‘Punjab overstayed in agriculture’

Lakhwinder Singh, professor of economics, and coordinator at the Centre for Development Economics and Innovation Studies at Punjabi University, Patiala, who has been mapping rural Punjab for decades, speaks to Vikas Vasudeva on agrarian distress. Excerpts:

What has sparked the agrarian crises in Punjab?

Punjab’s Green Revolution was predominantly state-led agricultural capitalism. It dramatically reduced poverty among non-landed households.

However, after 1991, with the state failing to provide services such as education and healthcare efficiently and encouraging the private sector to provide the same at a very high price, surpluses generated in the agriculture sector have been squeezed. Also, mechanical and chemical innovations and their use in agriculture made family labour redundant without alternative jobs in sight. The cost of cultivation has gone up multiple times. Small and marginal farms were the first casualty. Per acre debt is highest among the marginal and small farmers.

The agriculture-led development model of Punjab was presented over the years as being worthy of emulation. What went wrong?

Punjab not only achieved a leading status in terms of productivity, per capita income and level of infrastructure but improved its human capital and entrepreneurial skills. The State also started industrialisation, which was part-autonomous and part-complementary to agriculture.

The problem is that Punjab overstayed in agriculture and other sectors could not be developed to allow the workforce to move to a high productivity-high wages economy. Industry in Punjab has remained small.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 1:36:18 PM |

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