Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri has condemned the outbursts of Chief Minister of Punjab Prakash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal for opposing the revival of special industrial package of incentives to Himachal Pradesh.

In a press statement, Minister said the opposition by the Punjab Government was unjustified. He said that this special industrial package to Himachal Pradesh will have no adverse effects on industrial growth of Punjab or any other State.

Mukesh Agnihotri said that the State Government had been striving hard for extension of industrial package to the State which was introduced in 2003 for 10 years till March, 2013. But, later the incentive of central excise duty was withdrawn in March, 2010 and income tax incentive in March, 2012. It was due to the sincere efforts of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh that industrial package had been extended till 2017 who took this matter vigorously with the Prime Minister, Union Commerce and Industry Minister from time to time.

He said that it was unfortunate that Punjab had been opposing the demand of Himachal Pradesh to extend industrial package period till 2020. Earlier also, it was due to pressure of the nieghbouring States that special industrial package to Himachal Pradesh was taken back by the Government of India who thought that the availability of these incentives to Himachal was adversely affecting the industrial investment in the bigger States. However, this apprehension of bigger States was not correct as no industry had moved from Punjab and other neighbouring States to Himachal Pradesh.

The Minister said that Himachal Pradesh was a small hilly State where encouraging the industrialization was not an easy task. The State had a hilly terrain and tough geographical conditions and moreover, due to lack of railway network, roads were the only mode of transportation which accounts for the high transportation cost of raw material for the industries. It was with this background that Himachal Pradesh was given special industrial package by the Government of India on the pattern of North-East States and neighbouring hill States like Jammu-Kashmir and Sikkim which has now again been revived on the request of the State Government.

Agnihotri said that during the industrial package period, the State got registered about 16,500 units in small, medium and large-scale sectors, with the proposed investment of Rs. 48,830 crore having employment potential of 542,580 people. However, of these approved units, only 9,353 units with investment of Rs.14,557 crore, having employment potential of 120,602 people, were actually set up in the State. The curtailment of industrial package period slowed down investment besides adversely impacting the industrial growth and employment opportunities in the State. The State has made massive investment to improve infrastructural facilities in industrial areas to facilitate investment and a number of big industrial houses otherwise interested in setting up units were now reluctant in the absence of industrial incentives.

He said that instead of blaming the Government of India and opposing restoration of industrial package to Himachal Pradesh, the Punjab government should take its case effectively with the Union Government for obtaining industrial package. He said that it was wrong apprehension on part of the Punjab Government that industrial growth would be hampered in Punjab with the revival of industrial package to Himachal Pradesh.

Industry Minister said that Punjab government was unnecessarily making hue and cry over this issue just to take political mileage. He said that former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal should have also welcomed this decision of the Government of India and efforts of the State Government, but instead he was maintaining a silence over it. It was P.K Dhumal who had been constantly accusing the State and Union Government for not extending the industrial package to the State. Now, as the State had been given this package besides Rs. 200 crore for developing new industrial areas in the State, he should make his stand clear whether he was the well wisher of the State or Punjab.

Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has criticized the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for extending industrial tax concessions to Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand. Badal accused Congress for backstabbing the Punjab by keeping it out of the ambit of the package, despite repeated and earnest pleas.