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The controversy over ‘Udta Punjab’ shows how the state government has completely lost the plot

Hope has finally arrived.

At a time when the Centre and the State governments in India are proving entirely unequal to the responsibilities placed before them, Punjab has decided to step up and show the way.

Late last week, the state government – run by the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party – managed to fix the state’s much-discussed drug problem. Not by exposing the mafia which brings and sells drugs to its people but by cracking down on a Mumbai film about the state’s drugs problem. Acting on what appear to be instructions from the top, the Central Board of Film Certification, which runs a wildly successful employment guarantee programme for the country’s most regressive minds, told producers of Udta Punjab to remove any references to Punjab, its towns and cities, and elections to be in their film, in a list of 89 cuts.

In the process, the Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party – both of which look increasingly nervous as elections draw near – appear to have found an answer to the state’s drugs problem that Goebbels would have been proud of. If no one talks about drugs, they seem to think, maybe the people of Punjab will vote them back in.

As thoughts go, that is delusional…

For ‘Make In India’ to work, India first needs to become globally competitive

Bhoday Sales Corporation is tucked inside the industrial zone of Ludhiana. A small machine tooling factory with a net worth of not more than Rs 10 lakh, it makes manufacturing equipment for other plants in the city.

Of late, it has fallen on bad times. Sales are down. At one time, says its founder, 68- year-old Maan Singh, the company used to make four power presses a month. It now makes one a month.

Bhoday is far from being the only company that is struggling in Punjab. A story published last December in Scroll reported industrial units across the state – steel plants in Mandi Gobindgarh, sporting goods manufacturers in Jalandhar, textile units in Amritsar, bicycle-makers in Ludhiana – were shutting down or relocating to other states. A similar narrative is visible in industrial hubs in three other states that Scroll surveyed…

…Try and understand why and you arrive at the fundamental limitation of the “Make In India” programme.

No country for the poor: What we have learnt so far from Scroll’s EarToTheGround project

As Scroll’s Ear To The Ground series reaches its halfway point, what have we learnt so far?

The series, for those coming in late, seeks to create a current snapshot of India through reportage from six specially chosen states – one from the North East; one which is mineral-rich; one with Green Revolution agriculture; another with rain-fed farming; and two states that are relatively industrialised. To this end, we picked Mizoram (with additional reporting from Manipur), Odisha, Punjab, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.

The idea was to try and identify some of the larger changes these states have seen over the last five or 10 years and then to try and understand the forces responsible for these changes. We hope that this exercise throws some light on the larger processes shaping India right now.

The project now stands just beyond the halfway mark. We have finished reporting from Mizoram, Manipur, Odisha and Punjab. The Tamil Nadu leg is underway. Bihar and Gujarat will follow next.

Three states and 13 months later, what have we learnt?

What we talk about when we talk about Punjab

Between October and January, Scroll.in’s Ear To The Ground project reported from Punjab.

The idea, as in Mizoram and Odisha, was to create a snapshot of the state. How are its people doing? What are the largest processes shaping the state?

When Scroll.in moved to Punjab, it was late October. The state was simmering. Farmers were angry and upset. The cotton crop had been hammered by a whitefly attack. The other kharif mainstay – basmati – was fetching lower rates than the grains sold to the Food Corporation of India. Over preceding weeks, torn pages from the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Saheb, had surfaced in some villages. There was much anger against the state government for not preventing this desecration. Protesters had blocked roads and railway tracks. In response, the state police had opened fired, killing some protesters.

Travelling around, however, it soon became evident that this anger against the government has been building for a while.

Why is Punjab increasingly turning to new gurus for comfort?

In the last 15 years, novelist and writer Desraj Kali has seen Punjab undergo some striking changes. But none is as striking as its gradual religious revolution.

A growing number of people in the predominantly Sikh state, he says, are now visiting Hindu temples. Not those of principal deities like Vishnu, Shiva and Rama, but of Shani, the elder brother of the god of death Yama, who is notorious for his malefic influence on life.

More than ever before, Kali says, people are visiting the gurudwara of Baba Deep Singh in Amritsar. According to legend, Deep Singh, a Sikh warrior, was decapitated while battling the forces of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the king of Afghanistan. In a niche in the perimeter of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, there is a painting depicting the storied aftermath: Deep Singh, holding his severed head with his left hand and swinging a massive sword with his right, continued to fight, and died only after reaching the Golden Temple.

There are more, says Kali. People in increasing numbers are placing chadars at Pirs’ mazaars. There is a “thousand-fold” increase in the number of tantrik ads in the local media. Eeven orthodox Sikhs – Amritdhaaris, who carry the sacred dagger called kirpan – have begun visiting “non-traditional deras”, religious centres with living gurus, though Sikhism expressly forbids worship of individuals.

How the Badals spread their control over Punjab (and why it is eroding)

Following up on yesterday’s story, part 3 of our series on Punjab under the Akali Dal.

In Punjab, the domination of the government machinery by the Badal clan is near complete. It starts right from the top, the cabinet of ministers, and trickles down to the ground, to the level of the police station.

Here is how.

Every business in Punjab leads back to an Akali Dal leader (well almost)

out today, our sequel to the previous story on why healthcare is underfunded in punjab.

Industry is fleeing Punjab – an investigation by Scroll.in found a growing number of companies have shut down or are planning to set up newer units outside the state. Among the reasons cited by businessmen for the exodus were the bribes they claim they are compelled to pay to politicians belonging to the ruling Akali Dal.

But rent-seeking is not the only way Akali Dal leaders are strangling industry in the state.

Over the past decade, Punjab has seen a handful of players come to dominate what earlier were fragmented industries composed of hundreds of small companies. This consolidation happened in a bewilderingly diverse set of industries, including stone crushing, sand mining, cable distribution, liquor distribution and bus transport. Most of these new, big players are alleged to have links to the Akali Dal.