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Migration a reason for declining Sikh population: Toronto based Sikh leader



Toronto: Sikh leaders in North America blame conversions, drugs and migration for the decline in the growth rate of Sikh population in India from 1.9 percent to 1.7 percent as per the 2011 census.

“While Punjab leaders are promoting their family businesses, the youth has sunk in drugs. So what do you expect from drug addicts?” asked Toronto-based Sikh leader Nachhattar Singh Chohan.

Chohan, who heads the Indian Trucking Association in Canada, said: “Yes, migration from Punjab to the West is one reason. But the bigger factor is that people are abandoning Sikhism and joining various ‘deras’ in Punjab. The SGPC has failed the Sikhs.”

Vancouver-based community activist Balwant Sanghera said: “First and foremost reason for declining Sikh population is the migration from Punjab to the West. Second, there is growing awareness to have smaller families.”

Shrinking land holdings in Punjab are also forcing people to have fewer children to avoid further division of land among siblings.

“Finally, drugs are taking their toll on the Punjab youth. The drugs are reported to be causing impotence amongst boys, resulting in fewer births,” Sanghera told a media outlet.

Los Angeles-based Bhai Satpal Singh Kohli, the Ambassador of Sikh Dharma in Western Hemisphere, said the Sikh population is declining because people are “not adhering to the Sikh code of conduct and leaving Sikhism to join various ‘deras’ due to poor leadership and discrimination against Dalits and poor Sikhs in Punjab.”

He too said Sikhs were migrating for better opportunities. “Moreover, the trend is that Sikhs are increasingly marrying out of their religion. So the majority of their children now end up not being Sikhs.”

Kohli welcomes the directive of the Akal Takht Jathedar to each Sikh family to have four children. “But more importantly, Sikhs need not select family planning for a male child and stop female foeticide.”

Yuba City-based Jasbir Kang blames the destruction of the economy of rural Punjab for the migration of Sikhs to foreign lands.

“Events and after-affects of 1984 had serious impact on the Sikh psyche… Sikhs never committed suicides until the last two decades. People have lost their pride and self-respect,” Kang told a media outlet.

Kang said Sikhs are converting to other religions as the clergy has failed to address the “issues of caste divisions, drug abuse and failure the issues of gender gap.

“If moms lose respect for faith, then children will not follow it either. We are at a crossroads.”

Washington-based Sikh leader Rajwant Singh, who heads the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, said: “The turbulence of the 80s impacted average Sikh family dependent on agrarian economy.

“Political mishandling of economic and social issues, and militancy in the 80s and its suppression by security forces added to the woes of Punjab. These have had a direct impact on the average Sikh family.”

Singh says the lack of opportunities have also pushed young Sikhs to try their luck elsewhere in the world, even if it means selling off valuable assets and facing migratory restrictions in many Western countries.


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Prisons Face Population Drop in The U.S.

The U.S. has long had the unenviable distinction of holding the world's largest prison population, in part because of tough-on-crime policies enacted in the 1990s.

The Queensboro Correctional Facility in Queens, NY. VOA

The U.S. has long had the unenviable distinction of holding the world’s largest prison population, in part because of tough-on-crime policies enacted in the 1990s.

But sentencing reforms passed in recent years appear to have made a dent, leading to declines in the population over the past eight years.

A criminal justice reform organization reported Friday that in 2017, the U.S. prison population dropped below 1.5 million for the first time in more than a decade.

The decline, according to the Washington-based Vera Institute for Justice, was driven by a sharp decrease in the number of inmates in federal prisons and decreases in several states with large prison populations.

Total U.S. prison population dropped to 1,486,000 last year, a decline of nearly 16,000. The number of federal prisoners fell to 183,000, and the number of inmates in state prisons declined to 1.3 million, according to the report. (The overall figure does not include the more than 600,000 defendants held in local, state and federal jails.)

U.S.A Flag. Pixabay

The decline extended an eight-year downward trend in U.S. prison population that has been driven by federal and state sentencing reforms enacted over the past decade. But the Vera institute cautioned that it was unclear whether the trend would continue.

“Whether criminal justice reform can continue to fuel this sustained decline in the prison population remains to be seen,” said Jacob Kang-Brown, senior research associate at Vera. “We must continue to do the hard work, as advocates and agents of change, to ensure that all our communities feel the relief of decarceration.”

The report came as President Donald Trump called on Congress to pass legislation to help former inmates reintegrate into society and avoid going back to prison, as many do.

“We want former inmates to find a path to success so they can support their families and support their communities,” Trump said at a White House summit on prison reform attended by two state governors and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, who is spearheading the effort. “Crucial to this effort is helping former prisoners find jobs.”

“Nobody wins when former prisoners fail to adjust to life outside, or worse, end up back behind bars,” Trump said.

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he delivers remarks during the Prison Reform Summit at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 18, 2018.
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he delivers remarks during the Prison Reform Summit at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 18, 2018.

Saying that 3 in 4 inmates released from prison have difficulty finding jobs, Trump said his prison reform program aims to expand work opportunities and other programs that would allow inmates to “re-enter society with the skills to get a job.”

White House officials said Trump supports legislation that promotes “evidence-based risk and needs assessments” of prisoners and expands prison work programs, among other initiatives. They did not specify the legislation.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote next week on legislation that hews closely to the White House’s prison reform agenda. The First Step Act, recently passed by the House Judiciary Committee, calls for “risk and needs assessment” of prisoners and expands recidivism-reduction programs for prisoners.

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But the legislation is facing growing pressure. A group of influential Democrats in Congress expressed opposition to the bill on Thursday, saying it has “fundamental flaws” and that “meaningful criminal justice reform must include sentencing reform.” (VOA)