Punjab’s agrarian distress is more ‘aspirational’ than ‘deprivational’ as cultivator and labour incomes are higher than in other states of India with slow growth in wheat and paddy, NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand said during a video conference lecture at Punjab Agricultural University Wednesday.
Chand pointed out that Punjab is the only state where the share of income from agriculture for cultivators and labour is higher than the share of its labour force in the non-agriculture sector. He said that Punjab’s land and man ratio is lower as the state’s share in employment was only 25.8 per cent against the Indian average of 45.6 per cent. The country’s total agriculture contributed only 18.3 per cent share of income but employed 45.6% of the workforce. It means that the per worker agriculture income in Punjab is higher than non-agriculture compared to all other states, he said.
He said that only two states – Kerala (21.9 per cent) and Goa (15.3 per cent) – have a lower share of their labour force engaged in the farm sector. But, what is unique about Punjab is that the share of agriculture in the state’s domestic product (income) is 29% which is higher than the sector’s 25.8% share in employment, Chand added.
“There is the aspiration for Punjab’s population engaged in agriculture to move out. But since per worker income is higher in agriculture, a higher income in non-agriculture is needed to shift the workforce,” he said while delivering the inaugural Lecture at a two-day symposium, on ‘Transforming the Green Revolution Hub of India: Innovations in Crop Breeding, Resource Management and Policy.
Ramesh Chand’s observation explains the trend seen in the past decades of farming households in Punjab that have resorted to moving abroad instead of finding jobs in industries in the country. “We should differentiate between deprivation distress and aspirational distress. What we have in Punjab is the latter,” he said.
Chand said that Punjab’s economy is unique where the per capita income is slightly above average but its growth rate is much lower than other states.
“Punjab’s Per Capita Income (PCI) peaked in 1979-80 and struggled to stay there till 2000-01 but could not keep pace after that despite lower population growth. But it could maintain its PCI above average as the income was similar for many due to a majority being in agriculture, and also due to a growth in the livestock sector,” Chand said.
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He said that income from predominant enterprises (paddy and wheat) reached a plateau around the 2000s in Punjab and that its growth rate fell reduced in comparison to several other states. Punjab’s growth rate, which has been below 4% growth since the mid-1990s, is a result of farmers sticking to wheat and rice and not trying to grow other crops, he said.
“…even Punjab’s neighbouring state Haryana is having a growth rate of 6.04 per cent,” he added.