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Demographic Socio-Economic Profile of Punjab

Er Mohinder Singh

For many centuries the Punjab remained on the caravan route of traders and powerful invaders who frequently invaded through India’s North-West frontier for exploiting the economic resources and inflicting organized plundering and massacre of innocent peace-loving people; before enforcing their ruthless dictatorships over the state. None from amongst vast Indian communities ever came to the rescue of Punjab is in these long crisis of history. The Sikhs always challenged these tyrants through self-developed patriotism and inborn martial spirit to continue relentless fight to defeat the evil designs of foreign invaders and restore rule of law. By these sacrificial spirit the Sikhs always won the Nation’ extreme gratitude for being great freedom fighters and ‘sword-arms’ of the country.

Besides, the atrocities of past centuries’ the post Independence period from 1947 also did not bring lasting peace and development in Punjab. The four wars against Pakistan on Punjab borders, 1966 linguistic division of the state, operation Blue-Star at Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, and the Sikhs’ genocide in Delhi and other places in the country in 1984, further brought multiple problems for planned infrastructure and socio-economic development in Punjab. In between these serious ground bottlenecks, the Punjabis helped bringing green revolution by making the country self sufficient in foods grains for the first time. Then came a decade of gory period of total collapse of law & order in Punjab due to short-sighted policies of the Central/State governments. These further affected the Sikh psyche & brought countless miseries due to disruption of normal life of people of state. In-spite of half-hearted diagnostic studies the effective roadmap of socio-economic development, on long-term basis for improving the severely fractured Demographic characteristics of Punjab, was neither seriously projected nor implemented. A few ad-hoc measures were only applied.

Demographic Characteristics of the State:
According to Oxford Advanced Dictionary, study of statistics of births, deaths, diseases etc; to show the condition of a community, is defined as demography. The study of Census of India 2001 reveals vital statistics on socio-economic factors based on religious based composition of Punjab:

A) All India (2001 ): Total population of India / 1,028,610,328 & of Punjab /24,358.999 (21.54 %)

i) Sex population .... All communities Males/ 532,156,772 All communities females/ 496,453,556

ii) Religions-Hindus/827,578,868, Muslims/138,188,240, Christians/24,080,016, Sikhs/19,215,730

iii) Population %(1991-2001)- Hindu/80.5%, Muslims/13.4%, Christians/2.3%, Sikhs/1.9% (2% in ’91)

iv) Growth rate %(— DO)-Hindus/20 %, Muslims/29.3 %, Christians/22.1%, Sikhs/16. 9 %, (25.5% in ’91

* Above figures confirm that Sikh proportion & growth rate from census period 1991 to 2001 reduced from 2 % & 25.5 % to 1.9 % & 16.9 % respectively; in comparison to increase in other communities. The Sikhs proportion in defence services, which was previously over 28 % of population, has currently reduced to 1.9 % due to new population recruitment criteria. The reduced employability of Sikhs in forces is one of the major causes of rural heart burning. Out of total Sikhs population of 19, 215, 730, the component in Punjab comes to 14,592,387 and the remaining 46,23,343 reside in all other states of India. The estimated 6 crores of Nanak Panthi Vanjaras are not included in Sikh figures. According to Prof. Harbans Singh’s Encyclopedia of Sikhism (p/14, vol-iv) there were considerable Sehajdhari Sikh population in NWFP & Sindh provinces (2,82,000 in 1931 ). As per census-nearly 6.5 % of total Sikhs). But after partition they became widely dispersed in country at different places and found excluded from Sikhs enumeration figures in Census 2001. There seems an urgent need of examining this census factor. B-Punjab (2001): Total population —24,358,999; .. Rural-16,096,488; Urban-8,262.,511

i) Rural.-Sikhs/11,567,437, Hindus/4,064,199, Muslims/215,516, Christians/211,160, Others/35,330 ii)

ii) Urban- Sikhs/3,024,950, Hindus/4,933,743, Muslims/166,523, Christians/81,649, Others/54,027

Total——Sikhs/14,592,387, Hindus/8,997.942, Muslims/382,045, Christians/292,800,Others/90,337

iii) Sex ratio-Sikhs/897, Hindus/846, Muslims/793, Christians/893, All religious communities/876

(All-India— ratio-Sikhs 873-lowest, Hindus 931, Muslims 936, Christians 1009, All religious communities/933 )

iv) Sex ratio age 0-6-Sikhs/780, Hindus/821, Muslims/879. Christians/870, All religion communities/798 (The community’s lowest child sex ratio of780, against National average of 927/1000 is quite alarming)

v) Literacy rate-M/F -Sikhs-72.9/61.2,Hindus-80.1/68.3,Muslim-57 .2/43.4,Christians-61.4/4 7.0

The Punjab’ demographic statistics confirms that over 75 % of Sikh population reside in rural areas. Where socio-economic developmental lacks. Deterioration of religions values and unemployment crucially affect the Sikhs. The infant mortality rate @ 44 per thousands birth is yet quite shocking in comparison to some other developed states. Punjab’ bias against female child reflects badly from the figures recently published by the Registrar General of India (Birth/Death). The rotten state of rural schools education is causing large scale school drop-outs and lack of job opportunities. Till end of 2006 there were 4,63,229 registered educated un-employed in the live register of Employment Exchanges. Many yet to be included in this un-employed list are those who seldom visit Employment exchanges for registration Still over 14 lakhs persons are living below poverty level in Punjab.

