Surinder S. Jodhka: Changing Modes of Agriculture in Punjab

The Punjabi farmer has found it hard to escape the whirlpool of an ecologically unviable cropping pattern and its commercial entrapments created by the history of its past six decades.   Despite Punjab’s meagre size, the region has remained an important constituent in the self-imagination of the Indian nation. The imprints of Punjab’s agrarian economy and culture have continued to expand in the past seven decades, suggesting an influence that far exceeds its demographics and geographical boundaries.

In the recent national discourse, though, Punjab’s agrarian economy is invariably represented through its negatives: depleting water tables, declining incomes, growing farmer-indebtedness, lack of alternative sources of employment, and a general sense of social fragmentation, reflected presumably in widespread drug addiction among its youth.

While there is an element of truth in some of this, these images do not provide a fair and balanced view of the ground realities of rural life in the state. The reason for the relative decline of Punjab is not to be viewed in its agricultural sector alone. In fact, agriculture continues to do reasonably well in the state. There is no denying the negatives or the crises that plague rural Punjab and its agrarian economy. These have been well-known for quite some time. The local elite has been acutely aware of these crises; so have the cultivating farmers….

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