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

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Travails of the Punjab

Punjab has through the last 50 years gained as well as lost out in many ways, but not on its own terms. Perhaps the average Punjabi is justified in being disgruntled with the way the government has failed to address the state’s long-standing problems.

The partition of India in 1947, the creation of Pakistan, and the division of the old Punjab, hit the Hindus and Sikhs the hardest. Lahore and all the urban centres, which the Hindu trading classes had created, were lost. The Jat Sikhs had created a granary for India, from 1890 onwards, when the British made the great canal colonies from the Jhelum, the Chenab, and the Ravi. Sargodha, Lyallpur, Montgomery and Pakpattan became famous names. The Sikhs had left the impoverished East Punjab for the frontier in the West. They struggled with the elements and by 1940 the fruits of their efforts were just beginning to materialise. In 1947, they lost it all. The land they left was irrigated and rich; they came to land sandy and poor. What is more, it was one-third of what they had left behind.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s secretary Tarlok Singh—later founder of the Planning Commission, and the writer of its first three five year plans—created the graded cut; the big landowners’ shares were slashed the most, while the small farmers were given the highest percentage of their original holding. At a stroke, Punjab had a peasant proprietorship of yeomen farmers, self-cultivating, proud and innovative. They had gone West as pioneers and brought back that bold spirit. They were clear that from far less and poor land, they had to make almost the same income, as they might have had in the West. They took to the innovations of tractors and shallow tube wells as early as in 1950–51. The city refugees came to Delhi and elsewhere in the North. Soon, they were on their feet and looking for prosperity.

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