- Culture & Society
Election in Punjab - India's 'Bread-Basket'
09 Mar 2022
In India, important elections are coming up in several states this year. While most of the attention is focused on the election in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) (you can read our article on UP here), India’s citizens have also just been called to the polls in Punjab, in the far north of the country. Since Punjab has significantly fewer residents than UP, the Punjabis flocked to the polling stations only on one date, February 20, 2022, for electing the new state parliament. However, the election result will not be announced until March 10, 2022. Just like in other Indian states, the 117 members of the Vidhan Sabha are elected by majority voting. Hence, in each constituency one candidate is selected to be sent to the parliament in Chandigarh for the next 5 years.
What is special here is that Chandigarh has the status of a union territory and thus does not belong to the state of Punjab, but the city still serves as the capital and seat of government for Punjab and the neighbouring state of Haryana. With the division of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947, the Punjab region was also split into an Indian and a Pakistani part. The Indian part was turned into the Indian state of Punjab a few years later. However, this area was divided again ten years later, on November 1, 1966: The north-western part, where Punjabi speakers are in the majority, was turned into the state of Punjab in its current borders, whereas the state of Haryana was newly founded in the south-eastern part, where mostly Hindi speakers reside. As part of this partition, union territory status was granted to Chandigarh so that the city could serve as the capital for both states.
The Punjab is known all across the globe as the birthplace of Sikhism. The origins of this South Asian religion date back to the 15th century. Although Sikhism was strongly influenced by mythological and philosophical currents that had already existed on the Indian subcontinent before, over time it developed into an independent religion with its own traditions and values. The core doctrines of Sikhism include believing in a formless creator god and worshipping a total of ten gurus, whose teachings are recorded in the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.
Not only most Sikhs but also the majority of Hindus and Muslims living in Punjab speak the Punjabi language written in the Gumurkhi script. In the Indian capital New Delhi, the language has established itself alongside Hindi, Urdu and English, since many Sikhs fled from the then Pakistani part of the Punjab to Delhi after the partition of India. Many Sikhs have also emigrated to Europe and North America over the last few decades. Especially the USA and Great Britain are home to large diaspora communities today, which has contributed to the growing popularity of Punjabi culture and cuisine within the West.
Even though many Sikhs now live in cities, a significant part of the community still works within the agricultural sector. Up to this day, the state of Punjab has retained its nicknames as the ‘granary’ or the ‘bread-basket’ of India. Almost 20 % of India’s wheat production and over 10 % of the rice harvest come from Punjab, although the state covers only around 1.5 % of India’s land area. This is due to the high fertility of the soil in this region, which is supplied with nutrients by the rivers originating in the Himalayas. Even the name Punjab is derived from these rivers: it means five rivers and refers to the streams Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas. Further downstream, these rivers combine to form the mighty Indus, which gave its name to all of India.
If you have any further questions about the Punjab or elections in India in general, please write to us in the comments or to [email protected].
Written by: Ferdinand Schlechta
Cover Photo: Ferdinand Schlechta
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