Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Friday was seen hard-selling Punjab by listing his government's achievements and plans on the first day of the NRI Sammelan here.
In his speech, supported by a power-point presentation, Sukhbir focused on the progressive summit telling the audience that business houses had committed an investment of 10 billion dollars and within a month, the investment had started arriving.
Referring to the economies of Canada and the US passing through a difficult phase, Sukhbir said Punjab was doing much better. Referring to former finance minister Manpreet Badal, Sukhbir said his cousin was spreading rumours, but contrary to that Punjab's economy was improving.
Sukhbir's comment calling US President Barak Obama a pauper and still ruling the world had the audience in splits. The hall was elaborately decorated with special attention on the sitting arrangement of dignitaries. The audience repeatedly applauded Sukhbir.
The deputy chief minister told the NRIs present on the first day session held at Virasat-e-Khalsa complex here that Mohali was going to be a major information technology hub as Infosys and other major IT companies were setting up shop here. "In near future, two lakh to three lakh jobs would be created in the IT sector, and Infosys alone would hire 20,000 people," said Sukhbir.
"Farmers get adequate power which is surplus in the state; the airport in Bathinda is ready awaiting a formal opening, the roads are the best, Mohali is going to be health capital of the country, and there are number of other steps the government is taking to bring Punjab on the world map," said Sukhbir. He also discussed administrative reforms initiated by his government.
He said his government had done a lot for the non-resident Punjabis, had set up special police stations, a separate department had been set up, a commissionerate had been made, online helpline worked round the clock, PESCO guards would guard their properties and marriage registration had been simplified. "In three years, you would find a sea change in the state and its functioning," said Sukhbir, adding that Punjab was the only state in the country that had done a lot for the NRIs who had roots in the state.
The deputy CM said there was negligible investment from NRIs who had roots in Punjab. He asked NRIs from Punjab to support their brothers back home.
No reservation for NRIs on allotment of plots: Canadian minister
In contradiction to the invitation from Sukhbir Badal to all Punjabi NRIs to avail the government's scheme of 10% reservation in allotment of industrial and residential plots, Canadian minister of sports Bal Gosal questioned the special treatment. "Why not treat them (NRI Punjabis) on par with their brothers living in Punjab, don't give them any reservation," said Gosal.
He also pointed out that despite having a huge population, India's performance in sports was poor. He asked the Punjab government also to focus on sports other than kabaddi.
"The biggest issue that Punjab needs to address is to protect investment of NRIs; in case the government is successful in building confidence, there would be no issue of investment," Gosal said.
'Deal with issue of mistaken identity'
NRI minister Bikram Singh Majithia called upon NRI Punjabis to deal with the issue of Sikhs wearing a turban being mistaken as terrorists. "I think there is need to educate people living in foreign countries on the issue," he said. Listing his department's achievements, he stressed on the need to revive the old Silk route. A step in the direction was to improve business ties with Pakistan, he added.
A jail for NRI Punjabis
"We have built separate police stations, department, and given a separate minister, now I think we should also construct a separate jail for them," said CM Parkash Singh Badal as the entire hall burst into laughter. Badal was quick to clarify that he had said that in a lighter vein.
Every Punjabi is a leader
During his speech, Sukhbir said Punjabis could not lag behind as every Punjabi is a leader by nature. In case there were two Punjabis at a place, they would start competing with each other, he added, inviting cheer from the crowd.
Ministers called on dais
Sensing that a number of ministers of the Punjab government were lost in the audience, they were called to the dais by making special seating arrangements. The cabinet ministers who were called to the dais were Parminder Singh Dhindsa, Sarwan Singh Phillaur, Surjeet Singh Rakhra and Sharanjeet Singh Dhillon.
Kamaljeet Singh Bakshi, MP from New Zealand: "The facilities promised by Punjab government should be made time-bound and a deadline should be fixed. We should come every year and make the Punjab government proposals a success."
Sachin Gupta: Mayor, Hounslow, UK: "Bring the third generation of non-resident Punjabis back to Punjab, investment would follow them. Most of the third generation has lots of misconceptions about Punjab as they have never visited the state. When misconceptions would be cleared they would like to open businesses here."
Gurnihal Singh Nagra, professor of robotics from the US: "To have success in bringing investment to Punjab needs justice and infrastructure. Countries like the US and Canada are different from India as they offer justice and good infrastructure."
Ruby Dhaliwal, mayor from US: "Open an Indian consulate in California which has 2.5 lakh Indian population and I can take up the case of reciprocating by opening a US consulate in Chandigarh as the one opened by Canada."
Harinder Takhar, former Canadian minister: "The time has come when we (NRI Punjabis) should ask the Punjab government what we can do for them. Everyone says what have they done for us, but it makes a difference when we say what I can do for you."