PUNJAB SOME VITAL AND INTERESTING FACTS
by Dr. Gopal Krishan
Punjab has been the gateway of India in the Past, "and as 'such, had a position of commanding significance in the history this sub-continent. It has been aptly called the sword-arm of India. Some of the foreign battles that changed the course of Indian history were fought either on its soil or in its close vicinity. It has also been the birthplace of one of the most dynamic-and the youngest of great religions of the world. It is, therefore, worthwhile for the Punjabis wherever they may be here or abroad, to know some' of the essential facts pertaining to Punjab, so that they may establish o deeper fraternity and a closer intimacy with the land of their origin.
This traditional land of five (Punj) rivers (ab) whose ancientness is traceable to the beginnings of time has been subjected to several territorial changes and re-organisations before and after independence. But it assumed its present form only as recently as in 1966. In the Process, it became demographically more homogeneous but got reduced to one-seventh of its area size that it had before the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.
Punjab is today the only Sikh majority state of India. According to the 1991 census, 63 Per cent of its total population is Sikh, 34.5 per cent Hindu, 1.2 Per cent Muslim, 1.1 per cent Christian, 0.1 Per cent Buddhist and Jain each, and the remaining few adhering to other religious persuasions. Around 85 per cent of its people are Punjabi speaking.
Covering an area of 50,362 sq. kms., Punjab recorded a Population of 20 million in 1 991 . lts population is larger than that of Australia. On 1 .5 per cent of the country's total area, it accomodates 2.4 Per cent of the total population of India' The State is divided, into 17 districts, 55 subdivisions and 137 development blocks for administrative and development purposes.
Although an inland by location Punjab behaves like a coastal state. Emigration from here has been continuing for about a hundred years. Punjabis are found in large numbers in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, Southeast Asian and East African countries. An outgoing orientation on their part is manifest also because of a long tradition of army service in many families. Their share in defence forces is five times of their percentage in the total population of the country. They have also migrated in large numbers to newly ieclaimed agricultural lands and prominent cities in other parts of India arrd the world.
It is anomalous that Punjab, with the highest per capita income among the various states of the country, should be among the areas of the highest migration. Migration from here is not rooted in distress. lt is stimulated by a desire to achieve higher levels of prosperity by striking it rich and making a fortune abroad, wherever it is feasible to achieve it.
Punjab is distinguished for its most successful Green Revolution. Agriculture is now highly commercialized and is made a prosperous venture. The State is the largest contributor to the national pool of wheat and rice for the public distribution system.
Punjab is mainly a flat, featureless plain. Nine-tenths of it is at an elevation ranging from 300 metres in the northeast to 180 metres in the southwest. The Shivalik hills, 300 to around 1000 metres high, make a distinct appearance all along the northeastern border. Sand dunes are sporadically distributed in the southwest.
The Ravi, the Beas and the Satluj are its perennial rivers. Their waters are of the highest significance and importance to the Punjab agriculture and its progress and well being. The Bhakra-Nangal Power and irrigation Project has transformed its own economy as well as that of the neighbouring states. The Rajasthan canal, one of the largest in the world, originates from the Beas-Satluj confluence at Harike. lts water is made available for irrigation in the Rajasthan desert.
Punjab has successfully spearheaded the green Revolution in the agricultural sector. The greater use of high-yielding varieties of seeds, chemical fertilizers, tube-wells and Pumping sets and the adoption of modern agricultural machinery by Peasants have been largely responsible for the rise in production of food-grains in the state,
The state has a semi-arid to sub-humid climate. Rainfall -decreases from around 100cm. in the northeast to southwest. Irrigation is indispensable for good agriculture. This challenge has been admirably nret. 89% of Punjab's cultivated area is irrigated, which is the highest percentage for any Indian state. ln Ludhiana and Amritsar districts, virtually the entire cultivated area receives irrigational facilities. On the whole tube wells take care of about 60 percent of the irrigated area and canals of the remaining 40 percent o' "l
Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, has played a key role in revolutionizing the field of agricultural production. As a result the per hectare production of wheat and rice is said to be the highest in the country. Wheat is the king crop, sharing 40o/o of the cropped area. Rice accounts for 25o/o. Both are cash crops. Cotton is grown over 10o/o of the cropoed area. Vegetables, mainly potato and onion, utilize 5% of the cropped area. lnfact, the state's contribution to the central foo-d kitty surpasses that of others. The per hectare utilization of fertilizers in Punjab is also the highest in the country. Again, Punjab tops in quality cane production in the country. The number of tractors used in the State is also the high
The Rice, which is not a soil friendly crop for Punjab, due to the semi-arid climate of the state, demands heavy irrigation, and is largely dependent on tube wells for this purpose. The excessive withdrawal of sub-surface water has caused an alarming decline in the water table. Thus the agricultural prosperity of the state also carries a lot of ecological cost.
The state enjoys the distinction of having the highest daily wage rate of Rs.16.44 in the country for the agricultural labour. There are about a dozen milk plants in the public, co-operative and private sectors to provide marketing facilities to milk producers throughout the year. As a result, the per capita availability of" milk has risen to 524 gm. as compared to 160 gm. in the country.
