The Punjab of my childhood was this lovely place with open spaces, green fields, and warm people who were always ready to welcome you into their homes and hearts. I remember as youngsters we could take a dip at any tubewell, raid any sugarcane field and have a feast, no questions asked. I broke almost every windowpane around my house in Jalandhar without being boycotted by neighbours.
Things have changed, and how! Now I hear about youngsters taking to drugs. This is very alarming.The youngsters have so much potential. How can they let it go waste like this? Drugs will not take them anywhere, sports and studies will. Please don’t let drugs kill Punjab.
I am also worried about the rising incidence of cancer in the state. I hear about the train from Bathinda, the cancer express that carries people for treatment to Rajasthan. Sadly we have brought this scourge upon ourselves because of our unhealthy farming practices. Our body is what we eat. And we have made a mess of it by spraying our crops and vegetables with chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
I am proud of the way our farmers reap such a rich harvest, but they have to think of the land as well. Growing four crops a year with the help of chemicals may be profitable but has anyone considered what it is doing to our land? It is the same with our water. Every year, the water table dips further. Don’t milk the land dry. Don’t turn Punjab into a barren desert.
I am also dismayed by the urban sprawl eating into our fields. What will happen to our ecosystem if we build houses everywhere? What will happen to our fabled fields of green? We must stop this mindless building drive.
I like the old times. I wish I could bring them back. I like the ‘khulla-dulla, hara’ (open and green) Punjab with its warm neighbourhoods. I want a happy Punjab. A Punjab where farmers lead the nation with environmentally sustainable agriculture. Let’s join our hands and hearts to make Punjab a much better and happier place.
(As told to Manraj Grewal Sharma)