Gilbert Lobo Bombay

If we eat well in 198586, some credit has to go to the Sikh farmers of Punjab.

Out of the 11.45 million tons of rice procured for public distribution in 1984, as much as 9.87 million tons of 86.2 per cent has come from Punjab. Out of the 9.28 million tons of wheat procured in 1984, five million tons or 50 per cent has come from Punjab.

Sikhs, more than anybody, have been responsible for the surplus food in our granaries. As a minority man, I strongly feel that Sikhs represent what is militant and dynamic in India.

Sikhs have relatively shed more blood for India than any other community. Out of the 2125 martyrs for freedom, 1557 or 75 per cent were Sikhs. Out of 2646 sent to Andamans for life sentence, 2147 or 80 percent were Sikhs. Out of 127 Indians who were sent to gallows, 92 or 80 per cent were Sikhs. In Subhas Bose’s army of 20000, 12000 were Sikhs and Sikhs were just 2 per cent of the total population.

A capacity to absorb scientific technology is the hallmark of a Sikh farmer. While the food grain yield in rest of India is just 1.5 tons per hectare, there are districts in Punjab where the farmers have reached world standards of five tons per hectare and more.

Punjab leads the country in irrigated area, fertilizer consumption, electricity used and motor vehicles. It also leads in per capita bank deposit at Rs. 1657 against an all India average of Rs. 763. It is second to none in schools, newspapers, hospitals beds, which are social necessities. Per capital assets in Punjab is Rs. 31,827 while for India it is Rs. 11.311.

All this has given birth to the most prosperous state of the Indian Union. Below the poverty line population in Punjab as a percentage of total population is 15.1 percent while it is 48.1 percent for the country as a whole. Per capita national income for Punjab for 197879 was Rs. 2101 while it was Rs. 1267 for the country. Availability of cereals per day in Punjab was 2052 gms. While it was 384 grams in the country, Milk availability per year was 191 kgs. Per head in Punjab, while it was only 45 kgs. For India as a whole.

Sikhs need more water for their agriculture, which they deserve. They want a separate capital which is their right. They want some adjustment in Punjabi speaking districts which can be looked into.

These are the basic demands and immediate action will defuse the situation, clear the atmosphere for a settlement. It is for the present leadership to grasp the opportunity.

The Sikh is the militant child of Hindu religion, born of necessity, shaped and tempered by history, to fight oppression. The Sikhs threw in their lot with India in 1947. Otherwise, the border of Pakistan would have been near Delhi with Jammu and Kashmir sliced off.

The Sikh has taught us how to pull oneself out of poverty by self-help. At the same time Sikhs in Punjab have seen more devastation, disturbances through wars, since 1947 than any other community. Despite the threat of war, they have stood like a rock and made the border state the most prosperous. What can be more patriotic than that?

Article extracted from this publication >> May 10, 1985