Visiting Punjabi NRIs give zero, Gujaratis shower $450 billion
Sanjay Sharma, TNN, Jan 19, 2011, 05.17am IST
CHANDIGARH: All that Punjab has been getting from its visiting NRIs is talk, demands and suggestions. In stark contrast, Gujarat has been able to garner $450 billion of investment intent during the annual Vibrant Gujarat convention for NRIs this year, while Punjab government failed to attract even a penny worth of investment offer during its version of convention held at Jalandhar on Tuesday.
Though the government officially denied calling it an investment meet, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal made a power point presentation aimed at attracting investments.
When asked about the quantum of commitments for investment by NRIs, the deputy chief minister claimed that the function was not organized for attracting investments but only to strengthen bonds with NRIs.
Meanwhile, an interaction with various NRIs revealed that they were not yet convinced by the government's claims of having created a congenial atmosphere for investment in Punjab. Sarabjit Deol, who is active in Liberal Party in Canada, said though similar announcements and promises had been made three years ago, there was no visible difference on the ground.
In fact, the Punjabi version of the conference also did not see NRIs of profiles that have surplus money for investments. One of the NRI leaders Satnam Singh Chahal, who could not attend the meet due to a last minute invite, said that the government seems to be targeting NRIs as such, whether poor or rich as they are potential voters rather than investors.
In fact, this convention has come after a gap of three years indicating it was more for political reasons than for investments that are anyway drying up in Punjab because of the state government's inability to offer concessions that other states are giving. Even the early advantage of good infrastructure is no more there with major components in an economic activity – land and labour — being quite costly in the state.
Giving it a political twist, NRI cell chief of Akali Dal, Surjeet Singh Rakhra said NRIs are still haunted by memories of violence and 1984 riots. He said there is hope now that NRIs will invest in their villages with the government announcing a scheme to contribute 75% from its coffers in rural infrastructure if NRIs chip in with 25%.