The migrant labour from Bihar, Eastern-UP or other places are mainly engaged in un-skilled jobs or on daily wage basis in farms, construction and industry. The Punjabi youth is unwilling to undertake these jobs being status conscious, nor he is interested to involve himself in the hereditary profession after some diversification In depression and idleness they are becoming drugs addicts straying away from basic Sikhs codes. Our Sikh institutions are also finding helpless to provide awareness/career counseling or assisting them for educational /vocational training for improving their eligibility for finding alternate job opportunities. The frequent Kirtan Darbars, Gurmat Marches, Gurdwaras buildings renovations etc have failed to create healthy religious impact to turn them back to Sikh mainstream ..

It is claimed by the Punjab Government that thirteen Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are in pipeline for execution shortly for infrastructure -industrial development. The SEZs along others like IT Hubs/Knowledge/Textile/Pharmaceutical Parks, food, Milk/Agro-Processing units etc; together with implementation of Rs.12,000/-crores Bhatinda based mega petro-chemical Projects is likely to create additional jobs to the extent of five lacs annually for professionally trained educated youth of Punjab. But the planners failed to take note of the ground realities that suitably qualified/trained youth to handle these projects are yet to be groomed in Punjab. Obviously the outsider qualified youth are likely to grab many higher posts on all these conceived projects’ -leaving some semiskilled/unskilled jobs for the locals. Now recently the Chief Minister of Punjab approved a policy document, “Training and Employment Strategy of Punjab Government”, to enhance employability after providing mass scale vocational trainings. The project is good on papers but its implementation on ground is likely to take few years. However, the poor financial status of the Punjab Government create doubts for early execution.

In-spite of Punjab location at hostile National Border the Central planners failed to encourage any large-scale heavy industrial investment to promote ancillary industry & Entrepreneurship Development within state. Without long-term visionary steps, it can hardly provide better employment potential & to improve poor economic health of the state. But coalition type of governments, at both Centre & State, seldom plan out or execute any project(s) on long-term basis without entering into some compromises.

The 20-districts of Punjab constitute total of 141-Development Blocks and 12,421 villages. Unless. Block-wise socio-economic need based development plans, of at least 10-years duration, are formulated-with local people’s participation, the chronic malady of un-employment and educational promotion is not feasible for improving Punjab Demography. The 2001 census figure reveal that about 50 % of population is in working age-group 16-45 years. We need to educate & vocationally train such youth force for constructive but gainful employment opportunities. The government functioning within their respective 5-years’ tenure and vote-bank politics can hardly bring favourable results. Out of all communities the Sikhs, specially of rural areas, are much more discriminated and remain under-privileged in spite of their immense sacrifices and contributions. Even the basic human necessities like water, electricity, roads, education & health facilities are normally denied to them.

Sikh Vision-2020; Panthic dedication to 300tb.year Gurtagadi Centenary 2008
The Sikhism’ daily prayer of ‘Sarbat-Da-Bhalla’ reflects a unique commitment for human welfare world over.. A true Sikh cannot sit idle to wait indefinitely for a outside help. With Guru’ grace and following enlightened guidelines of ‘Kirt karni’ and ‘Wand chhakna’, we have to work out some community’ service projects under divine principle of - “Aapan Hathhi Aapna Ape Hee Kaaj Swareya”, We have a self- developed fine infrastructure with large number of Gurdwaras in every comer of cities & villages Besides, number of historic Gurdwaras, Deras, Bhawans & 3 - sacred Takhts in Punjab having mega complexes each earning lakhs of annual incomes from Sangat donations. In view the prevailing demographic crises few welfare projects can be initiated, first by utilizing our existing city Gurdwaras infrastructure and a fraction of their earnings in form of ‘Daswand’ -without disturbing their routine Maryada and managements’ authority. My suggested 6-points module of help-lines is based on:

1. Requesting institutions to create Endowment Fund, individually or in collaboration with likeminded, out of contributory ‘Daswand’. A local Project Committee be constituted in association of few subject specialists Senior Citizens in trade of banking, industry, health, education, business & legal matters etc.

2. In response to applications the Committee may invite the short listed likely beneficiaries for interview & appraisal of their respective project/need and release assistance after providing counseling! guidance The monitoring of assisted project may be carried out in phases after release of grant

3. Atleast once a month such committee should also meet at an adopted village for services & also for imparting Religious/Heritage awareness to youth in collaboration of village Gurdwara/Panchayat.. Spot study of village problems and solutions can be worked out by joint interaction during these camps.

4. Awareness of various government development schemes may be imparted by inviting Govt. Officers of select departments at central or village level meets. The grievances of villagers, if any, be got settled through mutual cooperation or by providing legal aid and operating the Right to Information Act

5. Premises for stay & langar should freely be made available to villagers visiting cities for works or youth visiting for career/educational exams or job interview. Girls/women to be provided extra security.

6. Such counseling-cum-help line services offered in Gurdwara premises, at the cost of sponsoring institution(s), is likely to create more attraction to the youth to revert back to main Sikh values.



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