Beyond the News - FACT Analysis

Punjab economy’s nosedive

Harjap Singh Aujla
I was looking at India’s 1941 census figures of its largest cities. The largest city was Calcutta having a population of 2,108,891. Bombay was second with a population of 1,489,883. I am reproducing the chart of all cities having population in access of 200,000.
  • Calcutta  2,108,891
  • Bombay 1,489,883
  • Madras  777,481
  • Hyderabad  739,159
  • Lahore  671,659
  • Ahmedabad  591,267
  • Delhi  521,849
  • Cawnpore  487,324
  • Amritsar  391,010
  • Lucknow 387,177
  • Howrah 379,292
  • Karachi 359,492
  • Nagpur 301,957
  • Benares 263,100
  • Allahabad 260,690
  • Poona 258,197
  • Bangalore 248,334
  • Madura 239,144
  • Dacca 213,218
  • Sholapur 212,620
  • Srinagar 207,787
  • Indore 203,695
There were only two provinces of India, which had two of their cities in the list of ten top populated cities of India. Punjab was the province with the 5th largest city of Lahore and the 9th largest city of Amritsar figuring among the ten largest cities. The United Provinces was the second province with the 8th largest city of Cawnpore (now Kanpur) and the 10th largest city of Lucknow figuring among the ten largest cities of India. In household income Amritsar was rubbing shoulders with Bombay and Calcutta. The richest city of Surat was not among the top twenty two cities of India. Bombay, Ahmedabad and Amritsar were the largest manufacturers of cotton textiles. In the category of woollen textiles, Amritsar was the lone star at the top. From the point of view of economy, the Presidency of Bengal was the richest and the Bombay Presidency was the second richest. The combined economy of Amritsar and Lahore was bigger than that of Madras and Hyderabad state both. Similarly with the industrial town of Kanpur and Lucknow had bigger economies than those of Madras Presidency and Hyderabad State. In income per capita, Punjab was richer than most of the Indian provinces. Then the partition of Punjab dealt a severe blow to its economy. Most of the wealthiest Lahoris were settled in Delhi. Amritsar lost population between 1947 and 1951. Lahore due to the exodus of nearly 3.5 lakh wealthy Hindus and Sikhs had a lot of vacant luxury accommodation and they invited all the well to do Muslims ejected out of East Punjab to settle in their provincial capital. The wealthiest Punjabis in East Punjab were living in Batala, Amritsar and Ferozepur. They slowly became poorer, because new industries sprang up in Ludhiana, Gobindgarh, Panipat and Faridabad. Later on due to the faulty economic policies of the post-1966 Governments of Punjab, the industries in the border belt started folding up and now there is virtually no significant industry left in the once affluent border belt. Punjab’s slide downwards from number one spot has now gone to sixteenth place. The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a serious blow to the border region’s tourism industry too. Unless the Government of Punjab embarks upon a policy which is fair to all the regions of Punjab, the state cannot regain its lost glory.    

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