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Will Capitalist Model Of Green Revolution Make Punjab A Desert?

By Dr. Sawraj Singh

A draft report by the Central Ground Water Board warns that if ground water continues to be exploited at the current rate then Punjab will become a desert in 25 years. Extraction of ground water in 2013 was 149%. Now it has reached 165%. Underground water recharging was 21.58 billion cubic meters annually, while the gross water withdrawal was 35.78 billion cubic meters. At the current rate of extraction, all available ground water resources till the depth of 300 meters in the state will end in 20-25 years. All available ground water resources at a depth of 100 meters will end within 10 years.

When I wrote my book “Crisis in Civilization a Sikh Perspective, more than 20 years ago, I predicted this. I wrote that to plant a crop like paddy, which requires abundant water, in Punjab which is a semiarid state (naturally short of water), is a blunder and can lead to Punjab becoming a desert. Now, the experts who were at one time enthusiastic supporters of the Green Revolution are saying the same thing.

During the Green Revolution, Punjab adopted the capitalist model of development and completely abandoned the traditional model of agriculture which evolved over thousands of years. There were two major components in the traditional model:

-Cultivating crops which were compatible with the natural environment.

– Diversification and rotation of crops.

Both of these concepts which were the product of thousands of year’s collective experience were abandoned and more than 90% of Punjab’s land was brought under two crops cultivation. Cultivating rice at such a level in Punjab overtaxed the water resources. There are 1431000 tube wells in the state now, extracting ground water. No wonder, the level of the ground water is falling 51 cm annually on the average. If this situation does not change then Punjab is likely to become a desert sooner or later. If this happens then that will be the biggest tragedy in the world because Punjab is considered one of the most fertile lands in the world.

Green Revolution has not only proved an ecological disaster for Punjab but has also led to social, cultural and ethical crisis in Punjab. As a result of the changes brought by the Green Revolution, demographics in Punjab have greatly changed. Punjabis who are better educated and who are relatively better off are being replaced by non Punjabis who are relatively poor, less educated and culturally backward. Most of the Punjabis who are still in Punjab have lost deep attachment and concern about Punjab because they are in the process of migrating out of Punjab. Canada and Australia preoccupy their minds and there is very little space left in their minds to really worry about what happens to Punjab. Punjabis have developed Nomadic tendencies. Therefore, a deep concern about what happens to Punjab is mostly missing.

We should come back to our cultural roots and heritage if we really want to prevent Punjab from becoming a desert. Punjab is not only becoming physically desert it is also becoming culturally, intellectually and ethically becoming barren. Those Punjabis who have migrated to foreign countries should not feel that what happens to Punjab is no longer their concern because culturally and ethically they are still a part of Punjab. I have lived in America for a long time. I feel that most of the Punjabis who have lived in the foreign countries for almost all their lives are still emotionally and culturally very attached to Punjab and have never been completely assimilated in the main stream in those countries. It will deeply sadden them to see Punjab being destroyed. Let us seek an alternate model of development to replace this failed capitalist model. Sri Guru Granth Sahib has an alternate model of development which can save Punjab.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at sawrajsingh@hotmail.com.

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