Punjab Journal: Reflecting on Bhutta

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by Diditi Mitra

During our bus ride to Rara Sahib gurdwara, the bus seemed to stop in the middle of nowhere, and dropped off a very well dressed young woman. We soon learned that we were stopped in the village of Bhutta, on the outskirts of Ludhiana. The young woman who got off the bus was headed to college.

Bhutta Group of Colleges3

Stepping off the bus

Above the college gates, which we could see from the bus, hung a huge sign that said Bhutta Group of Colleges. Surrounded by the rustic environment of the village was this modern structure enclosed within the gates of the college.  Somehow, it looked a bit out of place.

Nonetheless, it was a pleasant surprise to see the emphasis on education, and that too to see women walk through those gates of higher education in a state where female infanticide and foeticide is one of the highest in the nation.

Bhutta Group of Colleges 1

What looks like the middle of nowhere

A preliminary search on Google for Bhutta Group of colleges revealed some interesting information. It looks like the institution offers technical education to those in the rural areas of Punjab. Established in 1997 under the Punjab Technical University Act of 1996, they are affiliated with Punjab Technical University (PTU). As such, the mission of the Bhutta Group of Colleges is to advance technical education in order to facilitate development of Punjab.

Bhutta village itself, according to the Census data published by the Indian government in 2011, has a very high literacy rate. (The only state in India with close to 100 percent literacy is Kerala. According to Census 2011, the literacy rate in Kerala is 93.9 percent). Additionally, the village is comprised of a high percentage of people of scheduled caste background (about 38 percent) and the sex ratio in the village is 865 which is lower than Punjab state’s average of 895, i.e. there are fewer females than males in Bhutta. The child sex ratio in the village is even lower — 765 as opposed to Punjab’s average of 846. Presumably, this pattern of sex ratio that favors males over females is indicative of a higher rate of female infanticide and foeticide. Interestingly, according to an article published in The Indian Express, the author asserts that female foeticide is alive and well in the diaspora too!

Bhutta Group of Colleges2. Cropped for blogJPG

On her way

The Punjab government has strategized to curb female infanticide and foeticide. There are many critics of abortion of female foetuses or murder or abandonment of female infants. Also, India itself is an extremely diverse society with numerous strands of religious, cultural and regional beliefs. So, it is problematic to pin down female infanticide/foeticide as innately Indian.’

Furthermore, it is necessary to note that high rates of female infanticide in Punjab, or other parts of India with high rates, does not mean that this is the only state or nation where patriarchy exists. The pattern is not suggestive of some kind of pathology possessed only by brown men as a colonial, or a racist, lens would have one believe. After all, India, and a few other developing nations, have had female heads of state. Of course, that does not mean that patriarchy there is absent either. Conversely, it does not mean that the West is free of patriarchy. Evidence show otherwise.  I would argue that this is how patriarchy, in conjunction with other social factors, lives in the context of Punjab and broadly, India.  Ultimately, what one must note is that patriarchy is not exclusive to the third world and that manifestations of it are likely to vary based on the specific socio-cultural histories of a place.

What is curious though is the high rate of literacy as well as the high proportion of people of scheduled caste background in the village of Bhutta. How are they connected to the availability of resources, like the Bhutta Group of Colleges, if at all?

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(Go herefor the first post in the series)