One year of Capt govt: Industry means hard work; Punjab govt high on intent, low on delivery | punjab | top | Hindustan Times
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One year of Capt govt: Industry means hard work; Punjab govt high on intent, low on delivery

While the government has been quick in taking decisions on key promises for this sector, their implementation seems to have taken time due to funds crunch or yarns of red tape.

punjab Updated: Mar 15, 2018 10:09 IST
Navneet Sharma
Workers on the job at one of Ludhiana’s many cycle manufacturing units, which form a big part of the state’s industry.
Workers on the job at one of Ludhiana’s many cycle manufacturing units, which form a big part of the state’s industry.(HT File)

When former prime minister Manmohan Singh released the Congress manifesto for the assembly elections in Punjab, one thing stood out — the intent to put the state’s economy back on track by giving a boost to industry. The party promised to give electricity to industry at Rs 5 per unit, earmark Rs 1,000 crore for incentives, create a new land bank for industrial development, and set up a world-class facility for starts-ups.

Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh also showed his priorities by travelling to Mumbai within days of coming to power to meet the business bigwigs to attract investment with the promise of making Punjab a more investment-and industry-friendly state.

Then, a decision was taken in July last to ban all truck unions in one go. The move, though not a part of the Congress manifesto, was a major demand. Truck unions, which saw a power struggle between Congress and Akalis after the change in government, protested. However, Amarinder stuck to his guns, as industries, particularly in Malwa, were being charged high freight and being fleeced by these unions. The notification came only in November, though.

Reality check
  • Promise: Rs 5-a-unit electricity for the existing and new industry
  • Status: Govt has implemented the decision, though after shifting deadlines
  • Promise: New industrial policy with 90 days of assuming office
  • Status: Cabinet approved New Industrial and Business Development Policy on October 16, 2017, seven months after govt formation, but guidelines still to be issued
  • Promise: To allocate Rs 100 crore to create a world-class facility for start-ups
  • Status: Included in the new industrial policy, but separate fund to be created

The government followed it up with a new industrial policy, including incentives and subsidised tariff. Amarinder said industry held the key to reviving economy. “Our effort is to facilitate setting up business in the state through single-window clearances and other measures. In terms of projects over Rs 50 crore that have been cleared by Punjab Bureau of Investment Promotion (PBIP) after April 2017, 13 involving investment of Rs 2,313 crore have reached the stage of construction or setting up of plant and machinery. While 14 projects with Rs 2,170 crore project cost are in the preliminary stage of setting up, half a dozen other major projects are also lined up for operationalisation post April 2018,” he said.

While the government has been quick in taking decisions on key promises for this sector, their implementation seems to have taken time due to funds crunch or yarns of red tape. In its manifesto, the Congress promised a new industrial policy within 90 days of assuming office. The ‘New Industrial and Business Development Policy’ was approved by the cabinet in October — seven months after formation of the government — with fiscal and non-fiscal incentives. The guidelines on procedures have not been notified so far.

Similarly, Rs 5-a-unit power for industry was to start from November 1 as per the announcement, but did not materialise immediately. The deadline was pushed to January 1 which, too, was not kept. Only when the industry raised hue and cry, the CM stepped in and variable power tariff was frozen at Rs 5 per unit.

While the government aims to attract investments worth Rs 5 lakh crore over the next five years, the inflows are still only a trickle.

RS Sachdeva, president of the state unit of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI), called the decisions on truck unions and power tariff a big relief. “Barring Sangrur, Barnala and Mansa, truck unions have been curbed in most areas. We are still waiting for industrial policy-related guidelines,” he said, adding, “Quick clearances and land for infrastructure should be priorities in the coming years”.

Pankaj Sharma, general secretary of Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings (CICU), also said that subsidised electricity would help power-intensive steel and spinning mill industries but micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) need more handholding. “There is a perceptible change in attitude of government officials, but paperwork remains an issue. There is a need to simplify procedures,” he said.

While the government aims to attract investments worth Rs 5 lakh crore over the next five years, the inflows are still only a trickle. Director, industries, DPS Kharbanda said the guidelines related to incentives provided in new policy have already been cleared by the chief secretary and would be put up to the cabinet for approval. “After the policy was approved, we have signed MoUs worth Rs 47,000 crore. Things will move quickly through the single-window system from here,” he said.