Punjab's performance in the industry does not compare well with its success in agriculture. The state is a priority area for agriculture at the national level, but not for industry. The pace of industrialization has been steady rather than rapid. Recent policies aim-at giving a spurt to industry. There is a significant success in this domain also. Gains in industrial development would have been greater if the state had not faced the recent political turmoil which roused a feeling of insecurity among the enterpreneurs. An effective, clean and stable government in a peaceful atmosphere would attract capital from outside also, giving it a strong industrial base soon.
Much of the industry in the stdtyis agro-based, processing agricultural raw materials, producing agricultural inputs, or agro-income beneficiary, responding to a lucrative rural market. Food products, textiles, sugar, fertilizers, agricultural equipments, rerolled steel, machine tools, sports goods, transport vehicles, and electronics rank high in the inventory of industrial products. Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar are the most industrialized districts and are famous for woollens, sports, plastic and cast-iron goods, radio parts, musical instruments, sewing machines, bicycles, machine tools, farm implements. electrical and optical goods, chemical and acids. Verka is known for its dairy industry, Batala for engineering and foundry work, Pathankot for its timber market (now in doldrums) and saw-milling industry, Patiala for electrical appliances, steel forging and a host of light engineering industries, Nangal for the chemical fertilizer plant and Dhariwal for being the oldest woollen industrial centre. The establishment of rail coach factory at Kapurthala has provided a new dimension to the development of Punjab. Mohali, near Chandigarh, is now coming up as an important centre for the manufacturer of tractors and electronics.
Punjab can boast of hundred percent electrification and adequate means of irrigation. Practically every village in the state is electrified and is connected with a paved road. The important irrigation schemes implemented since 1947 are the Bhakra Nangal Dam, the Bhakra canals, the Harike barrage with a lined canal called the Sirhind plant, and the reshaping of the Madhopur water works into a barrage. The Pong Dam on the Beas river is an important hydroelectric project-its fourth unit was commissioned in October 1983, while the second unit of stage ll of the Ropar thermal plant began functioning two years later. As per available statistics about 36.21 lakh hectare area is being provided with irrigation facilities by a vast network of 14,482 km, of irrigation channels and 6.47 lakh tubewells. The utilisation of water in the state is the best in the country.
Several central villages of Punjab have acquired urban functions of an agricultural market centre, a health centre and a college. Towns are closely spaced and rural urban commuting is common. ln contrast to the general pattern in India, the ave.rage assets of a rural household are two times greater than those of its urban counterparts in other states. The incidence of rural poverty is less than that of the urban poverty as compared to those in other parts of the country.
lfrAbout 30 per cent of Punjab's population is urban . lt is distributed amongst 120 urban habitations. Among these ten of them have a population of more than 100,000 each . These include : Ludhiana (1, 042, 740), Amritsar (708, 835), Jalandhar (509, 510), Patiala (253, 706), Bathifida (159, 042), Moga (1 10, 958), Abohar(107, 163) and Batala (103 , 367) . The State is urbanizing fast in consonance with its industriat advancement. lf the present trend continues , Punjab would be an urban majprity State by 2020.
Traditionally Punjab has been divided into three regions : (i) The Majha located between the Ravi and the Beas (ii) the Doaba, located between the Beas and the Satluj and (iii) Malwa located between the Satluj and the Ghaggar. All these regions are seperated'by rivers. ln the past, they had developed some specific characteristics, reflected primarily in their dialects and the spheres of social interaction. A,\ Superimposed upon this tttUitional regionalisation of Punjab was its division into the British administered territory and princely ruled states during 1849-1947. The former covered 55 per cent of the present area of the State and the latter 45 per cent . The former registered a faster development than the latter.
The pattern of development since independence has brought further changes in the re gional geography of the State. Now it can be divided into three regions based on the level and nature of socio-economic advancement. These include : (i) The Central Region, covering the districts of Amritsar, Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib and Patiala, which are the most developed ; (ii) the Northeastern Region, spread over the districts of Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Rupnagar, which is comparatively the least developed ; and (iii) the Southwestern Region, including the districts of Firozpur, Moga', Faridl<ot , Muktsar, Bathinda, Mansa and Sangrur, which are moderately developed as comqared to the two other regions.
Punjab need's to be visited by all those who wanl:to see a hardworking and dynami,c people striving joyously to improve their life and living. lt is a model for what an Indian state can achi,eve through its agricultural transformation, rural-urban integration. and enterprise of the people Amritsar is the holiest city for the Sikhs lts Golden Temple is visited by devotees from all over the world. Ludhiana is the only metropolitan city in this yrart of India. The Punjab Agricultural University located here has made a significant contribution to the agricultural advancement of the State. Patiala still retains some of its historic past for it has been the seat of government of a princely state.
Thus this state, which has a fertile soil a strong and sturdy people fired with it rare enterprising zeal, a rich cultural heritage a glorious history needs to be further studied and get acquainted with, by all those who love it.
A view of Bhai Gurdas Library, Guru Nanak Dy University, Amritsar
Blessed by the Gurus the Punjabis are also famous for their service to the downtrodden and the sick Pingalwara of Bhagat Photo: G. S. Heera
Photo; H. S. Baiwa
Photo H. S. Bajwa