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HindustanTimes Sun,23 Nov 2014

Now lollipop to attract magnate: Bajwa

HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times  Amritsar, October 06, 2013
First Published: 21:52 IST(6/10/2013) | Last Updated: 00:07 IST(7/10/2013)

After missing the information technology (IT) bus, Punjab is trying to jump on the investment bandwagon by attracting industry magnates with lollipop, state Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa said here at a Congress rally on Sunday.

He further said  that in the Saturday's meeting with Tata group chairman Cyrus Mistry, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had made false projections of investment opportunities in Punjab.

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 "The so-called investor-friendly policy, which Sukhbir sold as lollipop to industrial houses, was never notified since announced in June," he said.

Addressing Congress workers in the second phase of his mass-contact programme in the Amritsar East constituency, Bajwa said that by making false projections, Sukhbir was not doing any service to Punjab but only bringing the state bad name. "His presentation to the IT companies in  Karnataka last week was misleading, as Punjab has missed the IT bus already," Bajwa said.

Seven years had passed since the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government had taken over Punjab and yet no industrial policy has been notified till date,  he said the Congress leader. "Many states such as Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh made the most of the IT revolution at its beginning but none of the big players in this sector preferred to invest in Punjab," he further said.

Bajwa blamed the base rate of value-added tax (VAT) in Punjab, which at 5% was highest in the country against 4% per cent in all other states. The electricity price in Punjab was second highest in the country and excise duty clubbed with advance tax on raw material was highest of all states, he added, questioning how this policy was "friendly".

State Congress vice-president OP Soni, and other rally organisers Harpartap Ajnala, Fateh Jung Bajwa, and Sunil Datti were also present during the rally.

Amritsar parliamentarian Navjot Singh Sidhu is from the state's ruling alliance, and yet he had recently charged the Punjab government of  scuttling his projects. Later, dismissing Sukhbir's hurried announcements of mega projects for his constituency, he had said he wouldn't be fooled by "lollipop".

'It's ta-ta investment'

Referring to Sukhbir's meetings with Mistry, Bajwa said the government had misinformed people that the Tata group would invest in a variety of big projects in Punjab. "The group came to say final ta-ta (goodbye) to Punjab, as it did not announce any investment plan, and only the state government did so through the media," he said.

In July 2013, Sukhbir had made similar statements after meeting Tata Motors vice-chairman Ravi Kant and even named fancy projects such as Ropar-Phagwara Expressway, Water City in Ludhiana, Solar City , Downtown in Mohali and Ludhiana that remained imaginary, said the Punjab Congress president.

"No industry can come up in Punjab without accepting the untenable demands of the ruling family," said Bajwa, adding: "The Badal family eliminated all small and medium players in state's transport and liquor trade, and monopolised the business of sand and gravel mining."

Sukhbir's proposed global investment summit in Mohali would be another futile exercise in the absence of investor-friendly atmosphere and policies, he said, recalling that the that Akali government had lied after the NRI (non-resident Indian) Sammelans in 2007 and 2013 that the expartiates had agreed to make heavy investment in Punjab's tourism and hospitality sector. "Not even one NRI dared to invest in Punjab because of corruption, poor law and order, unworthy roads, and traffic nuisance," he added.

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