‘Pak has problems, but I won’t let it make its problems my problem’: Amarinder Singh at Punjab Investors Summit

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Amarinder said he has issued clear directions to the Punjab Police to handle any internal or external threat with an iron hand.

Assuring industry of a safe and stable environment for growth and investment, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh Thursday warned Pakistan, as well anti-social elements within the state, against any attempt to destabilise Punjab.

“Behave, or else be prepared for the consequences,” the Chief Minister warned.

He was responding to queries about investors’ concerns during an interactive discussion in the keynote session with NDTV co-chairman Prannoy Roy on the first day of the two-day Progressive Punjab Investors Summit (PPIS) 2019.

Amarinder said he has issued clear directions to the Punjab Police to handle any internal or external threat with an iron hand.

“Pakistan has its own problems, but I won’t let them make their problems my problem,” CM said, pointing out Punjab Police has busted 28 terror modules and arrested more than 100 ISI-backed terrorists in the last two years. “We will not let them mess around with us,” he said.

Amarinder said he believed that while Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted peace, the Pakistani Army, in its desperation to remain relevant, was obstructing such efforts. But, he said, they (Pakistan Army) have to understand that they, and their country, are doomed if they do not change their ways. “They will have to play ball if they have to feed their people and save their country,” he added.

The Punjab CM also said that eliminating gangsterism was a priority for his government. “Either they (gangsters and goondas) lay down arms, or they will have to face the consequences,” he said, 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, Amarinder said. He said women could call the police for safe transportation back home not only at night but even if they felt threatened or unsafe in any way, any time of the day.

Citing various other measures taken by his government to facilitate industrial development, which he dubbed as imperative for the state’s progress, 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 said, terming the “state’s educated and committed workforce” a major asset for industry.

He underlined the need to shift people from agriculture to industry, in view of the surplus production that was making agriculture non-viable for them. The CM said that by providing 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.

Amarinder 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. Stability was a key component of providing an enabling environment for industrial growth,” he said.

On the issue of air pollution by stubble burning, the CM reiterated 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 per quintal to the MSP to check stubble burning, and also underscored the importance of crop diversification in the long term to eliminate the problem.

“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, he said. This 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,” he said.

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 share since August, 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 CM 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 disappear, 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 claimed.

On the concerns expressed about the large number of cancer cases in the state, 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 treatment to patients within the state to prevent them from going to Rajasthan or other places for the same.

Later in the evening, the chief minister honoured 14 entrepreneurs, including under the micro and small category, with a cash award of Rs one lakh each and an appreciation certificate. The awards have been conferred upon industrialists who have adopted innovative technologies for production of quality products, which, in turn, would help boost revenue and generate employment.

Invest Punjab CEO Rajat Agarwal earlier updated the chief minister that loans worth Rs 1,104 crore had been disbursed by the HDFC bank to 701 MSMEs from November 1, 2019 till December 5, 2019.