The Akali Dal – BJP alliance has retained power in the recent elections to the Punjab assembly, winning 68 out of the 117 seats, while the Congress party managed to win 46 seats. While bourgeois “experts” claim that the Punjabi people have exercised their “democratic right” to retain the Akali Dal – BJP alliance in power, it was clear right from the beginning that neither grouping had any worthwhile vision to offer for the future of Punjab and its industrious people. What then is the way forward for the valiant people of Punjab? To understand this, it would be useful to take a look at the economy and present day political condition of the province.
The economy of Punjab is essentially agrarian, with hardly any industrial development in recent times. In the decades of the sixties and seventies, the Indian big bourgeoisie decided to turn Punjab into the wheat and rice granary of India. Punjab was an important centre for the so- called “green revolution”, which aimed to create buffer stocks of wheat and rice and to expand the capitalist markets. The wheat and rice produced was procured by state agencies at guaranteed prices. A handful capitalist farmers and former landlords grew rich as a result with the vast majority of peasants remaining impoverished. It was in the interests of the bourgeoisie then to give an impetus to capitalist growth in agriculture by providing subsidised seeds, irrigation etc as well as to procure the produce at guaranteed prices. This expanded the home market for consumer and industrial goods, and fetched huge profits for the big capitalists.
In the wake of the bourgeois “reforms” of the nineties and later, the big bourgeoisie has been slowly dismantling the public distribution system. The peasants have been left to fend for themselves in the face of rising input costs and non-remunerative procurement prices. This has led to massive bankruptcy of farmers. Capitalist agriculture and commercial farming for an increasingly globalised market requires extensive use of chemical fertiliser, pesticides and assured water supply. Farmers have been driven increasingly into debt to pay for the rising costs of agricultural production, while the prices paid for their produce have been highly uncertain and inadequate due to control of wholesale and international trade by big monopolies. The groundwater table has dropped sharply on account of rampant spread of private tube wells, in the absence of adequate public irrigation. The extent of the bankruptcy of farmers in Punjab can be gauged by the estimates of farmer suicides between 1998 and 2008, by farmers’ organisations – ranging from an enormous figure of 20,000 to 40,000.
While Punjab is in the throes of an economic crisis, the state’s social indicators are equally abysmal. With a sex ratio of 846 females per 1000 males, Punjab remains at the bottom of the list in terms of the social condition of women. The state has among the highest rate of female foeticide in the country.
Unemployment, especially among the educated youth in Punjab, is extremely high. This extreme unemployment is accompanied by widespread drug addiction among the youth.
Over the past few decades, two main political groupings have dominated the political sphere in Punjab – one led by the Akali Dal which has BJP as a junior partner in the state and the other led by the Indian National Congress. The severe socio-economic crisis that the people of Punjab are facing today can be directly attributed to the policies pursued by these two groupings. Yet, these parties brazenly claim that they stand for the interests of the people.
The Akali Dal claims to represent the people of Punjab, particularly the peasantry. The Akali Dal – BJP combine came to the 2012 assembly elections falsely claiming that they have delivered on the promises made in the last election. Its manifesto of Jan 23rd 2012 promised plots to landless poor families, creation of one million jobs within 5 years, jobless allowance of Rs 1,000 per month to unemployed youth, provident fund for small farmers similar to that for government employees, and a host of other sops. The fact is that the Akali Dal or any other Party for that matter cannot resolve all the problems faced by the people simply by making grand promises. The prevailing capitalist agriculture and trade has brought the peasantry to ruin. The economy of the state has to be reoriented if the people’s interest has to be served.
Having won the elections, the aim of the Akali Dal-BJP alliance is far from this. It has come to power once again to fool the people that it works in their interests, while actually serving the bourgeoisie of the state and the country and ensuring maximum profits for them at the cost of the life and livelihood of the people.
The present political and electoral process completely marginalises the people. The only right they have in the present process is to elect this or that bourgeois party or alliance to rule over them on behalf of the bourgeoisie. In order to change the present situation, workers and peasants must seize political power from the bourgeoisie. It is only workers’ and peasants’ rule that can solve the myriad problems faced by the people of Punjab in any lasting way. Communists in Punjab as elsewhere must work to make the people conscious and organize them to replace this bourgeois democracy with proletarian democracy. They must put forward the program of the Navnirman of India, whose aim is to establish the rule of workers and peasants, reorient the economy in the interests of the vast majority of people, put an end to all exploitation and reconstitute India as a voluntary union of nations and peoples. Only in this way can the workers and peasants of Punjab – like the workers and peasants of all other regions of India - determine their own destiny as a proud people.