Saturday , 13 April 2024
Saturday , 13 April 2024

Punjab: The disaster of Recurring Protests

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  • 10 Feb, 2024

Punjab has been bearing the brunt of the Farmers agitation of 2020-21. Various development parameters such as investment, industries, transportation etc. have been adversely impacted in the aftermath of 2020-21 agitation which saw several organizations, claiming to work for farmers’ welfare, crop up whereas these organizations never were actually interested for the welfare of farmers. When  the Punjab state is yet to recover from the long protests witnessed in the last three years, yet another series of protests have been planned with a major agitation on February 13 to once again cause enormous  hardship to general public.

Economic development

Punjab which was known for highest per capita income state in the country now stands at 16th position. The Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of Punjab is lower than the all India average and could not attain double digit growth in last five years.

Punjab has clocked consistent Revenue deficit in the last five years averaging around 70%, reaching as high as 85% in the year 2019-2020. 70% of the total debt taken by Punjab in the last five years has been diverted towards revenue deficit financing leaving lesser resource available for high quality capital expenditure like Infrastructure development etc. The ever increasing gap between the receipt and expenditure is being filled by taking hefty amount of debt which is pushing Punjab towards financial distress.


According to ASSOCHAM economies of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir were bearing losses to the tune of Rs 3,500 crore every day during the farmer agitation. It may be mentioned that all these agitations originated in Punjab as these farmer groups are in that state. 

Investment

As per a study conducted by MSME Export Promotion Council and the Confederation of Organic Food Producers & Marketing Agencies (COII), Investment in Punjab has declined by 85% to Rs 3,492 crore in the year 2022-23 as compared to Rs 23,655 crore in the year 2021-2022. The investment in the year 2018-19 was around Rs 43,323 crore. 

Industrial Development

Once a leader in industrial growth, Punjab today lags behind even its breakaway parts, Haryana and Himachal. As per Economic Survey White Paper 2022-2023 published by Punjab Government around 60,000 industries and approximately 2 lakh crore worth of business has moved out of Punjab in last five years mainly because of agitations and its subsequent impact resulting in poor law and order, high cost of electricity etc. As per Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Industrial sector in Punjab has witnessed only 6.7% average growth since 2015-16. 

The impact of agitations was also felt on the Ease of Doing Business wherein Punjab currently ranks in the bottom 10 of this index. Even the service sector has seen slow pace of growth of around 7 % in Punjab as compared to around 10% in neighbouring state of Haryana.  

Transportation

NHAI informed the Parliament in December 2021 that Punjab suffered a loss of Rs 1269.42 crore since October 2020 due to farmers agitation affecting toll plaza collection. The farmers’ agitation in Punjab and Haryana had led to toll suspension in 24 road projects. Thirteen build-operate-transfer (BOT) national highway projects and eleven BOT state highway projects were also been impacted by the agitation.

Public Relation Department, Northern Railways cited revenue loss to the tune of Rs 891 crore and total earning loss of Rs 2200 crore due to suspension of goods and passenger trains in Punjab during the farm agitation.

Coal Supply was hit severely due to Rail Roko which had subsequent ramifications in power outages and rampant load shedding in Punjab because of reduced power generation. PSPCL officials claimed that they had suffered financial losses of Rs 200 crore after buying expensive electricity from the central exchange grid.

Punjab Industries and Commerce Department estimated loss to the tune of Rs 16,730 crore in Ludhiana (major hub of industrial activities in Punjab) due to non-movement of trains.


Source: Punjab Industries and Commerce Department as on November 2, 2020

Agriculture/Harvest

Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry shared the data with Lok Sabha on April 5, 2023 that Export of agriculture products from Punjab saw a dip of $567 million between 2017-18 and 2021-22.

Tourism

Domestic and International Tourist inflow to Punjab has been hit hard due to agitations and blockades across Punjab. The decrease in the foot fall of tourists can be clearly seen depicted below

 

S.No.

Year

Domestic

Foreign

Total

1.

2019

4,73,85,387

11,01,343

4,84,86,730

2.

2020

1,66,92,197

3,59,114

1,70,51,311

3.

2021

2,66,40,432

3,08,135

2,96,48,567

Source: India Tourism Statistics, MoT, GOI 

Migration

A study of Punjab Agricultural University dated January 13, 2024 revealed that Punjab witnessed a steady rise in emigration from its rural areas in the last three decades with 42% residents moving to Canada, 16% to Dubai, 10% to Australia, 6% to  Italy etc. The reasons cited for the same were lack of employment opportunities/ underemployment, corrupt system and low income. 

Public Life was affected by agitations in Punjab due to shortage of Medical supplies, emergency services, rise of prices of eatables and other FMCG products. The protesters usually blocked rail tracks in Ludhiana, Amritsar, Bathinda, Ferozepur, Sangrur, Fazilka, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran which paralyzed the movement and resulted in mass cancellation of trains. This adversely affected the interconnected economies of the region, including Jammu, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

An expert committee constituted by the Supreme Court of India in January 2020 said that around 85.7% of the Farmer organisations representing around 3.3 crore farmers supported the Farm laws. The committee recommended that a repeal or a long suspension of these Farm Laws would, therefore, be unfair to this ‘silent’ majority who supported the Farm Laws. 

Despite the losses incurred by Punjab and the neighbouring states due to these recurring protests, a call has again been given for a protest on February 13, 2024. This is a grim reminder of the risks posed by such protests which have the potential of pushing the economic development of Punjab to the brink of collapse. Needless to say, the day to day lives of residents of Punjab and interconnected states will once again become miserable.


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