Peace and Prosperity in Punjab

India – our homeland which feeds us every day is home to civilization 10,000 years old. India is not just a piece of land south to china or east to Pakistan. It is a country where 1.21 billion people come together, people like you and me. These people are farmers that toil all day long in fields to feed us. These people are workers who risk their life and limbs working in factories to shape things that make our life comfortable. These people are soldiers who stand guard our borders every second of every day so that we can live in peace. In such vast treasure of culture, Punjab occupies a special place. The north western state has a proud history. Who can forget the brave men of Chamkaur or the Udham Singh’s avenge the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh. End of March, which brings back sacrifices of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru & Sukhdev has seen Punjab reel in communal tensions.

The pious land of Punjab has been marred with riots and bloodshed in the name of religion. Partition of 1947 saw saw massacres, mass murders, burning villages, rapes, hunger and what not on both sides of the border. Humanity could sink no lower & human could not be more inhumane. People with dreams of an independent India went through nightmares that no human being deserves. Father who fought in the battle for independence, whose eyes have grown old to see his country’s flag fluttering in sky, had to run a sword through his daughters so that they don’t have a hell on earth! Is this independence we fought for 200 years? Is it India/Pakistan, martyrs died for? No, certainly not.

Punjab has a lot of bigger issues to dwell upon. Punjab has been agonized by low sex ratio for some time now. What is the meaning of all the prosperity and comforts if you can’t protect half or I must say just “almost” half of your population? Recent census suggests sex ratio in Punjab to be 876 i.e. 876 girls for every 1000 boys. This is ridiculous even by India standards. More disturbing than this is the fact that child sex ratio (children between ages 0-6) is 798. The discrimination of pink and blue is quite pronounced in these figures. Improving medical facilities are being misused & selective abortions have become a trend. Unfortunately, the statistics are worse for Punjab. Yes, days of infanticide have gone. But now there is darkness. We say women are safe in Punjab. They enjoy freedoms, liberties and rights much like their male counterparts. Such statements seem far fetched when one can’t protect life of girl child in womb. The life of women is not valued, rather despised. This problem is not just limited to rural areas but shockingly it is more prominent in urban areas. Unfortunately, in rural areas, there are not ample facilities to nurse a woman during child birth but there are good enough for selective abortion. Tragedy is sex ratio at birth is worse for literate families (749 in census 2001) than their illiterate counterparts (845). It is even worse when the parents of fetus are graduate or above (732). So, we obviously cannot blame the illiterate and ignorant. In-fact, thank god that we have some illiterate and ignorant people otherwise god bless Punjab!

Moving on, just 55% of our households have both electricity and toilet facility. A mere 49.9% are in “good” condition. A meager 33% of our families cook using LPG. Most villages in Punjab have irregular power supply. Power is available during the night only. This renders institutions like hospitals, schools and banks in difficult situation. This has increased dependence on diesel generators which are an expensive option and cannot be afforded by normal people or schools and small dispensaries. Part of this problem is attributed to the perception of general population that they should not pay for the electricity as it is their right to have free access; the mindset of people has to be changed so that they understand that you got to pay for services provided. While India is facing a power crunch, they should be looking at alternative sources especially solar and wind which has been widely used in most parts of Europe. Over the years the water table has dropped significantly in most parts of Punjab. There was a time in 1960s farmers were able to extract water using manual methods, i.e. bulls used to turn the buckets (Halts/Thindhas), the depth of water was approximately 10m. The current water table is generally now at 30m which is extracted by electrical means. The situation of drinking water and irrigation of farms in Punjab would only worsen unless remedial measures are put in place in more systematic manner.

However hope is not lost. We still have a good HDI of 0.679 which is way above the Indian average of 0.547. We may not be greatest but we certainly are very much capable. But in order to do so, we must stand together hand in hand. After all, any kind of communal conflict or civil unrest has never served anyone well except for those with vested interests. We have to understand something that Benjamin Franklin said in beautiful words “There was never a good war or a bad peace.”

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