Ground Zero: Situation in Punjab turning explosive



Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, April 27: The tragic end to the lives of mother and son, Babir Kaur (65) and Baljit Singh (40) in Jodhpur village of Barnala district is not just a suicide but an indication that Punjab is sitting on a tinder box and one just can’t assess at this juncture as to what turn this explosive situation might take. For the last some months, this state that at one time was the model for other states in agriculture, is witnessing on an average  two suicides by farmers and farm workers.

As is the fashion in political domain, when one leader (from the opposition parties)  goes to the affected villages to make a show of sympathy that actually is not, others follow too. This has been witnessed here also. None has any immediate solution except attacking the present ruling dispensation, both at the centre and in the state. Even the affected families might be fed up with this staged show of sympathy.

The incidence of these suicides has increased at the time when Punjab is being ruled by self-proclaimed farmers’ messiah Parkash Singh Badal. The Akali Dal for years was perceived to be a party with pronounced rural bias. The deterioration in situation has to be seen in this context. It was during second term of Badal as the chief minister that this state had headed towards the dark tunnel. The only difference now is that the crisis so far is  in the socio-economic domain. But then it can’t be ignored that at the broader level, Punjab is part of that region that is strategically very sensitive.

The mother and son opted for this extreme course as the commission agent went to take possession of the two acre of land mortgaged by the family with him. He had the force of the court order and hence administration behind him. But such issues are not technical as taking possession of the only source of livelihood of a family is  an extreme in a country where the banks write off lakhs of crores  as non-performing assets and some Vijay Mallya escapes under the very nose of the government rather  after appropriating thousands of crores.

None dares touch these high profile defaulters who otherwise are connected to the high and mighty in almost every political party. The patronage is both ways. Ironically, no court has issued orders to take possession of the properties of such rich defaulters. It is this paradox that those occupying top positions at the centre, the Reserve Bank of India and in Punjab must explain. After all, this is the state that provided food security to the country at a very critical juncture when India was dependent upon food imports from USA under what was known as PL 480.

This country has to explain whether Balbir Kaur and her son had committed a crime bigger than that of Mallya  and , they might have left behind similar assets or not. The tragedy is that employees of Mallya at the lowest level were earning more than average income of this family.

It is the  farmers and farm workers in once this agriculturally the most prosperous state who are still waiting for “achhe din” promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the Lok Sabha election. There is not even a hint that this government is formulating any long term policy for the farm sector.

The love for big business is understandable with which the term crony capitalism is associated. Some politician from  Delhi visiting such families is of little solace.

Punjab needs long term vision and total commitment to the cause, not just for the sake of winning elections February 2017. One can’t expect a miracle during the next seven or eight months from the party that has been in power since 2007, a party that had sold big dreams. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal should sometime look back and do some introspection as to what has been his contribution. After all, he has created a record for being the chief  minister for five terms. There were reasons for which people reposed faith in him  that he has betrayed going by the deterioration in situation.

Punjab has witnessed change of governments earlier too and that might be  so in February 2017 but the basic issue is of taking the first step to stop this state from heading towards disaster.


Jagtar Singh


[email protected]

Related Editorials