While enunciating a development perspective for Punjab, an essential prerequisite is to spell out a vision for the state – the kind of economy, society, polity, ecology and ideology envisaged for it, over a given period of time. This style of dealing with the issue is strikingly different from the usual style wherein the future agenda is set in the light of the evolving scene, particularly with reference to problems that have emerged on the way. The intention is to define and work out a feasible dream for the state and thus go beyond the conventional diagnostic and curative approach.
In its bare essentials, the state has to be not only efficient and progressive economically, just and harmonious socially, democratic and participatory politically, friendly and prudent ecologically, aesthetic and functional spatially, but also civil and sustainable systemically. In this light, one can envision Punjab eventually as a region which is sub-urban, displaying a continuum of rural and urban, agriculture and non-agriculture, with a hierarchy of settlements interlinked by a free-flowing transport network; thereby serving as a stage for what is envisioned. Herein, symbolically, the role of a development architect, social scientist and a professional practitioner gets entwined. Things would have been easy if Punjab were a clean slate to work on. Certainly it is not. This poses a real challenge. The evolved scene has to be redesigned and reconstructed rather than being built anew.
Some salient features of Punjab may be recapitulated. It enjoys the highest per capita income in the country (Rs. 23,043 against the national average of Rs. 15,562 in 1999-2000), and is highlighted as a model of agricultural development. Here poverty is not an issue; achieving a higher level of economic well-being or becoming more affluent is! People can move to a greener pasture anywhere in the world if the opportunities at home are not attractive enough.
Such was the stimulus which motivated many a native of Punjab to migrate not only to other parts of India, as diverse as newly reclaimed agricultural lands, lucrative urban places or remote forested areas, but also to emigrate to several foreign countries including, the United Kingdom, Canada, United States, Australia and Middle East, among others. This exposed them to the ethos of the developed world. No wonder, the popular development perspective seeks transformation of the state in the mould of a western country. An oft-repeated self-question is: Why cannot Punjab be like the United States, or the United Kingdom, or like Israel, or Denmark, among the smaller countries? The state, of course, cannot go by such a paradigm. It has to fabricate its own model of development, consistent with ecological conditions, cultural ethos and sustainability parameters. Above all, any development perspective envisaged for the state has to be in the spirit of its interconnectivity with other parts of the country, particularly the neighbouring states.
One peculiar feature of the development process in Punjab may be underlined: As soon as a new growth activity is initiated, it picks up momentum, and reaches a plateau rather too soon. The green revolution is one such case. It made a beginning in 1966; by 1985, it had reached a saturation level and has been seeking a new direction, which is more remunerative than the wheat-rice rotation regime. Not much success has been met on this count. Water depletion in the tubewell irrigated lands and waterlogging in the canal irrigated ones have emerged as serious problems. Likewise, the educational and health infrastructure expanded, excelling the national norms, but when the task of enhancing the quality of service emerged, the response was weak. Sustainability of the development process and providing new channels for its flow are now the crux of the matter. This cannot be ignored as a parameter of the development...
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