Tuesday marks the golden jubilee of Haryana’s creation out of Punjab, but the verdict on their 50-year-long sibling rivalry is loud and clear. Haryana, once dubbed a poor cousin of Punjab, has surged ahead of the parent state on key economic parameters such as average growth rate, per capita income, industrial boom, fiscal buoyancy, foreign direct investment and even sports.
The question is how.
Nineteen years after the catastrophic partition of Punjab between India and Pakistan at the altar of religion, the border state’s map was redrawn again on November 1, 1966 — on the basis of language. Out of the second split emerged a new state of Haryana, shrinking the parent state’s size to the Jalandhar division of pre-1947 Punjab.
The two neighbours have since been locked in fights over the sharing of river waters and territorial disputes centred on Chandigarh, their joint capital. They also face off with each other in another arena: the development front.
Punjab enjoyed the lead with the Green Revolution, nurtured in varying capacities by the Bhakra dam, the newly-built Punjab Agricultural University and consolidation of lands.
The Partition-wracked state clocked a phenomenal growth rate of 8% much through the ’60s and ’70s, while India was struggling with a 2% growth rate. The state boasted a surplus in revenue until 1984.
Thereafter, it’s been a sorry tale of a head start turning into a tailspin, dogged largely by the militancy-hit lost decade of the ’80s. The state failed to pick itself up in spite of the ground-breaking economic reforms of the ’90s that scripted India’s growth story. It missed the bus on virtually every “revolution” – IT, automobile manufacturing, biotechnology and retail. It’s currently saddled with a debt of Rs 1.24-lakh-crore.
Yet, Punjab can boast a few bright spots – biggest contribution to the national food kitty, surplus power, and an infra boom, besides an impressive rebound on education and health.
In contrast, Haryana made the most of the new wave of opportunities towards a rapid-fire growth. It’s not a success untainted by shame: the state has the worst girl child sex ratio in India. Haryana’s progress is also weighed down by an inequitable growth — a critical marker of human development.
Ultimately, it’s the quality of governance that will differentiate a leader from a laggard. It’s a lesson their rulers would do well to keep in mind as they turn the page to the next 50 years.
Haryana and Punjab: The State of Two States
(With inputs from Navneet Sharma)