Punjab Human Development Report 2004

16 Nov 2004

Launch of Punjab Human Development Report 2004 Report Lauds Solid Gains in Literacy,Calls For Action in Health and Womens’ Rights

Chandigarh, 16 November 2004 - Punjab today became the tenth Indian State to launch its State Human Development Report. The Report was released by the State Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh in the presence of the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Resident Coordinator in India, Dr. Maxine Olson, here today. The State Finance and Planning Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, and the Vice Chairman, Punjab State Planning Board, Dr. S S Johl, were also present on the occasion. Delivering his keynote address, Capt. Amarinder Singh said his Government was committed to making Punjab a frontline State in socio-economic development and a model of decentralised, fair and corruption free governance. The Report would be critical in carving an agenda for development with an organic vision, he said.

Expressing the hope that the findings of the Report would help in further strengthening the agenda of people-centred development, the Chief Minister said the vision of his Government was to raise the Human Development Indices of all people of the State to global standards, with a special focus on addressing issues of service delivery to the socio-economically disadvantaged groups, and creating greater employment opportunities based on diversification of the agricultural sector.Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Olson emphasized the need to take note of several landmark achievements of the State and in building on the successes and development gains of the past for a sustainable future for all sections of the Punjabi society. She called for integrating the insights of the Report into planning and action and for constantly monitoring the progress on issues with a view to enhancing the quality of long-term solutions. The UNDP Chief in India made a plea for having the Report translated into Punjabi so as to allow for wider sharing and discussion of the messages and themes taken up in the Report.

The Punjab Human Development Report, prepared by the well-known voluntary organization Sanket, with inputs from leading research and academic community from the State, is a mixed bag of notable achievements and second-generation development challenges that lie in store for the State. It notes that since 1970s there has been a steady increase in the number of literates across both males and females as well as in the number of schools for primary and middle levels. The number of primary and middle-level schools schools increased by 52 per cent and 34 per cent respectively between 1966 and 2000. As a result, literacy rate of Punjab is 69.95 percent –higher than the national average of 65 per cent.

Despite these gains, however, the absolute number of illiterates in the State stands at a staggering 64 lakh persons. Access to basic education for the socio-economically disadvantaged remains a major concern for the State. In his remarks, Mr. Singla said the Report was remarkable for its strong focus on human capital formation, an area that according to him, had slipped in priority as the State passed through the difficult challenge of tackling militancy in the eighties and the nineties.

The Report notes the rapid strides made by the State in the post Independence era. Human Development indicators are among the best in the country, ranking second among the 15 major States in the country. The per capita income of an average Punjabi is nearly Rs. 26,000, second only to Maharashtra. The proportion of people living below poverty line came down to six percent in 1999-2000 from 28 per cent in 1973-4.The Report adds a word of caution at the signs of fatigue in the agriculture sector, the over-exploitation of land for agricultural purposes and the rapidly declining water table. The crisis of agriculture has resulted in mounting debt burden and has triggered farmers’ suicides.

Deprivation of women cuts across regions, classes and castes in the State. The success of Green Revolution has pushed women, who were important contributors, back into the private domain. Women’s work is not counted as work and mostly remains invisible. Though the Sikh religion emphasizes an egalitarian society, everyday realities are poles apart, says the Report.Punjab’s sex ratio is one of the lowest in the country, the second lowest among India States, standing at 874 against the national average of 933. It declined from 882 in 1991 to 874 in the State. What is more disturbing is the sex ratio of children below six years of age (798 against 927 for India). The Report notes that of the ten districts in India that have the lowest child sex ratio, seven are from Punjab.On an all India comparison, out of 25 Indian States, Punjab ranks sixth in Human Development Index (HDI) but is 16th as far as the Gender Development Index (GDI) is concerned. Thus, the State has the highest negative differential in the HDI and GDI. This indicates that gender equality cannot be linked to income level alone.

Maternal health and that of adolescent girls is a cause of concern. Commenting on the paradoxical situation of malnutrition existing in Punjab, this land of food abundance., the Report quotes a study that found 24 percent of women from “privileged group” undernourished; this rises to 74 percent in case of “underprivileged sections”. As far as women’s political participation is concerned, the Report says women are more or less invisible in decision-making. Out of the general election conducted thus far, no women representative was elected to the Lok Sabha in four of them. Similarly, the State draws a blank as far as Rajya Sabha is concerned - only one women representative has been to the Rajya Sabha from the State.

The Report makes a strong plea for stepping up public investment in the health sector. “Public investment in health is very low and needs to be substantially increased. Greater investments in immunisaton is essential. Increased cost recovery through the imposition of user charges can mobilize resources. Currently there is excessive compartmentalization of the health sector. There is a need to integrate these”, says the Report.Of the 17 districts in Punjab, districts with the highest HDI Value include Ludhiana, Rup Nagar, Fateh Garh Sahib and Gurdsaspur. The four districts with the least HDI value are Mansa, Muktasar, Sangrur and Bathinda. On the GDI ranking the topmost four districts are Rup Nagar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Firozpur. The districts with least GDI value are Amritsar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Gurdaspur and Sangrur.

After the partition of Punjab, the State was reorganized in 1966, with the State being split into Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. The 1970s and 1980s witnessed violent militancy in Punjab that was contained in the 1990s. Migrants are employed in low paid unskilled jobs, work and live in unsatisfactory conditions. Many of them are caught in a debt trap resulting in being bonded labour. This phenomenon is observed mostly in migrants working in brick-kilns.Within the category of agricultural labourers are the self employed and hired labourers. Hired labourers include casual labourers and bonded labourers. Most labourers are deeply indebted to landowners and moneylenders. The agrarian crisis is having a negative impact on the conditions of the labourers, notes the Report.