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why industry is leaving punjab

In his 50 years in Ludhiana, Harbans Singh Bhanwer has seen it all.

Around 1965, when he began making machine parts in Punjab’s biggest industrial centre, the town was booming. The Green Revolution was underway, and Ludhiana provided a large part of the engineering underpinning for that boom.

Some units made farm implements, while others processed locally-grown cotton into yarn and clothes. Companies like Bhanwer’s Craft Tools built the machines these factories ran on. Others operated in manufacturing sectors like cycles, sewing machines and auto parts.

In those days, says Bhanwer, Ludhiana was known as the “Manchester of India”.

The city, and the now ageing patriarch of a clan that has mostly relocated to Canada, grew together. They saw growth ebb due to bank nationalisation during the Emergency years of the early 1970s, and again in the early 1980s due to militancy. Each time, India’s Manchester dusted itself off and got back to the serious business of growing.

By 1991, Ludhiana was exporting to countries in the Gulf, and Europe. By 2002-’03, Bhanwer’s Craft Tools was selling its products – bearings, castings, hydraulic systems and motors – not only across India but also in the United Arab Emirates and Italy.

Over the last decade, however, Craft Tools has seen a steady slide. By 2005, it had lost its international clients. By 2012-’13, it had slipped into freefall. That year, the company’s turnover was Rs 85 lakh. The next year, it fell to Rs 55 lakh. In 2014-’15, it was Rs 37 lakh. This year, says Bhanwer, “About Rs 27-28 lakh” till date.

During the same period, Ludhiana has mirrored this slump. Its biggest companies are moving away. Its smaller units are shutting down.

try and understand why and you start understanding some of the reasons the people of punjab are unhappy with the ruling akali dal.

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