Punjabi Intellectuals should help people to come out of illusions and face Reality


By Dr. Sawraj Singh

I was addressing a group of very dedicated Punjabi intellectuals in Ludhiana, the largest city of Punjab. I said that the Punjabis are living with three illusions:

*The west is flourishing, western domination and hegemony will continue indefinitely.                                                                                                                                                                         * Migration is helping the Punjabis and Punjab.                                                                                                    *Punjabis are in a jovial mood and elated state of mind because of their achievements, particularly as a result of migration.

Many of so called Punjabi intellectuals are not helping them to break the illusions and face the reality. They are actually reinforcing their wrong beliefs. I said that the moral duty of intellectuals is to help people come out of the illusions and face the reality. After my talk many of the intellectuals present there asked me to write an article about these three illusions.                                                                                       The first illusion that the west is flourishing, is rising and will be able to maintain its domination and hegemony for an indefinite period can be easily broken by the hard facts and statistics like total manufacturing or industrial production, steel production, changing GDPs of the countries, comparing the number of billionaires and accumulation of wealth, technological advancements like the fastest trains and the fastest computers. All these statistics will point in the direction that the West’s share is declining while the East’s share is rising. We entered the last quarter of the century with only one eastern country (Japan) in the top four countries with the largest economies. The predictions are that by the year 2030, out of the four countries with the largest economies in the world, only one will be a western country (U.S.A.).                                                                                                                     With the economic decline, the western societies are likely to face social and cultural crisis and the differences among them are also likely to increase. The European refugee crisis, increased racial tensions and violence in America, growing differences between America and Europe and growing differences among the European countries are some manifestations of the overall decline of the west. Let us compare this with the east where the two most powerful countries, China and Russia are moving closer and closer. More and more countries want to join the eastern organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS and the coming into existence of the institutions like the Asian Development Bank.                                                                                                                                                        We should understand that the migration from Punjab is not a simple or natural migration; it is more of an exodus rather than migration. People attending the meeting told us that they know of villages where more than half of their population has already migrated and these villages look deserted. The land prices in these villages have plummeted, from about 35 lakhs an acre to less than 15 lakhs an acre. 20 years ago one could hear in the Doaba region (the leading region in migration) that only those people will remain there who could not afford to buy a ticket to a foreign country. The same can now be said of the Malwa region. It is catching up fast with the Doaba region.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Another factor which is making migration phenomenon in Punjab more complicated is that the migration of the Punjabi population out of Punjab has not slowed the migration of the Non Punjabi population into Punjab. The net result is that not only there is an exodus of the Punjabi population; Punjab seems to be going through an exchange of Punjabi population with a Non Punjabi population. This is going to further add to the problems of social and cultural instability. The family and the social relations have been very adversely affected by this rapid migration. Let us look at the magnitude of the problem. More than 350000 young people took the IELTS test last year; many chose the route of marrying an NRI and still many more took the route of illegal migration. There are more than 20,000 young women who have become victims of fake marriages.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Many people give the example of the large number of the Punjabis elected to the Canadian Parliament as a great achievement. However, equally impressive is another achievement, they have almost completely monopolized the drug trade in Canada. I just gave a talk on Globalization and Women Empowerment in Chandigarh. The Chief Guest was a very senior Canadian diplomat. She said that she did not completely understand the term human trafficking till she joined the service. Besides the achievements of the Punjabis in the fields of drugs and fake marriages they can add this to their new horizons.                                                                                                                                                                                 Those who feel that the Punjabis are doing great should look at the just released statistics about their health. This was a joint study done by the medical colleges of Punjab and the PGI Chandigarh. According to this study the Punjabis are one of the unhealthiest people in the world if not the unhealthiest. We cannot blame this study like we have blamed the movie Udta Punjab for being the result of a conspiracy to defame Punjab. The movie tried to show how rampant and deadly is the drug addiction problem in Punjab. The studies on Punjabis’ health in Canada, England and America all show that Punjabis’ health is very poor compared to the other communities. I have talked to people in mental health field in Punjab and those countries and their opinion is that the incidence of mental disease in the Punjabis is very high, particularly of depression and anxiety and is increasing rapidly. Therefore, the impression of the jubilant Punjabis having great time does not match the reality.                                                                                                                                                                                                            The bitter truth is that the Punjabis have become the worst victims of globalization. Lenin defined imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism. I have called globalization the highest stage of imperialism. As opposed to imperialism where economics plays the major role in enslaving the other nations, in globalization culture becomes the main instrument of enslavement. Today, the consumer culture of the western capitalists is destroying the other cultures. Fifty years ago if you asked the members of the leading community in Punjab which community they belonged to they will tell you they were Jatt-Sikhs. If you ask the same question today, the most likely answer is Jatt. The loss of the word Sikh represents the loss of the Sikh culture. The Sikh culture is not the culture of the Sikhs alone but is the most refined culture of all the Punjabis. The word Sikh in Sri Guru Granth Sahib means a person who wants to be enlightened by the Guru’s teachings. I feel Rai Bular and Bhai Mardana were the greatest Sikhs of Guru Nanak. Both of them happened to be Muslims. Globalization has reduced us from Sikhs to mere consumers and this is our biggest loss.

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 [email protected].