Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Geographical structure of Punjab


Geographical structure of Punjab
The importance of Punjab in the Socio Economic history of the great subcontinent of India is out of all proportions to its population. Its productive capacity or even its size, has been the arena of conflict between the political system for greater then itself, affording as it does the only practicable highway between the nomad breeding ground of Central Asia and the fertile of the Gangas. Punjab is unprecedented in the history of the sub-continent as from the earliest time of history; it had been the confrontation place of various people and customs. Punjab, as a vast fertile region in the north west of the subcontinent of south Asia. “Punjab derives its appellation from two Persian words Punj (five) and aab (water)”1 and it refers to the land which flow the five rivers Jehlum, Chenab, Ravi, Bias and Sutluj. It has a great geo-political eminence on the grounds of its locality. The land is filthy with agricultural wealth.
The Punjab is the region which is irrigated by above mentioned five rivers, recognized it as the land of punj-aab. It is situated in the north west of the India and its boundaries started in North from, Himalaya and the part of Kashmir. Attock in the west, Rajpootana and sindh in the south and Jamna River in the East 2. The directorial boundaries kept oscillating from time to time, but its geographical barriers remained almost unscathed. Before its partition in 1947, Punjab was mostly colonized by different religious communities such as the Muslims, the Sikhs and the Britishers. The people were affiliated with different tribes, races and castes. People of one race or caste were also found among the devoted disciples of other religions; massive number of the inmate people lived on agriculture and had to put up with the money lenders.
            According to its geographical structure, Punjab was divided into six expanses. The first included the four sub-mountairious districts of Sialkot, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur and Ambala, which set down between the central Punjab and the Himalayas though the land which was prolific and had adequate rainfall but due to dearth of irrigation the cultivator had mainly to relay upon rainfall. That is why their economic condition was not good. An effort to improve their lot often led them to fall into the hands of money landers. About 89 per cent of the peasants were fastened in the change of debt to an average of about five hundred rupees each.3
            The second tract comprised of the central Punjab which extended from Jehlam in the North to the riverrain districts of the Sutluj in the South. It was a distinct fertile area, comprised of eight districts of Gujrat, Gujranwala, Lahore, Amritasar, Jullnder, Ludhiana, Ferozepur and Sheikhupura. In term of habitation, the Arians, who were Muslims, enjoyed prominence. They were mostly farmers owning small tracts of land where they work hard. Mostly they grew vegetables which were more than their personal need. As they produced more per acre than any other cast in the region. Despite this fact the level of money-indebtedness was sixteen times the land revenue and in spite of agrarian facilities available, more than 80 per cent of the owners of land were in debt.4 Muslims as compared to all other religious groups had lower income due to their small holdings.
            The third region acknowledged as Potwar plateau incorporated of three districts of Rawalpindi, Attock and Jehlam. These areas have been acclaimed for man power. This extent was impoverished in agricultural production, because of unpredictability of rainfall.  The cultivators were living under adversity including that of aridity. In spite of the scarcity of water and uneven fields, debt was about 40 per cent 5.  It was due to this fact that those who depended on lands, worked hard and those, who did not go to the army, sought their fortune abroad.
            Fourth, the barren zone of Hisar and the country around Dehli composed of four eastern districts of Karnal, Rohtak, Hisar and Gurgaon. This locality had a different life style and culture. The rustic people were aggravated due to non availability of irrigated canals, indefinite rainfall and anxiety of harvest. The Jats were the main inhabitants of the region, who struggled hard to survive. Even aged farmers, with a piece of loin cloth round their waist, drove the cattle to the field or wove a hemp rope as an unceasing toil born patiently and without complaint.6 The condition of the peasants was worse due to no availability of irrigation canals, uncertain rainfall and insecurity of harvest. The debt was about fifteen to nineteen times of the land revenue, which was invariably high.7
The fifth region comprised of the south-western area of Punjab which encompass Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh and Mianwali. This sector was quite detached from the rest of Punjab due to its barren weather and orthodox convention. There were a massive number of sand dunes constituting that desert. In Dera Ghazi Khan the Baloch community lived under “Tumandars”. The other three districts were monopolized by the pirs and sardars.
In north of Mianwali, cultivation was impracticable due to deficiency of water and people had to relay upon flood water in the omission of other water sources. Most of the area was infertile and the rainfall being very minimum. So the cultivation was barely a gamble which almost ended in loss. The Sardar enjoyed a position of unchallenged authority and the cultivators were at their mercy. The money lenders, many of whom owned land and occupied a position of importance as landowner an moneyed class, those, who belonged to it, were called Kirar in the south Punjab.
 As a landlord or Kirar, he was generally preferred to the Muhammadan esquire, but as a money lender, he was not, because in this position, he had all the vices of his trade.8 His relations with the debtors were cordial and he always avoided to rush to the law courts due to its ineffective and costly procedure. In early 20th century, apart from Multan.Tehsil, the cultivators of others areas were deeply in debt, which was at least thirty times the land revenue.9 Although all the four districts had small landholders, land in the district of Multan was mostly under the possession of big landlords, and the larger the holding, the lighter was the debt.10 The small landholders were at their worst in all the three districts except Multan. In the Muzaffargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan districts the standard of living was lower than anywhere else in the Punjab. Nothing could be done to alleviate their economic plight because half of the tract was burnt up by the sun, while the other half was exposed to the ravages of floods, which placed them under permanent indebtedness. The interest was continuously piled up due to non payment and lack of adequate production causing immeasurable suffering to them. The tillers of the soil thus were eking out a difficult and scanty living and were at the mercy of the landlords, the pirs, and the Banias.
            The sixth region consisted of the great dominion area, where the tillers were substantial, enlightened, and modern than those of any other area in Punjab. The south western part of Punjab was a large domain of desert and called the Bar (waste land), which included the four prosperous districts of Shahpur, Layallpur, Jhang and Montgomery. The Bar was occupied by variety of rambler tribes. They were mostly Muslims; often Jats and some were Rajputs. They were apportioned into diverse small tribes acclaimed by discrete names as Bhatties, Virks, Kharals and Sials who derived their origin from some common ancestor. The rambler population of the Bar in 1891 was recorded as 70,000 inhabitants and was generally know as Jangles.11 The old cattle-breeding class of Bar become largely the self cultivating class in the colonies.

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