Infrastructure, incentives, power will attract industry

Written by Ivinder Gill | Updated: Jun 9 2013, 07:42am hrs
Having just announced a new industrial policy that offers phenomenal freebies to attract industry, Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal is now waiting for investors with his doors wide open. Having won a historic second mandate in the Assembly polls last year has also given him the licence, and time, to go ahead with his plans for the state. In a conversation with Ivinder Gill, he talks about efforts to make Punjab investor-friendly. Excerpts:

Huge incentives have been offered to new industry coming into Punjab in your new industrial policy. Apart from these freebies, what else is being done to attract investment

We need to develop infrastructure to attract people. This is not the age of licence raj, where industrialists were forced to go to the state that gave them the licence to set up industry. Today industrialists decide where they want to invest. So to make Punjab investor-friendly, we are working on countering our disadvantages. Since we are a landlocked state, we will soon have five airports in the state to compete against states with ports, like Gujarat and Maharashtra. Bathinda, Mohali, Pathankot, Ludhiana and Amritsar will all have airports. We have proposed an airport at Jalandhar too.

Second, we are looking at road infrastructure and

connectivity, on which we are investing a huge amount. I think ours will be the only state in three years where each town will be connected by a four-six lane expressway. As a result, certain backward areas where land is available cheaper will be made available for investment.

Also, we have a mission to make the state power surplus. And we have been very successful. By the end of this year, all power stations under construction will be operational. From next year onwards, the basket of power will be much cheaper, not only for domestic consumers, but industry as well.

The new industrial policy is very attractive and liberal. With all the concessions offered, it will become economically viable for people to invest in Punjab. Our focus is on sectors like food processing and IT. We are also looking at sugar hubs, textile hubs, etc. As we have reached a peak in agriculture, the way forward is investment in terms of industry, infrastructure, IT, hotels and hospitals.

Does that mean you are now more focused on industry than agriculture

They have to move parallel. Our industry will mainly be based on agriculture, for example, textile. Textile means encouraging cotton, which is a very good diversification from wheat and rice. So we are encouraging the textile industry because cotton becomes our biggest employer. Then we are looking at sugar hubs, food processing and export hubs, like that of rice.

Does this mean you will be selective in terms of the industry that comes in

Today it is the industry that is selective in where they want to go. They look at my state and weigh the advantages they can get here. So we have to have an environment to attract the industry.

How does the state plan to offer the incentives offered in the new policy

The state does not have to fund anything. First you have to set up a plant, then you earn and only after that you get to keep the incentives. Once the new entrants start producing, only then would they be eligible for the incentives.

Dont you think there is a huge divide in incentives for existing and new industry after the new policy

Existing units enjoy past benefits in terms of low cost of land and other fixed cost of investment.

What is your roadmap for agriculture

Our aim is diversification. Our water tables have gone down, so we are trying our best to use high-yield, less water consuming crops and we have been successful to a large extent. We are also looking at alternative crops. We have requested the Centre for funds, but they have given us just R300 crore for diversification. This is peanuts, especially when we consider that the Centre is giving about R1 lakh crore for food security.

Coming to power, why is Punjab not a part of the Centres re-structuring plan for electricity boards

We have our own roadmap. The Centre tries to shift a lot of its liabilities on to the states. They make all-India policies; a policy that is good for one state might not be good for others. So this policy of re-structuring may suit some states, but not us. We are reforming our power sector and this year we will have a power surplus.

What is the power situation in Punjab today

The days of load-shedding are over. Cuts do not exceed a couple of hours, except in cases of technical faults.

Do you have any plans for nuclear power

No.

Why

We dont need nuclear power. I am not in favour of a nuclear power plant. They are not safe. Look at Japan. If a country like Japan could not protect its nuclear plants from disaster, where do we stand And why do you want tension for just 20,000 mw, which is the projected capacity of nuclear plants in India. Are you aware that the hydel capacity of India is 1,30,000 mw, of which we have tapped not even 30,000 mw. Hydel is the best source, being the cheapest, safest and cleanest electricity.

Anyway, we are a border state close to a hostile neighbour. One missile from the other side will wipe out both Punjab and Haryana.

Are you aware that the Central Electricity Authority is looking at a power grid connection to Pakistan close to Amritsar and there is a feasibility study being undertaken on it Are you in favour of it

Yes I am aware of this. And, why not We will soon be power surplus and it will be easy to supply power across the border. And I think we should do it so that they are dependent on us.

What about renewable energy

This year we have a target of 800-900 mw in renewable energy. I am even looking at the idea of solar farms, especially for use in agriculture. And all our investment is by private investors.