ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From Population to Pests in Punjab

More important than research on cotton pests and pesticides is the need to understand the process of social transformation in 'modernising' environment like Punjab's and a bold plan for mobilising youth.

“I it really true that some Punjabi  farmers have committed suicide  because the cotton crop failed?” I asked a local journalist during my short visit to Mansa – a medium-sized town in the heart of the cotton belt of Punjab. Having done fieldwork for several decades in Punjab, I know that very often murder is passed off as suicide. This is most common among dowry deaths. But how could the robust farmers of Punjab commit suicide because they could not eliminate the cotton pest, I wondered. The journalist confirmed that all the deaths reported in the media were indeed suicides and not murders because of enmity. In fact, the suicide cases are under-reported. I decide to investigate the cause of suicides myself.

A very unexpected event took me to Mansa. A Trust called Abadi Roko Andolan (Check Population Movement) sponsored by a young educationist in Mansa, Ashok Sadiora, had instituted a Population Award last year to honour a distinguished person in the field of population every year (with a cash award of Rs 50,000 and a citation). I was to receive the award this year for ‘academic brilliance’. Mansa district was carved out of Bhatinda district eight years back. It seems, a former chief minister (Beant Singh who was assassinated by militants three years back) had promised two things to the voters during his election campaign: a new district called Mansa, and conversion of Mansa’s private college, Nehru Memorial College, into a government college. He fulfilled both the promises when he became the chief minister.

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