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 — this time, 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 intractable politico-legal fights over the sharing of river waters and territorial disputes centered on Chandigarh, their joint capital.
While the jury is still out on this contentious corollary, a potentially ticking time bomb, a fierce sibling rivalry of sorts between the two has played out in another arena – this one on the development front.
As both states celebrate their golden anniversary next week, it’s an apt occasion to track their growth trajectory in the last 50 years and raise the oft-asked question: Who is ahead, in what and why? Beginning today, Hindustan Times will answer this in its multi-part series on gains and gaps in the two state’s roller-coaster journey.
And, the verdict on this contest is loud and clear: Haryana, once dubbed a poor cousin of Punjab, has surged ahead of the senior state on key economic parameters such as average growth rate, per capita income, industrial boom, fiscal buoyancy, foreign direct investment and even sports.
Ironically, Punjab’s golden era began soon after its tumultuous trifurcation, powered by the Green Revolution that in turn was nurtured by the Bhakra dam, the newly-built Punjab Agricultural University and consolidation of lands.
Incredible as it may sound today, the Partition-wracked state clocked a phenomenal growth rate of 8% — rivalling the Californian economy — much through the ’60s and ’70s, while India was still stuck in the growth rate of 2%.
The dream run lasted until 1984, the year when the state was revenue surplus – in contrast to the Rs 1.24-lakh-crore debt that it’s now saddled with. Thereafter, it’s been a sorry tale of a historic headstart turning into a tailspin, accelerated during the lost decade of the violent ’80s.
Paradoxically, Punjab’s loss of economic dynamism overlaps with the ground-breaking economic reforms of the ’90s that scripted India’s growth story. While the frontline state missed the bus on virtually every “revolution” – IT, automobile manufacturing, biotechnology, and retail – Haryana, in contrast, made the most of the new wave of opportunities in its rapid-fire growth.
Yet, Punjab can boast of a few bright spots – the biggest contribution to the national food kitty, surplus power, and an infra boom, besides an impressive rebound on education and health.
Haryana’s trailblazing success is not without a dark underbelly manifested in the worst girl child sex ratio in India and an unequitable growth — a critical marker of human development.
Half a century on, the key takeaway for both states is that the quality of governance is the biggest differentiator in making a leader or a laggard. It’s a lesson their rulers would do well to learn as they turn the page to the next 50 years.