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Amarinder goes into top gear on reviving industry in Punjab

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 13 May 2017, 20:51 IST
(Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

Just six weeks into the job, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has started the process of reviving industry in the state.

There have been certain positive developments announced by the Congress government in the last one week that can have far reaching implications when implemented fully.

With job creation and manufacturing down at the national level, and even the much-hyped IT sector going in for 'correction', some positive signals in Punjab are a welcome step. It'll also give a fillip to the Congress's political campaigns both in Punjab and elsewhere in the polls to come.

The party has always underlined that economic growth in the country over the last two decades has been a result of Manmohanomics (policy changes initiated by former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh when he was the Union Finance Minister between 1991-96), while rivals have been trying to take credit for it.

Allotment of land

Just three days ago, the government gave its nod for the allotment of sites to 14 IT and ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services) units in the Mohali IT City, paving the way for an investment of more than Rs 750 crore.

The government claims it will generate direct employment for nearly 1,500 professionals, while many more will benefit indirectly.

A high-powered committee chaired by chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh scrutinised the applications of companies with an annual turnover ranging from Rs 25 crore to Rs 1,100 crore to shortlist the 14 companies for land allotment.

This will take the total number of companies allotted land so far in the SAS Nagar (Mohali) IT City to 46.

At present, the tri-city region (Chandigarh-Mohali-Panchkula) has 170 IT and ITES units, predominantly in the Small Medium Entreprises (SMEs) sector. The exports from the region have already crossed Rs 3,866 crore in 2016-17, creating employment opportunities for 35,000 professionals.

PepsiCo is back

This development follows PepsiCo India's decision to revive its citrus project in Punjab, which was stalled by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP government for more than a decade.

A PepsiCo delegation met Amarinder on Wednesday to discuss major expansion and investment plans in the state. It showed interest in collaborating with the state government to revive the horticulture project initiated during Amarinder's previous tenure, besides exploring the possibility of sourcing citrus fruits for their juices and concentrates from the state.

PepsiCo has also shown interest in investing Rs 500 crore through a partner to set up a juice concentrate and soft drink production plant in Pathankot.

The company already has Asia's largest potato minituber lab in Zahura in Hoshiarpur district, and a state-of-the-art bulk storage in the state.

In a presentation, Dr James H Keithly, a horticulture specialist from the US who was also part of the PepsiCo delegation, unveiled a five-year plan for the production of high-yielding quality processing varieties of citrus plants at the Jalowal nursery in Hoshiarpur. The spokesperson disclosed this nursery was started during Amarinder's previous term in the government, but had been allowed to fall by the wayside by the erstwhile SAD government.

Other measures to woo industry

Meanwhile, Amarinder has directed his principal secretary to expedite the release of pending subsidy, to the tune of Rs 7 crore, for the development of industry in the border areas of Tarn Taran and Amritsar, following a request by a delegation of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI). He has asked the PHDCCI to come forward with innovative inputs for the revival of industry, which according to him, had been devastated as a result of the unfriendly policies of the previous government.

Amarinder has been claiming that he has received a stupendous response during his recent Mumbai visit to woo industry, where he met the country's top industry leaders such as Tatas, Ambanis, Goenkas, Mahindras and Bajajs, among others.

Earlier this week, Amarinder also held deliberations with a high-level Japanese business and industry delegation led by Japanese ambassador Hiramatsu-San. The CM asked the delegation to help Punjab prop up its manufacturing sector. A new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility built by Sonalika Tractors, in collaboration with a Japanese company, was inaugurated in Hoshiarpur earlier on Monday.

CII praise

Babu Khan, the northern regional director of the Confederation of Indian Industry, told Catch: “That the Punjab government is committed to revive industry is evident from the fact that it has announced bringing in a new industrial policy within ninety days of taking over. In a short spell of two months, the government has already expressed its commitment to provide electricity at Rs 5 per unit to all consumers, domestic, commercial and industry. To bring down the high power tariff is one of the key concern areas of industry, as it making industry in Punjab uncompetitive.”

Khan added that the government's commitment to attract investment and revive industrial growth is also reflected from the fact that the Chief Minister personally went and met some of the top industrialists in Mumbai in April.

He further disclosed that a CII delegation that met Amarinder recently got a positive response. “Further, the government is quite sympathetic to address the issue of disparity in the incentives given to the existing and new industry, and is seriously considering bringing it at par to promote both existing as well as new investments. This all indicates that government is quite committed to providing necessary support to the industry,” he said.

SAD chimes in

Meanwhile, the SAD leadership has been trying to score some brownie points by sending out the message that the SAD is also working for promoting industry in the state.

Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has asked Amarinder to instruct state authorities to grant necessary approvals to a mega food park coming up in Kapurthala, to promote maize processing, which will help farmers diversify from the wheat-paddy cycle.

She has conveyed to Amarinder in a letter that delays in grant of approvals by the various departments has delayed the start of the project, which is scheduled to be completed within 30 months of being approved by her ministry in November last year.

She disclosed that M/s Sukhjit Mega Food Park at Rehana Jattan village in Kapurthala is proposed to be set up with an investment of Rs 105 crore. The project includes a maize processing anchor unit and is likely to attract other maize processing units also.

“This will act as an impetus to farmers to grow maize on a large scale in the district and will help them to diversify besides improving the water table in the area,” she asserted.

First published: 13 May 2017, 20:51 IST