Millennium Post

Looking ahead

Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday took oath as the 26th Chief Minister of Punjab. This is Singh's second stint as Punjab Chief Minister. In the recently concluded Assembly elections, the Congress made a comeback of sorts, winning 77 of the state's 117 Assembly seats. The win in Punjab provided some succour to a party which had performed dismally in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, besides snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Goa and Manipur. The challenges before the new Congress government are daunting. For starters, the state is in the midst of a crippling agrarian crisis. There has been a spate of farmer suicides. There is a whole host of reasons behind the crisis—price of agriculture produce disproportionate to the steep cost of farm inputs, mounting indebtedness, exploitation of farmers by moneylenders and poor quality of inputs. Both the previous State government and Centre did little to address these concerns. Punjab also leads the country in youth unemployment rate. The unemployment rate among youth (labour force from the age of 18 to 29) is over 16%, compared to the Indian average of 10.2%.

Increasing mechanisation of agriculture and the poor state of skill development have left millions of educated rural youth without a job. Singh has also promised to crack down on the massive drug problem as soon as he takes office. "In four weeks, I will ensure that the backbone of this dangerous drug called 'Chitta' is broken," he had said during the campaign. Rural Punjab continues to suffer from the ravages of the drug epidemic, destroying families and encouraging a trafficking nexus that stretches across key institutions of the state—the police, for example. The state's finances are also is desperate need of repair—debt to GDP ratio in 2015-16 was as high as 31.4% against the national average of 22%. Given the BJP's dominance in national politics, the Congress has little choice but to deliver in Punjab. Good governance in the state will go some way in sowing the seeds of revival.

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