Even as the controversy over Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's remarks on Punjab's drug addiction record refuses to die down, eminent economist Isher Judge Ahluwalia has raised another storm by dubbing Punjab as 'kurimar' (killers of daughters) for its dismal sex ratio.
In her convocation address at Punjab Technical University (PTU) here on Monday, Ahluwalia traced the tradition of 'kurimar' in the state to the advent of ultrasound technology which, she said, was being increasingly misused to kill female foetuses.
"In fact, no discourse on Punjab is complete without roundly condemning the state's dismal record on gender bias. The continuing prejudice against the girl child is dehumanising an otherwise proud and prosperous people of Punjab. Punjab and Haryana are the worst performers when it comes to overall sex ratio and child sex ratio," she emphatically pointed out amidst a pin-drop silence in the newly built auditorium on the CT Institutions campus.
"You can see for yourself the number of girls who received gold medals during this convocation. When girls are performing outstandingly in academics and professional life, why kill daughters in the womb?" she asked.
She, however, said it was heartening to note that 83 panchayats had achieved a child sex ratio of 1,000 and the state government had honoured them for the achievement.
Commenting on Punjab's finances, Ahluwalia, a former vice-chairperson of the Punjab state planning commission, said Punjab's economic growth had suffered a major setback since the 1990s and had fallen below the country's growth rate.
"From being a state with the highest per capita income in 1990, Punjab declined to the fifth position by 2007-08. It is slipping further. As agricultural productivity stagnated, the industry and service sectors did not step forth to act as engines of growth. The gap between the overall growth of India and Punjab's growth has only widened with time. Unlike many other states, Punjab has not exploited opportunities offered by the opening up of the economy to foreign trade and investment to improve competitiveness of the industry and services and create synergies with its rich agricultural base," she said.
Maintaining that the policy of free power for farmers had led to overexploitation of groundwater, Ahluwalia said, "There is little incentive for conserving either water or electricity. The use of potassium and phosphate-based fertilisers has adversely affected soil quality and yields. It is important to resist populism and take the common man into confidence while developing the economy."
She said Punjab had to improve its investment climate by lowering transaction costs of doing business and improving the living conditions in the cities where investments were being made. "Moreover, the state will have to build on its existing infrastructure to support industrialisation. Similarly, institutions of higher learning and research are crucial for building a knowledge base, which, in turn, is crucial for global competitiveness," she added.
Punjab governor Shivraj Patil, SK Munjal, chairman, PTU board of governors, vice-chancellor Rajneesh Arora and MK Surappa, director, Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar, also spoke at the convocation.