Chandigarh: In the 1960s it was at the forefront as the Green Revolution state that would make India self-sufficient in foodgrains. Now, Punjab is looking for another revolution on the industrial side to take the state forward.
Having lagged behind most states on the development and progress front over the last three decades, Punjab is in dire need of change to gear up for the future.
Faced with this situation, the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance government in the state has drafted a new industrial policy to attract investment into the state.
Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, himself a successful businessman with interests in hotels, real estate and agriculture, has personally monitored the new industrial policy, which offers major tax incentives to small, medium and large establishments that invest in the state.
Under its “earn your incentives” scheme, the state government wants to attract industry to revive Punjab’s industrial fortunes.
Badal described it as an “aggressive, incentive-based policy that, besides changing the paradigm of industrial development, would facilitate investment in the state”. He said Punjab had taken a proactive step to facilitate investment in the state by offering maximum incentives as compared to other states.
Badal remained centrestage during the announcement of the new policy while the state’s Industries Minister Anil Joshi, who is from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was pushed to play second fiddle.
The opposition Congress was quick to reject the new industrial policy saying that it would “spell disaster”.
“The policy has nothing for the existing industry in Punjab which is facing a tough situation,” state Congress president Pratap Singh Bajwa said.
Though Badal brought in pomp and show with his power-point presentation of the new policy, he did not spell out how his government intends to change things on the ground level to build an environment conducive for investment.
With just 1.54 percent of the country’s total land area — much of which is under agriculture cultivation and the rest urban — land in Punjab is a costly affair for any industry. The sky-high land prices put off most industrial investors as their projects become non-feasible.
Power cuts, ranging from 6 to 15 hours a day, continue to be a bane for people, business and industry. Badal continues to harp that Punjab will be power surplus soon but things are hardly changing at the ground level.
The state lost investment in the 1980s and 1990s due to a bloody phase of terrorism. Except for the industrial hub of Ludhiana, often called the Manchester of India, and a few pockets here and there, industry could not prosper in Punjab due to the law and order situation.
The worst phase for the state came when the central government announced a 10-year tax holiday in the hill states of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand to attract industrial investment there. Industry from Punjab left the state in hordes to set up base in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
Being a landlocked state with a 553-km international border with Pakistan does not make things easy for investors.
Badal will have to bring about a dynamic shift in how Punjab tries to attract industrial investment if the new policy has to succeed. Otherwise, as in the past, the industrial policy will end up as another bulky document on official shelves till a new one comes out.