The Sikh refugee memory tends to assume that their people suffered the largest fiscal ‘step- down’ with respect to their pre- and post-partition livelihoods. A statement by Tarlochan Singh, a Delhi-based refugee, originally from Dhudial, Jhelum district, provides an example of this:
"There’s absolutely no comparison [between life in west Punjab and east Punjab]. You see over there we were rich, we were the landholders, we had better agricultural facilities and techniques...we had large bungalows...and then to come to the east, where the people were backward, and very poor...and we joined them in their poverty...I was working on the streets, doing all sorts of child labour...from the age of thirteen, I was working hard."
Similarly, Kuldip Nayar, another Delhi-based refugee, originally from Sialkot, suggests that out of the transfer of population, the Muslims fared better...you see when they left India they had only land...so you can say there’s was a step-up...[Yet in Indian Punjab] there were many homes that were vacated...these were Muslim evacuee homes, though they were smaller than we had been used to, these were filled by Hindu and Sikh refugees [emphasis added].
In addition, these views, there are a number of other popularly-held views as to why Sikh refugees suffered the most in this respect. One relates to ‘non-Muslim’ dominance of commercial centres across West Pakistan. So, for instance, Sarna suggests that one of the chief reasons for Muslim support for the Pakistan demand was that before partition, Hindus, and Sikhs too, used to own all the businesses...even though Muslims were the majority; they only owned ten per cent of the businesses...so that’s why they [the Muslims] were resentful.
Another popularly-held view that contributing towards the conviction that Sikh refugees suffered the most economically is that, while Sikhs were responsible for transforming the largely barren wastelands of central Punjab into the most fertile and productive agricultural land in the country, i.e. the ‘canal colonies’, all nine of these colonies ended up in Pakistan. Admittedly, the view that the Sikhs were responsible for the success of the canal colonies is one that was articulated both in the period shortly before the partition of Punjab/India as well as in the subsequent decades.
Before partition, this view was expressed in the following statements:
It is significant that only those districts and regions of the Punjab, which are mainly cultivated by the Sikh farmers, are the surplus food districts...By sheer dint of their hard work, the Sikhs have not only made barren and waste lands fertile but also have created an insatiable desire amongst the Punjabis for canal-irrigated land which has incidentally raised the price of land.
Sikhs are the best farmers in India and are in fact the only successful colonisers of new lands. By their hard work they have made the deserts of Montgomery and Lyallpore blossom into a peasant’s paradise.
Excerpts from article here: