The rot within: Punjab reeling under a host of problems

Published : Mar 23, 2023 10:55 IST - 1 MIN READ

A farmer burns paddy stubble at a field near Jalandhar.

A farmer burns paddy stubble at a field near Jalandhar. | Photo Credit: PTI

A miasma of problems looms over Punjab’s agricultural and industrial success.

Punjab has been the greatest beneficiary of the Green Revolution, which began in the 1960s and made India self-sufficient in foodgrains. It enthusiastically embraced the possibilities of technology-led farming practices that quickly led to massive growth in outputs and was accompanied by a boom in rural incomes. Simultaneously, it emerged as an industrial powerhouse.

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Down the decades, however, successive governments in Punjab failed the State. From downplaying reports of depleting groundwater and the over-reliance on rice and wheat to ignoring rising farmer debts and a festering drug culture, key issues were left unaddressed. The simmering discontent has now manifested in a sudden revival of the separatist agenda.

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Rural indebtedness is an enormous problem: of the more than 9,000 farmers who killed themselves in the 2000-2018 period, 88 per cent were deep in debt.

The epidemic of drug abuse shows no sign of abating. For instance, heroin seizures in 2022 touched 647 kg, up 14 per cent from 568 kg in 2021.

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The State and Central governments must act urgently to address the core issues facing Punjab and help this strategically important State get its mojo back.

More than 9,000 farmers committed suicide in 2000-18 period, 88 per cent of them in debt.
Unemployment at 6.8 per cent; 34 per cent among women in State.
Fertilizer consumption per hectare is 223.46 kg, compared to national average of 90 kg.
Groundwater levels are falling by 0.49 metres a year.
At current rate of depletion, groundwater in first 100 m will get exhausted by 2029 and drop below 300 m by 2039.

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