Punjab is a story of strength and determination. It is a land of spirituality, courage and enterprise. Punjab has suffered innumerable losses in the past and what makes it unique is its ability to bounce back from crises. When India got Independence, Punjab was a major sufferer of partition. Not only many people lost their life in the riots that ensued partition but many had become permanently homeless and had to start afresh to build their life. However, the geographical, mental and emotional qualities of Punjab were enough to understand opportunities hidden in green revolution. By the end of 1960’s, Punjab was a major producer of food grains which include rice and wheat.Green revolution brought prosperity to Punjab and opened a window of assured income to farmers through public procurement.
However, Punjab lives in highs and lows. A stable growth is just unlike Punjab and one can find political and economic sentiment in Punjab swinging from one end to another end. The green revolution was followed by a disturbing phase of militancy and violence. The period from end 1970’s to mid 1990’s is still fresh in memory of Punjab. From the prosperous days of green revolution, it had entered into dark phase of terrorism and fear which killed many years of Punjab’s enterprise. However, Punjab is different from many other insurgency-hit states of India. For example, the insurgency and separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir has continued for more than 30 years now without any agreement between the internal politics of state to resolve the issue and bring peace to state. The Union government has always played a key role in trying to settle issue of Jammu and Kashmir. In case of Punjab, things were drastically different.
The people of Punjab had realized that the violence was not going in anybody’s favor and it was time to bring peace to the state. When Beant Singh won the elections, not many would have seen him as the one leading the charge to end terrorism. Beant Singh and KPS Gill remain instrumental in ensuring that the state was brought to normalcy. However, Beant Singh had to give his life for this cause when he was assassinated. This aspect is very crucial to understand the mindset of Punjabi community. They are essentially inclined to look for a peaceful and prosperous place in which they can showcase their enterprising talent. The migration from punjab to foreign land is also due to this mindset which is inclined towards growth.
Post-1995, Punjab has not only bounced back to normalcy but has also showcased a robust growth in agriculture. However, the hangover of green revolution along with pampering by state has led to overdependency of Punjab’s farmers on public procurement system. And this is true even for other areas like Haryana and Western UP who have benefitted from public procurement. Farm Laws, introduced in 2020, have serious structural implications for the states which benefitted from green revolution. It affects not only those who are involved in farming but also strikes the kind of politics which happens in farm economies. For example, if Punjab levies 6 percent mandi tax, then it also gives power subsidy of almost 10,000 crore every year to farmers. So if mandi tax goes away, it shrinks further the space for political parties to give free power. Ultimately, subsidy will have to be phased out if state has to save itself from the brink of collapse.
But the issue of subsidy is not unique to India. World over, agriculture is supported by subsidy. In fact, India can get wheat at lower price from America than produce itself. But the issues of food security cannot be dealt solely from perspective of financial benefit to the state. The food security is crucial to a populous country like India and grain surpluses in warehouses cannot be a singular reason to move to free market. Another important point is that why diversification has not picked up even when so many experts are advocating that. The major reason is that diversification is not providing sense of security which monoculture is providing. While creating insecurity in monoculture can be one way to push towards diversification but it is equally important to create security for non-food grain cultivation.
Punjab is at cusp of change. In fact, whatever is the fate of farm laws, Punjab has realized that over dependency on agriculture and public procurement has put it in a perilous situation. The current system is putting pressure on Punjab in all the possible ways viz. environmentally, physically, socially and politically. It is high time that Punjab should not only diversify its agriculture but also move away from agriculture strategically. It is time for it to move towards high-end technology services and reap the fruits of its fertile minds while giving time for its land to rejuvenate. It is also high time that center should understand uniqueness of farming states and handhold them to a better world rather than create a web of insecurity around them. All said and done, Farmers’ protest are a precipitating point in history of Punjab and surely, Punjab will come out better and stronger from this crisis and create a bright future for itself and the nation.