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Punjab is one of India’s most prosperous states. The Punjab’s prosperity has been largely due to the state’s development of agriculture. There are six major factors that have led to the Punjab’s highly productive agricultural system.

One factor that makes Punjab a productive agricultural area is its fertile soil. Punjab is for the most part a large, flat plain of fertile alluvial soil found among five rivers (see physical map and land use map).

The second factor is the extensive irrigation works that control and distribute the water throughout the area for maximum benefit. The sections of land between the rivers are called doabs. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the governments built dams, reservoirs, and extensive irrigation canals criss-crossing these doabs. These irrigation systems work together with the summer monsoon rains to water Punjab’s fertile soil. Today Punjab irrigates 78% of its farmland, considerably more than any other Indian state. Photo courtesy of www.arttoday.com

The third factor that aids Punjab’s success in agriculture is that it experiences two distinct growing seasons: November to April and May to September. Winter crops such as wheat, bartley, sugar cane, and vegetables are sown in November. Spring arrives in early February, and trees begin to blossom; wheat, barley, sugar cane, fruit and vegetables all ripen to be harvested in April. In May, land is ploughed again, and the summer crops are planted. A period of intense heat begins in May and lasts throughout June. During this period, farmers and their crops wait for the coming of the summer monsoon rains, which last from July through September. The main summer crops--rice, cotton, and tobacco--are reaped in October. In November, the cycle of the farmers' year begins again as winter crops are sown. These growing seasons allow farmers to produce a lot of food.

The fourth factor is due to Punjab’s economic equity among the people. This economic equity resulted from the transfer of people and property during the partition of 1947 (see History). Because there is considerable economic equity, class barriers in Punjab are lower than elsewhere in India. Therefore, most farmers, who own and intensely farm their croplands, are willing to share their farm tools and animals with each other on a cooperative basis.

The fifth factor is that the governments of both India and Punjab have followed policies to encourage farming by supporting a scientific approach to farming, by extending cheap loans to farmers, and by making sure farmers receive high prices for the crops.

The sixth factor--which is key to the growing prosperity and wealth of India’s Punjab state--is improvement in agriculture due to the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution refers to the increase in agricultural harvests due to the use of improved planting and harvesting strategies, large amounts of water, chemical fertilizers, pesticides , and High Yield Variety (HYV) seeds. The Green Revolution in farming began in the 1960s when an American agricultural expert, Dr. Norman Borlaug, led the development of HYV seeds in Mexico. Use of HYV seeds for growing wheat, rice, and other grains requires large amounts of water, fertilizers, and pesticides, which makes farming expensive. However, the amount of food produced does rise significantly. Borlaug received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his efforts to eradicate hunger throughout the world.

Because of the Green Revolution, Punjab--which makes up only 1.6% of India’s land--produces about 21% of India’s wheat, 8.5% of its rice, and 7.5% of its cotton. As a result of this success, Punjab has less people living below the poverty line than any other state in India. Increased wealth in Punjab has led to an improved standard of living, better education, and opportunities to travel for a substantial minority of the people.

The Green Revolution, which first took off in the Punjab, has spread rapidly to other parts of India, even to areas where the natural environment is less suitable than Punjab to using HYV seeds. As a result, India achieved self-sufficiency in the production of food by the early 1990s.

Despite the success of the Green Revolution, some people criticize the impacts that this scientific approach to agriculture has had on both farming and on Indian society. These critics claim:

  • The extensive irrigation systems built to provide the water necessary to grow crops and the use of this water is destroying the water table and increasing the salt present in the soil which is harmful.
  • The environment is harmed by agricultural methods connected with the Green Revolution. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides poison the water, soil, and the food people eat.
  • The success of the Green Revolution has led Indian farmers to concentrate on producing grains most suitable for export. As a result the diet of India's poor people has changed, so that they can not get vital nutrients like iron and folic acid.
  • Only the largest and most successful farmers have benefited from the Green Revolution. Growing HYV crops has always led to increased mechanization of farming. As a result, tractors and other mechanical implements are rapidly replacing the use of animals and hand tools in Punjab today. Unfortunately, some farmers who can not afford to purchase machinery, fertilizers, and pesticides are often forced to sell their land and to move into other occupations.

While much of what the critics claim is true, many believe that the South Asian farmers have no choice but to continue the Green Revolution in order to produce enough food for the subcontinent's ever rising population.



The Punjab and Its People..| History of Punjab to 1947..|..Partition, 1947..|..Punjab's Prosperity ..|..Sikhism ..|..Demands for Khalistan

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