Rural Economy of the Punjab
The situation in the Punjab is like an egg, smooth and well contained on the surface. Press reports of the Punjab leading in many fields compared to other states in the Union of India, especially the big states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa have made Punjab bask in a false sense of self-satisfaction. Steadily, the position of the Punjab in the state-wise comparison goes on receding and states like Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are developing much faster in a serious bid to overtake the Punjab in primary sectors, like education, industrial development, energy, scientific advancement and water resources. Even in agriculture which is the main-stay of the Punjab, compared to Uttar Pradesh and more recent strides made in Bihar, its paramount status is fast eroding due to dwindling water availability and its dependence on work force from those states, now increasingly finding job avenues at home locations. In Education, once backward states like Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Orissa have constantly improved their position in comparison to the prevalent lassitude and stupor in the Punjab. The resplendent shine of the healthy egg with its smooth surface breaks into an unbearable stink when cracked and its veracity stuns the bleak reality. Comparisons are lop-sided and odious. The vital point is the gap between the available resources with the planned requirements of the vibrant people of the Punjab and their genuine expectations.
Punjabis have always been fond of a good life, good times and rich food habits. In more recent times, the after-effect of the much touted Green Revolution and White Revolution only added to their consumerism and penchant for ostentation. The restless spirit of the Punjabis has increasingly sought an easy but noxious way into narcotics. As a result, they have unrestrictedly become victims of intoxicants as never before. It is easy to find reasons and blame circumstances like a regular channel formed by the foreign sources of narcotics passing through the Punjab, to hide their weakness of character, but that is neither the reason nor the solution. Geographically, the Punjab has always been strategically located for the contrabands to carry through to the Far-east and Middle East Asian markets. It was the inner strength of character developed through the discipline bestowed by the Sikh Gurus which acted as a shield against all inducements. That guard has now been virtually discarded by the ignorant and misguided youth to their severe detriment, along with the discipline and dedication of the Sikh moral values. The term 'Sikh' once signified a hard-working, honest and diligent person who always achieved greater results, be it as an agriculturist, soldier or trader. The Sikh moral code is very much available, to be imbibed by the whole wide world. The malady lies in their lack of self-discipline, with apathy and lethargy feeding their small ego that finds petty means as adequate to earn just enough, eclipsing their aspiration to higher ambitions and objectives. The conventional character of an honest, hardworking Sikh was so attractive that H.H. Sir Ganga Singh, the Maharaja of Bikaner especially solicited Sikh peasantry to transform the Sri Ganganagar desert into a veritable agricultural heaven, comparable to the best of the Punjabi lands, citing prophetic blessings of Guru Gobind Singh ji. Whether it was the thickets of Kumaon hills in Uttar Pradesh or the Chambal barrage lands in Kota, Rajasthan and hinterlands of Madhya Pradesh, Sikhs (not North Indians) were preferred to develop the arid lands by those state governments.
Their hardihood has attracted notice in Australia, Malaysia, Canada and many other countries besides their traditional influx into UK and USA. Wherever the Sikhs have migrated, prosperity has followed them, for which the single motivating factor has been the emotional and cultural impetus bestowed on them and blessed by the moral traditions infused by the Sikh Gurus, to found a unique character of honesty, hard labour, deep devotion and love of humanity in the minds of the Sikhs.
The Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, with the inspiration of its President, S Pritam Singh, IAS, (retd) organised a conference for an in-depth study of the present scenario in Punjab, (briefly reported by Ishwinder Singh in our Issue of April-June, 2010) on Rural Economy of the Punjab. We dedicate the present issue to highly motivating papers contributed by experts and authorities concerned with the present economic conditions and avenues of development of Punjab which will be of long term relevance in diagnosis and resurrection of the dynamic people of the state of Punjab.