Agriculture in Punjab suffered due to creation of Punjabi Suba, assert experts

The Trifurcation of Punjab in 1966 led to the division of waters between the state and newly-carved state of Haryana. This led to an adverse impact on Punjab’s agriculture, many experts believe.

Written by Divya Goyal | Published:October 24, 2016 4:47 am
50 anniversary, punjab history, punjab trifurcation, indian express, agriculture punjab, punjab irrigation, Photo for representational purpose. (AP Photo)

The Trifurcation of Punjab in 1966 led to the division of waters between the state and newly-carved state of Haryana. This led to an adverse impact on Punjab’s agriculture, many experts believe.

“Exclusion of Yamuna, which flowed in undivided Punjab, from the water sharing calculations has been disastrous and gross injustice to Punjab,” says Dr SS Johl, a renowned agriculture and food economist. “The average flow of our rivers was calculated but the Yamuna’s waters, which flows through Haryana, was never calculated. If Haryana, which does not touch Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, has right over these rivers, then why does Punjab not have same right over Yamuna waters?”

Dr Johl says that despite the fact that Punjab’s rivers hardly passed through Rajasthan and Delhi, the state was giving them water. “And then after creation of Haryana, even they were allocated share from our waters but without thinking once that where would farmers of Punjab go. I am very peeved over these mindless decisions taken in the past. And now this Punjab Suba celebration is as meaningless as it can be,” said Dr Johl.

According to Dr Johl, the trifurcation did not work to Punjab’s favour and that today Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have raced ahead of Punjab.

“Isn’t it shocking that a state which has three rivers —Sutlej, Beas and Ravi — is not even irrigating 25 per cent of its fields through canals? Seventy per cent of our irrigation is dependent on underground water,” he says.

Dr Gurdev Singh Hira, former additional director research, Punjab Agriculture University, says, “Our own rivers are not irrigating the majority of our fields so does our state, Punjab, really justify the tag of ‘the land of five rivers’?” He also feels that the situation will only worsen in the years to come as pressure on water resources on both the states will increase.

Dr Hira that constant increase in areas under paddy cultivation in both Punjab and Haryana has further aggravated the problem. “We have 28 lakh hectares under paddy and Haryana has almost 11 lakh hectares. This will only intensify need for water,” he said.

However, Dr GS Kalkat, Chairman Punjab State Farmers Commission, maintains that Punjab’s trifurcation did not have any negative affect on farming and agriculture.

“In fact I would say the impact has been positive. Agriculture output increased manifold only after 1966 and Punjab spearheaded the market. I can’t see any negative impact. Farmers are still getting the waters they used to get earlier. Just that now the land purchasing outside the state has declined but that is a problem everywhere now,” said Kalkat.

However, he predicted problems if Punjab had to spare more waters for Haryana. “Already 75 per cent irrigation in Punjab is dependent on groundwater. We cannot afford to increase that further.” he said.