Asserting his government’s commitment to providing industry with a safe and stable environment for growth and investment, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday sent out a stern warning to Pakistan, as well as to anti-social elements within the state, against any attempt to destabilise Punjab.“Behave, or else be prepared for the consequences,” the Chief Minister warned the neighbouring country, as well as any gangsters or goondas trying to disturb the peaceful environment of the state, which offers industry a highly congenial environment for development.During an interactive discussion during the keynote session on the first day of the Progressive Punjab Investors Summit (PPIS) 2019, Captain Amarinder said he had issued clear directions to the Punjab Police to handle any internal or external threat with an iron hand. On Pakistan’s recent attempts to create trouble in Punjab, he said they had been successfully pushed back by the police, which had neutralised the various groups infiltrated into the state by the Pak Army backed ISI.“Pakistan has its own problems, but I won’t let them make teir problems my problem,” asserted the Chief Minister, pointing out that 28 terror modules had been busted and more than 100 ISI-backed terrorists had been arrested by the Punjab Police in the last two years. “We will not let them mess around with us,” he declared.Captain Amarinder said he believed that while Imran Khan wanted peace, the Pak Army, in its desperation to remain relevant, was calling the shots and obstructing any efforts for peace. But they have to understand that they, and their country, are doomed if they do not change their ways, he said, adding that the Pak Army will have to “play ball” if they have to feed their people and save their country.In an equally strong warning, the Chief Minister said eliminating gangsterism was a priority for this government. Either they (gangsters and goondas) lay down arms, or they will have to face the consequences, he warned, pointing out that not only had his government come down heavily on such elements but had also abolished truck unions to provide a safe environment for industry to operate.Steps were also being taken to ensure women safety so that women could take up industrial jobs and do night shifts, said Captain Amarinder, adding that any woman could call the police for safe transportation back home not only at night but even if she felt threatened or unsafe in any way, any time of the day.
Citing the various other measures taken by his government to facilitate industrial development, which he dubbed as imperative for the state’s progress, Captain Amarinder said the focus was on providing the right environment to investors and industry to promote Punjab as a preferred destination. The industrial policy brought out in 2017 had plugged the weaknesses that existed earlier, he said, adding that the ease of doing business resulting from single-window clearances, online applications and approvals, subsidy on industrial power, amendments to key legislations related to business and industry, as well as water regulation, were facilitating investors in a big way. Punjab does not have labour problems, he further noted, terming the state’s educated and committed workforce a major asset for industry.Underlining the need to shift people from agriculture to industry, in view of the surplus production that was making agriculture non-viable for them, the Chief Minister said that by providing the right avenues for employment, industry could also help check the migration of Punjab’s youth to other countries. His government, on its part, was promoting skill development to boost employability, he added.The Chief Minister stressed on the need to provide continuity to industry to encourage them to invest and expand in Punjab. For this, it is essential not to indulge in political vendetta with the opposition and ensure that any party coming to power maintains the same policy approach to industry, he added. Stability was a key component of providing an enabling environment for industrial growth, he said, hoping that the next government that takes over in Punjab also adopts this philosophy.On the issue of air pollution triggered by stubble burning, the Chief Minister reiterated his stand that the Centre would have to pitch in to find a permanent solution to the problem. He stressed on the need for the central government to add compensation of Rs 100/quintal to the MSP to check stubble burning, and also underscored the importance of crop diversification in the long term to eliminate the problem. He would again raise the issue with the Prime Minister during their next meeting, he said, adding that if it is made worthwhile for them, farmers would definitely shift from wheat and paddy to other crops, just like they had, back in the sixties, moved to paddy cultivation.
This, said Captain Amarinder, was also vital to put an end to the wastage and the economic burden resulting on the state from the surplus wheat and rice crop, which the FCI was not lifting in a timely manner. Punjab, like other states, was already reeling under financial problems due to non-payment of their GST share in time, he said, pointing out that his state had not received its GST share since August 2019, translating into dues of Rs 6000 crore. And given that the state had handed over all other revenue generation sources to the central government under the GST regime, this had left them in a critical situation, he added.Assuaging the concerns of investors on account of the drugs and cancer problems in the state, the Chief Minister said his government had initiated a major clean-up of the drugs racket, with thousands of smugglers/peddlers arrested and convicted. While the problem will not disappeared, in view of the money involved in the business, it would be well under control and manageable by the time Assembly elections are due in the state, he promised.On the concerns expressed about the large number of cancer cases in the state, Captain Amarinder said statistics showed that the figure was actually lower than in other states. Punjab’s cancer cases had hit the limelight due to the notorious Cancer Train, he said, adding that his government was providing cancer treatment to patients within the state to prevent them from going to Rajasthan or other places for the same.The interactive session ended with NDTV Co-Chairman Prannoy Roy, who steered the session, congratulating the Chief Minister for his hands-on knowledge of the state and its problems.