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Pre-Poll Challenges:FARMERS’ PLIGHT MAIN ISSUE IN PUNJAB,by Sanjeev Gaur Print E-mail


New Delhi, 5 July 2005

Pre-Poll Challenges


By Sanjeev Gaur

Punjab, the land of rivers and saints will go to the Assembly polls early next year. All said and done, it is not going to be easy for either the ruling Congress, led by Captain Amarinder Singh, to have another term, nor can it be smooth return to power by the Akali Dal, led by Mr. Parkash Singh Badal. Reason? Despite his honesty, sincerity and, above all, genuine effort to achieve the universally acknowledged goal of sustainable social, economic, cultural and spiritual growth of the State, even close friends of the Chief Minister say in private that despite rich in natural resources, Punjab continues to be infected with plenty of problems.

Political thinkers are of the opinion that rural indebtedness is going to be the main issue in the forthcoming polls in Punjab. The farmers of the State are known to be among the best in the world, along with the farmers of Cuba, excelling in the cultivation of sugarcane. They excel in the cultivation of wheat, vegetables, particularly potatoes, tomatoes, onions and even cotton, besides all kinds of fruits, from mangoes to grapes. By nature, every Punjab farmer is hard-working, like farmers all over the world, liberal and loves Bhangra, the main folk dance of the boarder State.

The revival of cultural activity, particularly the promotion of Bhangra and Gidha in schools and colleges as well as in various universities of the State is a positive indication to achieve the goal of an over-all sustainable growth of the State. There is one school of thought, headed by a former newspaper editor and eminent columnist. He is strongly of the opinion that the main challenge before Punjab is not social or even economic but cultural.  During the peak of violence in the State with militants on one side and security forces, mainly the Punjab Police on the other, he wrote in-depth lead article in the prestigious and popular weekly of Mumbai under the title: “Where has the song and drama gone” with a colourful picture of jovial and jubilant Bhangra players. 

There is no denying the fact that despite being excellent forms of folk dances, Bhangra and Gidha for whatever reasons have failed to attract even the youth of Punjab over the years.  Unfortunately, the Punjabi youth like the youth of the country, has been attracted more by the Western culture and hence is keen on learning ball-room dances.  The need of the hour is to introduce Bhangra and Gidha as a compulsory subject for at least one year in the fifth standard and then as an optional subject like NCC and Sanskrit in college.

Amritsar, the holy city, is also the cradle or the nursery of Bhangra.  The Northern Railway Workshop there can take pride in having produced many internationally- renowned Bhangra players, as well as Volleyball players besides, of course, manufacturing wagons and spare parts of engines of high quality. Gentleman broadcaster-turned-actor late Balraj Sahni during his annual visits to Punjab would never miss to meet the Bhangra dancers of the Railway workshop and also invite them to be his guests in Bombay whenever they could make it to the country’s film land.

Guru Nanak Dev University has also produced a number of excellent Bhangra dancers since 1969. The University can think over starting a diploma and also a degree in studying the art and science of Bhangra and Gidha.

For the past nearly four years, Punjab has also been witnessing a kind of spiritual revival reflected in the traditional as well as high profile style of celebrating the birth-day anniversaries of the great Gurus as well as those of other respected saints like Maharishi Balmiki and Sant Kabir.  Again it is a healthy development. 

Now whatever the worshippers of Karl Marx and Mao may say to belittle religion, the reality is that religion is a way of life for every human being. Yes, forms of religion are different and still basically the essence of all religions is the same, stressing on doing one’s work or duty with love and concentration.  Whether they like it or not, the pseudo-communists have misinterpreted and off and on even distorted religion to serve their ends.

Punjab is the land or the birth place of both Hinduism as well Sikh religion. Two main holy books of Hindus – Ramayana and Mahabharat --- were written in Punjab.  Similarly, Adi Guru Granth Sahab was also written and compiled by the great Gurus in the land of rivers only.

Meanwhile, both the ruling Congress party, led by Captain Amarinder Singh and the Akali Dal, headed by Mr. Parkash Singh have already started blowing their bugles to catch the attention of the general public in view of the coming Assembly polls.  So far, by and large the pre-poll electioneering has been sober. All said and done, both Captain Amarinder Singh and Mr. Badal have been known all over the country among most seasoned and cultural politicians.  Interestingly, while in politics, they are rivals, socially their families remain close.

Besides cultural and spiritual development, Captain Amarinder Singh has been focusing his energy in improving irrigation and power in the State during his present term as Chief Minister.  Unlike other States, water and electricity are not in short supply at least in urban Punjab. Yes, in the countryside people, particularly during the summers, do suffer for want to inadequate electricity supply.

The main criticism of the Amarinder Singh-led Congress Government has been that school education and rural health have received virtually no attention during the past over four years. Both the schools as well as hospitals and dispensaries in the villages are not in good shape in the sense of poor maintenance and thousands of vacancies of teachers as well as medical fraternity lying vacant. The critics of the Government are of the opinion that education and health have been receiving little attention, causing plenty of serious problems like unemployment.---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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