Session Abstracts

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Session 1: Sikh Values and Punjab Society in Historical Perspective
Pashaura Singh, UC Riverside

“Sikh Values and Punjab Society in Historical Perspective”

The region of Punjab is widely regarded as the homeland of the Sikh tradition. Although its mention is not to be found in the Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, it received explicit reference in the contemporary writings of Bhai Gurdas (c.1558-1636) who employed the term in a stanza that extols “the greatness of the Guru in Punjab.” In the twentieth century Puran Singh plainly defined the relationship between the Sikh teachings and the region by saying that “Punjab survives in the name of the Gurus.” This paper will explore the role of Sikh values in the development of Punjab society in different historical periods. It will also address the relevance of those values in the process of rebuilding of Punjab in modern times.

Session 2: A Case Study of Sikh Diaspora Philanthropy in Punjab
Verne A. Dusenbery, Hamline University

“Budh Singh Dhahan and Guru Nanak Mission Medical & Educational Trust: A Case Study of Sikh Diaspora Philanthropy in Punjab”

In 1979, after twenty years in Canada, Budh Singh Dhahan returned to India to spearhead the development of a medical and educational complex that became, under his leadership, one of the signature diaspora philanthropy projects in Punjab. Drawing upon general research on Sikh diaspora philanthropy in Punjab (Dusenbery & Tatla 2009) and extensive interviews with Budh Singh and other stakeholders (primarily in Punjab and British Columbia), this paper explores two themes. The first is the ways that Budh Singh’s project broke new ground in how Sikh diaspora philanthropy has been conducted in Punjab (i.e., by creating alternative spaces in civil society from which diasporic actors address issues of social development through transnational collaborations with international partners). The second is the ways in which his experience at the Trust reflects continuing challenges facing Sikh diaspora philanthropy in Punjab (i.e., in developing and sustaining effective charitable organizations and in reconciling different development priorities, management styles, and cultural values of variously positioned stakeholders).

Session 3: Punjab Politics and Society
Pritam Singh, Oxford Brookes University

“Changing Social Values and Political Culture in Punjab: With Special Emphasis on the Period Since 1966”

The creation of the Punjabi speaking state in 1966 marks a historic change in the political landscape of Punjab in India’s mode of federal governance. The convergence of this political change with the launch of the green revolution in the mid 1960s that unleashed the capitalist transformation of Punjab agriculture and Punjabi rural society led to hugely significant changes in the social norms and political culture in Punjab. This paper would aim to capture the key turning points in Punjabi society and its politics in the last nearly 50 years and would attempt to identify the significance of these turning points. The paper would conclude by drawing the implications of the past changes for Punjabi politics in the near future and would venture to make some speculative (yet historically rooted) remarks about the medium-term and long-term future of Punjabi society and politics.

Session 4: The Punjab Economy: Problems and Prospects
Lakhwinder Singh, Punjabi University

“Vision for Economic Development in Punjab Economy”

Punjab economy remained a symbol of economic prosperity and a role model of economic development among the Indian states for more than three decades since the ushering in of the green revolution. The dismal performance of Punjab economy during the period of economic reforms relegated the state’s economy from a leading to a laggard one. Punjab is now ranked at number six among the major Indian states in terms of per capita income. Why has Punjab economy slipped to sixth position and turned from a leader to a laggard? This question is intriguing and demands answer from well wishers, policy makers, political leadership and the scholars working on Punjab economy. Despite the recognition of the problem and attempts made so far, the reversal in the trend has not yet occurred. In this paper an attempt has been made to analyze the factors that are responsible for the slow progress of the Punjab economy. An alternative pathway in the light of this analysis has been outlined to rebuild and resurrect the economic development dynamism in Punjab state.

Session 5: Groundwater in Punjab: Environmental Challenges
Rajinder Singh Sidhu, Punjab Agricultural University

“Groundwater resources in Indian Punjab: Degradation, Factors Responsible and Sustainable Solutions”

Water is pivotal for agricultural production. Rainfall, surface water and groundwater reserves are the main sources of irrigation water to crops. Their contribution to total supplies varies from region to region due to different agro-climatic endowments, irrigation infrastructure and policy. In India, around 45% of its area is irrigated. Level of irrigation varies substantially across regions, around 15% in Rajasthan and 98% in Punjab, which is mainly determined by access to groundwater reserves, its fitness for irrigation and the economics of pumping out water to meet the water requirements of agriculture. The use of groundwater is directly associated with crop patterns, modes of energy supplied and its pricing, cost-return ratio of groundwater usage and the financial position of farmers and their access to credit. This paper examines the rate of exploitation of groundwater resources, factors which caused its degradation over time and techno-policy solutions to ensure its long term sustainability.

Agricultural growth in Indian Punjab was the outcome of high yielding seeds of wheat and paddy, irrigation, fertilizers supported by remunerative output prices, input subsidies, development of market infrastructure, rural roads and electrification and farm machinery. Irrigation acted as a ‘trigger’ leading to the adoption of other technologies shifting the production surface upward. Due to larger degree of certainty in access to irrigation and state policy, use of groundwater resources in agriculture increased due to intensive cultivation of land, shift in crop pattern in favour of more water using crops and adoption of in-efficient water usage practices. Wherever possible, surface water was substituted by groundwater sources. Consequently, over-exploitation of groundwater commenced compared to rechargeable capacity. Water table declined by around 25 meters during 1973-2009 in central Punjab. All the development blocks in this region have turned red, where rate of exploitation is more than 100%. It is feared that if such trend continues, Punjab may turn a desert state over the years. To address this challenge, a pragmatic shift in policy stance away from free power to energy and protection of rice crop to promote crop diversification, and scaling up of water saving technologies and practices such as direct seeding of rice, scheduling of irrigation with tensiometer, laser levelling of fields, etc., would be required.


Session 6: Punjab’s Ethical Soundscapes: From Asa ki Var to Dhadi Var and Hip Hop
Inderjit N. Kaur, UC Santa Cruz

“Punjab’s Ethical Soundscapes: from Asa ki Var to Dhadi Var and Hip Hop”

Punjab has a rich heritage of music, and song was the original medium of expression of Sikhism. In this paper I engage Canadian composer, Murray Schafer’s conceptualization of “soundscapes”, and anthropologist, Charles Hirschkind’s related idea of “ethical soundscapes”, to discuss the role of music in Sikh and Punjabi society.

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