It is the people of the province that have suffered the most in Punjab's decline. That robust physique, physical fitness and "gung ho" attitude, and "chak de phatte" disposition has dissipated. A report put more than 70% of Punjab's youth as addicted to drugs. The figure may seem inflated, but even if it is 50%, it is a cause of worry.
The large-scale smuggling of drugs from Pakistan cannot take place without the connivance of police (border and state) and political patronage. Liquor shops have come up all over the province, which in some manner encourages people to take to drinking. Liquor is one of the government's main sources of revenue. The state of Punjab is best reflected in the haziness in the eyes of its policemen, and in their three-week-old stubble and expanded waistlines.
Failures of education
Coming from a collapsed system of education, those entering the job market lack the skills to be employable. There are government schools that have distinguished themselves by 100% fail result.
A minister by the name of Tota Singh did away with the teaching of English in lower classes, and an entire generation grew up without a vital job skill. Inferior teachers who had political patronage were hired in large numbers but even that did not address the overall shortage of staff.
Even the poor would want to enroll their children in private English-medium schools. Proxy teachers remain a problem in border districts. While the IT revolution swept the southern states, creating lakhs of jobs, it bypassed Punjab. The 100-odd so called "groups of colleges" came up without adequate infrastructure and quality teachers, so there's little respect in the job market for their degrees. Unemployment, which haunts the youth of Punjab, is the underlying cause of their taking to drugs.
Losing the game
Not long ago, the youth of Punjab dominated the country's sports scene. Now they cannot pass even the basic physical fitness test entering police and the defence forces. At a recent police recruitment rally in Chandigarh, all vacancies went to the youth from Haryana.
Without adequate qualification and job opportunities, a huge number of young people became easy prey for fake immigration agents, who cheated them on the pretext of lucrative jobs in foreign countries. To them they paid huge money to travel, only to end up in prisons abroad or be abandoned at sea.
A few who got past checks ended up as waiters, porters, or petrol-filling station attendants. This entrapment business cannot flourish without the knowledge of authorities.
Some of the Punjab government policies are flawed, and there's palpable dichotomy and gap in their projections, promise and implementation on the ground. Take the campaign to nurture the girl child (Nanhi Chhaan). On the one hand, many facilities, including free bicycles (a copy of what was done in Bihar), are extended to the girl child, on the other hand, hundreds of marriage palaces are allowed to come up all over the province.
These centres of extravagance force the bride's parents to sell or mortgage their tractors, land and other assets to be able to hold the wedding at these venues. The awesome burden of daughter's marriage has led to suicides by many fathers.
Many of these marriage palaces are owned by the well-connected and powerful people, who have vested interest in promoting extravagance. It has let the abominable practice of female foeticide and infanticide to continue, which has dehumanised Punjabi society and imbalanced its sex ratio.
While there are moves to open more cancer hospitals, little is being done to eliminate the causes of this disease. Punjab's sky continues to be overcast heavily, and this dark cloud appears to have no silver lining.