollies and other farm gadgets.

The influx is now regular and covers other activities such as loading, unloading brick kilns, textiles and other industries, consumer markets, domestic help, building construction – in short anything.

No doubt they contribute to the state economy, but also bring with them their poverty, backward culture, caste ridden society, language – seriously affecting the state’s social, religious and political fabric. Serious thought is required to regulate their intake, status, rights, to acquire land/property by suitable legislation

3.Disturbing Gender Balance
The picture that is emerging is as under:-

year sex ratio* sex ratio 0-6 age
1951 844  
1961 854  
1971 865  
1981 879  
1991 882 875
2001 874 793

* females per 1000 males

Infanticide of girl child was prevelant earlier also for fear of dowry demand at the time of marriage.

But this menace took an ugly turn when determination of sex of the foetus of the pregnant mother became technically possible. Now foeticide of female is being resorted to; this is shameful. Sikh Gurus had strongly forbidden infanticide of girl-child and a kudi-mar was expelled from society. Even then Sikhs are not lagging behind in the sinful act. Jathedar Akal Takhat has issued a hukamnama against this, Govt has passed laws againt dowry and against sex determination and killing of foetus, but with very little effect. Serious steps are needed at societal level to eradicate this evil. Apart from imbalance, this is likely to increase crime againt women.

4.Effect of Govt Policies
Each area will be briefly discussed:-
4.1 Education: So far Govt policies have stressed higher education in engineering, medical, management, information technology fields.During last 5 decades engineering and medical colleges have increased manifolds with, private sector contributing a lot, necessitating setting up of a Technical University at Jallandhar, and a Medical University at Faridkot. Management and computer studies are now becoming part of syllabi. The output has resulted in employment of engineers, doctors managers and computer experts mostly in Govt Departments, and public sector and almost one third in private sector.

School education in rural areas is in a dismal state. Lack of facilities, shortage of teachers, and lack of control have ruined the system. Urban schools are much better, and some private schools in villages are doing well; but only rich farmers can afford to send their children there. There is hardly any intake from rural areas to colleges for higher studies. Even PAU gets its freshers from cities.

ITI trained rural candidates however get absorbed as artisans in industries, but some wait to get employed. General education except for a few good students, swells the rank of the unemployed youth.

4.2 Public Health
Taking Chandigarh and Mohali as samples, from a single general hospital, we have now PGI, Sector 32 multi specialty large hospital and Fortis hospital (privately set up) Many private clinics have come up for general and special services. New cardiology hospitals like Appolo at Ludhiana and Escorts at Amritsar have come up. A new medical college hospital and a Medical University are at Faridkot, in addition to a private Dental College. The govt set ups are however in doldrums for want of qualified doctors, infrastructure and supervision.

Oldest medical colleges at Amritsar an Patiala have deteriorated for want of modernization and maintenance.

Overcrowding everywhere is to be seen to be believed, district hospitals are of indifferent standard. The affluent get attention in Fortis or other Private hospitals, for specialised services, but the common man is always referred to PGI or Sec 32 adding to their burden. Large inputs are required to put the health services on proper footing.

4.3 Industrial Policy
The major inputs by the centre were Railcoach factory at Kapurthala and Diesel Maintenace unit at Patiala; Another major input has been revolutionary improvement in communication system The state set up Punjab Tractors at Mohali (now autonomous)

Milkfed associating with cooperatives was another venture that brought white revolution. Otherwise the main thrust has been on medium and small units mainly in Ludhiana, Jallandhar, Fatehgarh Sahib and Patiala disitricts. These include rolling mills, agro, textile, chemical, and manufacturing units employing 1205562 employees with production value of Rs 56000 crores. For promoting transport, a network of roads connecting all villages; and highways for intercity fast traffic are a big investment which have changed lifestyle of public.

The employment in organised sector, Public and Private, is around 773000 and number of job seekers about 467000.

Increase of highly paid executives/ professionals has added to upper middle class; they live in luxury houses, drive A/C cars, own computers, live a life of consumerism tendencies.

5. Summing up
With time new situations arise. In the foregoing paras a broad analysis has been made. It is for the intellectuals and leaders of society to debate and come up with ideas as how to control population explosion, how to handle out and in migration, what changes to suggest to Govt to modify policy for primary education in rural schools, ensure health services to common man, how to reduce frustrating unemployment on one hand and callous consumerism on the other to avoid tensions in society.



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