Punjab's new industrial policy that industries and commerce minister Anil Joshi has been promising now for several months won't be out in Tuesday's cabinet meeting.
By Joshi's own admission, it will not be on the meeting's agenda for mandatory clearance. "The draft is ready but the policy requires fine-tuning," the minister said here on Sunday. "We want to ensure that once it is released, there are no teething problems in implementing the same," he added.
When asked about the delay and how it had kept industrialists jittery about expansion plans, Joshi dismissed the apprehensions. Many manufacturers expect fiscal concession for building new units, while the delay is also holding the arrival of industry from both outside the state and India.
Already, several iron-manufacturing units are in the process of shifting base from Gobindgarh, Jalandhar, and Ludhiana to Jharkhand and Uttrakhand. "We know there has been a delay in the policy but it will not let the industrial units shift base from Punjab," said Joshi. "People born in Punjab cannot think of settling outside.
Here, the atmosphere is too good for anyone to even think of leaving the place. Moreover, we will sort out the pollution-related issues to give a final shape to the policy," he added.
Ever since Joshi became minister, he has been shifting the goal post of releasing the policy further and further. First he announced that the policy would be ready by January 2013. Later, he said he was releasing it by March-end, which then became the end of April.
Sources in the Punjab industrial department confirmed that the draft policy was ready but said Joshi did not have much role to play in it. The entire exercise had been conducted under the supervision of deputy chief
minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, they said. Sukhbir has gone through the draft and the final approval of chief minister
Parkash Singh Badal is all that is required.
The draft policy focussed largely on the need to attract information technology and consumer manufacturing industry to Punjab, said the sources.
In 2009, the coalition government of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Jantata Party (BJP) had formulated an industrial policy when the BJP's Manoranjan Kalia was industries minister. In that policy, the state government had given industrial units all sorts of benefits, except financial concessions.
The policy had no not only introduced the single-window clearance system to bypass corrupt bureaucracy for any new project in the state but also tried to accommodate the less-polluting units by creating a yellow category for them to obtain an easy no-objection certificate (NOC) from Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB).
"A new policy alone cannot attract industry, unless a favourable atmosphere is created in Punjab. Punjab still lacks the infrastructure and uninterrupted power supply to woo industry. A corrupt bureaucracy is also a major disincentive," said an official in the Punjab industries and commerce department.
Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings (CICU) general secretary Avtar Singh disagrees with Joshi that the delay in the release of policy would not make much difference to the industrial units in Punjab.
"It has been almost a year and two months since the SAD-BJP government came back to power in the state. We are confused and sitting on the edge waiting for the new policy to come out, to be able to initiate our expansion plans," said Avtar Singh. "Also, no new industrial
project is coming to Punjab from outside, since there is no policy in place," he added.
Avtar Singh says already several iron-manufacturing units have shifted base to the other states. Recently, the Bihar government invited industrialists from across the country to build units there, for which it provided them with land for Rs 10 per square yard. Industrialists from Ludhiana have purchased 100 acres in Bihar.
"If the Punjab government fails to formulate a concrete policy to benefit industrialists, the cycle-part and hosiery-item makers of Ludhiana will be the first to move out in three to four years," he said.
The Punjab government had been unable to deal with longish delay in value-added tax (VAT) refunds, which takes almost six months to two years. Even the new guideline to refund 75% of the VAT immediately to industrialists had not worked, CICU general secretary Avtar Singh added.
"If I decide to build an industry in Punjab today, it will take me at least two years to make the unit functional," said Avtar Singh.
"Getting a plot in the industrial zone carved out in the master plan is not easy. Getting permission from the special economic zone (SEZ) authority is another hurdle. Securing electricity connection and NOC from the PPCB is equally exhaustive," he added.
He had brought these issues to the CM's knowledge. "I don't know if the government will be able to address these issues in the new policy," he said.