History has a way of repeating itself. The adage gains special significance in case of Punjab, which, thanks to the seeds sown over the time, is reaping rich dividends today. With Punjab emerging as the best overall state since 2003, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal attributes its repeated success,History has a way of repeating itself. The adage gains special significance in case of Punjab, which, thanks to the seeds sown over the time, is reaping rich dividends today. With Punjab emerging as the best overall state since 2003, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal attributes its repeated success to Punjabis being “aggressive and progressive by nature”. The sentiment is echoed by Industries and Commerce Minister Manoranjan Kalia. “I marvel at the entrepreneurship of our people. We have no iron ore but have a successful steel industry in Mandi Gobindgarh, no wool but a booming hosiery industry in Ludhiana, no willow but a renowned sports industry in Ludhiana.”An evenly irrigated Punjab is the leader in farm productionThe strong foundation for Punjab’s success was laid decades back. The headstart in agriculture apart, a vast network of roads built in the state has kept villages connected to cities and mandis. The state, however, is cashstrapped, with debts mounting to Rs 40,000 crore, a falling standard of education and a poor power situation. Badal, though, refuses to take the blame. “What could not be achieved in six decades we have done in just two. We are working to add capacity with four thermal power plants in Talwandi Sabo, Rajpura, Gidderbaha and Goindwal Sahib,” he says.Kalia touts the passing of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act, approval to 16 SEZs and 49 mega projects sanctioned since March 2007, adding that these will bring in an investment of Rs 36,574 crore. “From No. 23, we have climbed to No. 3 in VAT collection,” says Badal. “When we came to power, we were 30,000 teachers short. We’ve filled half of the vacancies and are catering to 11,000 more in the next three months,” adds Badal. Unfazed about the criticism on the scrapping of the MOU with Reliance Industries for setting up agricultural projects in the state, Kalia says, “They did nothing for two years. So they had to go.”advertisementThe Government’s moves evoke a mixed reaction.” They are providing the right infrastructure and things are beginning to happen. With IIT and ISB, Punjab will get a different feel,” says NASSCOM Chairman Pramod Bhasin. Pointing to depleting water levels and overuse of chemicals and fertilisers, agriculturist Davinder Sharma says, “Punjab is surviving on artificial respiration. The way things are, the most productive land will soon turn into a desert.”The Congress too has its reservations. “Every other day, explosives are found somewhere, indicating an attempt by terrorists to regroup. Law and order is pathetic and standard of education is falling. The Government can only think of how it can crown Badal as chief minister,” says Congress MP Vijay Inder Singla from Sangrur. While the debate rages, the paradox that is Punjab continues to make headlines.