Punjab: In A Phase of Burgeon or Banjax?
The state of Punjab, which means the land of five rivers, has never been cognized by Delhi till date. What it gets ensuing numerous demographic and political changes are the perplexing circumstances it is facing currently. The positive thread in the ambiance of a rather dynamic and celebrated place has been ruptured as an outcome of the present chaos. The reader might be unclear as to why the state of Punjab is so adamant about getting the laws repealed for what it states is in the best interest of the farmers.
The territory of the State extended from the borders of Delhi to points beyond the Khyber Pass till 1901. Then successive reformation acts and occurrences disturbed the lifestyle of Punjab, the chief one of them was that of 1947. Against the will of its denizens, the territory of Punjab was partitioned. This partition exercise was followed by a widespread and lethal massacre.
The nation saw all-round butchering of children, mass killing of villages, rapes and countless misdeeds between July and September of 1947 and the state of Punjab was not unaffected by them. These were the aftermaths of mutilating a sensitive and distraught territory of Punjab without thorough planning and missing out on safeguarding the interests of the people of Punjab before such a major exercise.
It was posterior to the forlorn first war of independence in 1857 that the British were compelled to shift from traditional recruitment methods to the Martial Race Theory. The Martial Race Theory was one of the handy tools that the British used to bring their Divide and Rule strategy into the application. The theory was used to milk the caste system that pre-existed as a precursor for creating further divides by classifying each caste into two categories namely, Martial and Non-Martial.
As a consequence of the successive events, the British Indian Army started welcoming heavy recruitments from the undivided territory of Punjab around the 1870s. In 1962, Punjab and the North Western Frontier Provinces accounted for 28 percent of the total recruits for the Indian Army Infantry Battalions. The share increased dramatically to 57 percent in 1914.
However, this resulted in a decrease in the share of Madras and Bombay in the Army during the accounted period. The implementation of the theory had devastating effects on the economy of Punjab. [ Martial Races, Theory of | International Encyclopedia of the First World War (WW1) (1914-1918-online.net) ]
About 5 lakh men from those deployed by the British Army in World War 1 came from the province of Punjab. The British augmented their inducting activities during the Second World War and mobilized over a million men from Punjab. In 1947, the partition process created a huge divide in Punjab. As read above, crimes were a mundane thing during the partition. Following the exodus, crores of people were forced to start their lives from the beginning. The newly settled population of the wounded territory of Punjab resorted to the primary sector for its earning.
In 1965, with a Sword of Damocles hanging over India in the form of war with Pakistan, the internal disturbances in the undivided territory of Punjab were a barrier for the armed forces fighting with Pakistan in a full-fledged manner. The then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri addressed the issue and made three promises to fulfill the long-pressed demand of Punjabi-speaking people and to get surrendered the Punjabi leader, Sant Fateh Singh’s threat of self-immolation.
The promises were, first, of further dividing the Indian side of Punjab into two states on the basis of language, namely Punjab, for Punjabi speaking population, and Haryana, for the Hindi speaking population. Punjab Reorganization Act of 1966 provided a district-wise layout with regards to the State boundaries of Punjab and the newly created State of Haryana. [ The Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 (indiankanoon.org) ]
Second, assuring an open-ended public procurement system for the businesses of Punjab. And third, of a guaranteed return on the agricultural produce for the farmers of Punjab. Adhering to the last two promises, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) set up in 1965, started to orchestrate the Minimum Support Prize scheme and the public procurement policy. [Get Complete Information on Annexation of Haryana to Punjab (preservearticles.com) ]
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The reorganization of the state further disturbed the internal functioning of the slowly healing State of East Punjab. [ the Indian part of Punjab was referred to as East Punjab before 1966] The people who started their lives from a new front faced setbacks in trading with the districts lying in the newly created state, Haryana. Although the freshly introduced duties were troublesome enough to make the small traders incompatible with inter-state trade, the recruitable male population policy further pushed innumerable people from Punjab into farming.
The fact that more than 80 percent of Punjab’s farmers hold very small pieces, precisely not more than three to five acres of land. Small farming fields can suffice for at most 2 crops a year. A majority of the region’s farmers grow Wheat (sown in November, harvested in April) and Rice (sown in June, harvested in October).
On calculating the per acre yield of wheat with an assured and reasonable MSP, a farmer earns less than Rs 40,000 per acre after working for 6 months. On deducting the costs, the net monthly income of the farmer translates into a figure less than Rs. 5,000 per acre. (keeping in mind the fact that more than 80% of Punjab’s farmers hold less than 5 acres of land)
Depriving the farmers of the tool that safeguarded their interests since 1965, the present government is not only ripping them off their very basic rights but also conferring reasons to justify the ongoing agitation. The above-mentioned figures are yet another piece of paperwork, overlooking the indebtedness of the farmer that is existing since British times. It, when coupled with an intention to take away the cardinal rights of the farmers of a convulsed region, becomes a deadly tool, readily in the hands of people with power to be used to satisfy their interests.
–Written by Mrutyunjay Saramandal
(Writer, The Legal State)
– Edited by Samarth Pathak
(Editor, The Legal State)
Constructed from The Indian Express editorial ‘Punjab Ki Baat’, published 28th January 2021.