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Punjab needs to pick up on its niche strengths: CII President

Chandigarh, Jul 17 (PTI) With Punjab being ranked a poor 20th in 'Ease of Doing Business' list, CII president Rakesh Bharti Mittal today suggested that the state needs to pick up on its niche strengths and also bring in large investments in food processing sector and go for setting up solar farms on agricultural land.

"I think what Punjab needs to do is to pick up one or two sectors where they can offer synergies, strengths of the state. We need to have focus on agriculture, but bringing in large investments in food processing is very much needed. Unshackle the agri sector, if I may say so, which is how can the private sector be brought into agriculture, into cold chain, leading to food processing, that is one strength of Punjab.

"We need to pick up on our niche strengths, build on that and sector by sector we need to have a plan what needs to be done and the same has to be monitored and reviewed very closely," Mittal said during a media interaction here.

"We need to talk about strengths and market those. We need to correct whatever needs to be done on the policy side, we need to simplify the processes of setting up industries, investments will come," he further said.

He was asked to comment why Punjab had performed poorly in the "Ease of Doing Business" rankings whereas neighbouring Haryana was placed at third spot in the same rankings.

An area where Punjab can take a lead is in the food processing sector, Mittal said.

He stressed that private sector investing in the agriculture sector will help farmers' income rise.

"Being an agrarian state, today the farmers are stressed, they are looking at higher income levels. If I see Prime Minister's vision of doubling farmers income, Punjab can take lead of removing the hurdles and roadblocks where private sector can come in and start making investment in primary agriculture," he said.

Mittal, who belongs to Punjab, said the state has best work culture, very high productive work force, which is huge positive for the state.

"The state now has to put forth and play on its strength and work on the weaknesses to woo investors," he said.

Director General CII Chandrajit Banerjee said that one feedback about Punjab going down in 'Ease of Doing Business' rankings is non-implementation of single window system.

"One very important feedback from our industry corporations is non-implementation of the single window, which has actually led to the rankings going down. Another issue is air-connectivity issue," Banerjee said.

Touching upon another issue, Mittal said that Punjab was the first state to have legislated leasing of agriculture land on long tenure basis.

"This was done way back in 2007-2008, but it was never propogagted, never disseminated, so the awareness level has been very very low, one at the land holders end including farmers and the private sector on the other hand. This is something we discussed with the Chief Minister yesterday," Mittal said, while pointing to the meeting the CII delegation led by him had with Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh here yesterday.

Replying to a question, Mittal said farmers don't have the freedom to sell directly to food processing companies and retailers.

"As per current APMC laws, farmer can only sell through the mandis and Arhityas or Commission Agents. What I have suggested is to see if this can be legislated where farmer can sell in a mandi as well as to a food processing company, retailer and an aggregator. This will help in bringing private sector investment and also building supply chain...," he said.

Mittal also pointed to suggestion they had made to the Punjab chief minister about having projects of solar energy generation on agricultural land on rental basis, besides allowing farmers to undertake high-value cultivation of fruits and vegetables.

Meanwhile, Mittal said that CII's Food and Agri Centre of Excellence (FACE) is going to partner with Punjab and Haryana governments to have integrated cluster development programme on peas, green chillies, mangoes, sweet oranges, potatoes and onions.

"CII would like to go and work with a group of farmers in a cluster," Mittal said.

Mittal said that CII has suggested to the NITI Aayog to come out with a comprehensive ranking system for states in agriculture.

"Like, we have Ease of Doing Business, what I am suggesting is having ranking system for Ease of Doing Agriculture. I feel that this can be a big gamechanger, where agrarian states will start to compete with each other," he said.

Asked about drug issue in Punjab, Mittal said, "I would like to compliment the Chief Minister and his team for realising that there is a problem and putting many action points around that. The government needs to take this as a single focus, single minded action point. Industry can support by way of creating awareness amongst their own workforce, and I think industry can help through CSR initiatives." PTI SUN MR

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Disclaimer: This story has not been edited by BW staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.


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