Punjab, Haryana as Economic engine
M.L. Sondhi & Y.S. Rajan
The Tribune, June 4, 1999
Very few people
realise that the Punjab and Haryana region has truly been
the economic engine of India, starting with the Green
Revolution. The power of the engine does not end there. It
has a great future for the coming several decades.
Chandigarh, which is the core of the region, plays a crucial
role as an economic, social, cultural and security node for
the resurgent India of the new millennium. This is so
despite the great gravitational pull of Delhi.
In terms of a
few social and economic indicators, the per capita
consumption of electricity in Punjab is the maximum among
the Indian states (690 kilowatt per hour). Haryana is third
(443 KW) on the list. In the net sown area Punjab accounts
for (83.7 per cent and Haryana 80.3 per cent as in net
irrigated area. They are top one and two. So is the
situation in the yield of food grains: Punjab (3680
kg/hectare) and Haryana (2730 kg/hr.).
situation is not so in value addition in manufacturing.
Punjab is tenth and Haryana twelfth. Investments are low.
Punjab is second on the infant mortality index and Haryana
lower in the line. The literacy rate is also not so good.
So what is the future of the region? Is it going to
saturate on the agricultural yield and wealth front? Is the
region going to be bogged down by the problems of
environmental concerns for sustainable agriculture?
A careful study
of the emerging social and economic opportunities and
technological possibilities provides an optimistic picture.
The peaceful conditions which have returned during the past
several years further enhance the case for such an
optimism. Let us look at the strengths of the region:
excellent road infrastructure; fairly good electric power
system; extensive telecom network; agricultural wealth;
entrepreneurial people; many areas in and around the region
can become major destinations for attracting domestic and
foreign tourism. The region also has got a fairly good
network of academic institutions and scientific and
Another not so
well-noticed socio-economic indicator is that Punjab and
Haryana have the lowest of the urban-rural divide in the
country. The ratio of urban-rural per capita consumption
expenditure 1.1 for both states, the highest in India being
1.8. this is, in fact, a good starting point for all-round
growth for deriving maximum benefits from the modern wealth
generating information technology (IT) and allied services.
What IT requires is large moderate investment, high quality
minds and an entrepreneurial spirit. In addition to tapping
the human resources of the region, it is also possible to
tap the investments and knowledge base of the Indian
diaspora, which have gone abroad from this region. They can
also provide a number of contacts for the lucrative markets
abroad for IT and IT-enabled services.
initiative taken by the Prime Minister in freeing the IT and
software industry in the country from the shackles which
prevented its speedier growth earlier is an opportunity
which Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh should capitalise
upon. The rich culture and great civilisational stories of
this region, spanning many centuries, form a rich mosaic
which can be captured through multimedia, CD-ROM and the
Internet. Activities around such projects by themselves can
generate wealth and employment opportunities, and help India
to usher in an IT super power. These IT marvels can also
bring in much tourist traffic to the region, increasing
wealth generation from the services sector.
worth exploring is to build upon the strength of the medical
services available at and around the prestigious PGI of
Chandigarh. Excellent road and other facilities can enable
the setting up of several private and joint sector
hospitals. It is also possible to attract several software
companies and investment in clean and high technology
industries. Let us not forget that Chandigarh had attracted
the Semiconductor Complex and the Central Scientific
Instruments Organisation of the ICSR.
One of the
major reasons to attract these IT companies is to give a new
lease of life to several small-scale industries in many
towns in this region, which were once vibrant and known for
items such as agricultural implements, bicycles and optical
instruments. But these industries require major
technological upgradation and orientation to face the new
challenges of global competition which will increase with
the introduction of regimes of the World Trade Organisation
(WTO). They need new product design, new ancillaries and
new methods of trade, which would soon be dominated by
E-commerce. Hence, as a spin-off from the IT industry,
upgradation and restructing of the small-scale sector can
result. Then value addition will go up from the present low
levels mentioned earlier.
Lastly, the IT
industry is also vital for managing the new ecologically
sustainable challenges of agriculture with global
environmental standards. The new agriculture demands system
management. Modern sensors and IT make it possible to
modernise agriculture as Israel has shown the world. This
region can give leadership to the rest of India.
There are several such possibilities as need to be promoted
by an enlightened leadership from the political system,
business community, intellectuals, professionals and the
public. The region, which gave food security in the
sixties, can serve as the engine for economic and social