Semi-Feudal Economy?

A Tale of Two States

K S Chalam

Charles Dickens in his 'A Tale of Two Cities' narrates the conditions and events in London and Paris during the French Revolution. Apart from his idea of resurrection, Dickens gives us a vivid picture of contrasting image of two cities during the revolution that reminds us the present situation of impasse at the Delhi border. Punjab farmers and Gujarat ruling elite can be imagined broadly representing two images of the period. Nevertheless the long history of India had a unique significance for these two regions which were part of Indus Valley and Harappa Civilisation around 1900 BCE with Lothal, Dholvira in Gujarat and Rakhigarhi ,Rupaar in Punjab region carrying the past legacy even today. The coparceners, Jats among others would continue to inspire Indians through their sacrifice to defend the country and enriching us with wealth.

 The quest for an independent India was represented by Punjab Kesari Lala Lajapat Rai and Bhagat Singh on the one hand and Mahatma Gandhi and Jinnah on the other in the North West. Some parts of the two states were part of a large province in Pre -partition India got separated after independence and became distinct states on linguistic lines around 1960s. They have carried the agony of partition, more violent on the Northern side and less of it in the West during the period. Punjabi refugees are scattered and slowly got united under various religious and social clusters to swab opportunities created in free India. Punjab spearheaded HYV and the green revolution with assured irrigation water. The contribution of Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana along with the hard working labor force (including migrant) accelerated the rate of growth of GSDP with primary sector contributing the most. Gujarat has a geographical advantage of having the longest coast of India with close connection to the Gulf, made use of the openings of trade and business. Sindhis from Pakistan have started migrating to India mostly to Gujarat with their business skills to join the surviving Parsis. The institutional structure of IIM Ahmedabad and IRM, Anand along with other experts have articulated the growth strategy of Gujarat.

The contrasting picture that emerges from these two states can be seen in terms of their socio-economic development under certain parameters. Punjab with a population of 2.7 crore is distinctly different from Gujarat that is double the size of it with 6.04 crore. Punjab appears to be unique with the highest proportion of 32 per cent population belonging to scheduled castes with little presence of tribes and 40.6 per cent of OBC population. Gujarat is one of the states in the North that has a substantial proportion of tribes at 14.8 per cent of the population and OBC population of 25.6 per cent and scheduled castes registering only 6.7 per cent. The distribution of scheduled tribes in Gujarat has not been discerned seriously by experts where 5 districts have the highest concentration of 95 percent of the population belonging to this category in the Dangs, Tapi 84.2%, Narmada 81.6% Dahod 74.3%, Valasad 53%. This is the highest proportion of tribal population in the Fifth Schedule area covering one third villages of total 18225 in Gujarat. Punjab has a different kind of distribution where 57 villages have 100 per cent scheduled castes and 4799 villages have more than 40 percent population of this category. Yet Punjab has the least incidence of crimes against dalits while Gujarat occupies 4th place. The baggage of underdevelopment or development in these states carries different kinds of loads that are often ignored by experts. Some might see a merit in this because Gujarat had the advantage of using vast tribal areas for locating industries in districts like Valasad, Baruch etc. The economic outcome of the investments made during the post independent period in these two states have been published by scholars identifying Gujarat as an industrial and commercial hub and Punjab as an agriculturally advanced state. This is borne by the contribution of each sector to GSDP of the state. Secondary sector contributes 27 per cent while primary and tertiary sectors contribute 19 per cent and 54 per cent respectively. In contrast, Punjab gets 28 per cent of its GSDP from Agriculture, 25. 2 percent from Industry and the rest from service sector and the agriculture component of the manufacturing sector is also high now. Basically Punjab has remained an agrarian society as a land locked state, while Gujarat is inclined towards a trade and business hub with coast based activities.

One may try to understand the trajectories of growth in these two states that have remained an enigma to understand the political bickering now. The economic growth in terms of GSDP is higher in Gujarat with Rs 16.58 lakh crores and per capita income of Rs 2.52 lakh during 2020-21. The GSDP of Punjab is Rs 6.44 lakh crore and per capita is Rs 1.55 lakh. Punjab has plunged from its preeminent position as a developed state a decade ago with per capita income higher than national average and equal to Gujarat, now stands below Gujarat. Of course, Chandigarh retains its position. Punjab and Gujarat have undergone serious socio-economic upheavals during 1980s as Navnirman Andolan and Khalistan movement. It appears that Gujarat has recovered from the shock soon and Punjab has lost its moorings once again during Delhi riots. The contribution of Punjab to India's food basket through procurement of around 90-95 percent of Paddy and Wheat is substantial. The averages of per capita incomes do not convey the realities at the grass roots. Therefore experts have studied nutrition levels, Gini ratios to understand how much growth is reaching the bottom poor. It is proved by experts that inequalities have been raised with growth in GSDP in Gujarat not only in terms of HDI but also in terms of IMR under5MR rates. Punjab has IMR 21 per 1000 while Gujarat stands at 30 and in U5MR Punjab stands at 33.2 and Gujarat staggers at 43.5 and Kerala stands at 7.

The divergent story of growth in the two states show that while Gujarat has crossed the hurdle in reaching the goals of a market economy, Punjab in terms of its high concentration of land has remained feudal or semi-feudal . In a market economy money determines the aggregate demand while governance is incidental.

[Ps. The upsurge of second wave of covid-19 is found to be more severe in Gujarat than in Punjab where farmers are on strike for several months.]

*The Betrayal of India
By Elias Davidson
Pharos Media & Publishing (P) Ltd.
Price Rs. 695.00 Pages 910

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Vol. 53, No. 45, May 9 - 15, 2021