Punjab’s main opposition party, the AAP, on Tuesday threatened to stage a dharna outside Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s residence in Delhi on August 24 to protest against the Centre’s decision of extending “industrial incentives” to the hill states. Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Sukhpal Khaira alleged that “discriminatory” concessions to the neighbouring hill states have wrecked havoc upon the industry of Punjab by denying it a level playing field. Harsimrat Kaur Badal is the Union food processing minister and the wife of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Badal.
Earlier this month, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that industries in the northeastern and Himalayan states will continue to get tax exemption till March 2027, albeit as refund, under the current GST regime which was rolled out on July 1.
“The Vajpayee government had announced major tax concessions to the hill states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and others. The said policy of tax holiday to these states, was carried forward by the Manmohan Singh-led Congress government for 10 more years.
“Now the Modi government has decided to extend for another 10 years the tax benefits available to these hill states,” said Khaira in statement.
The “anti-industry” decision of successive central governments has left a devastating effect on small and medium scale industries in Punjab.
“It became very difficult for the manufacturers of the state to compete with their counterparts in these hill states, who are enjoying tax benefits,” he said.
Opposing the Centre’s decision to extend special incentives to the hill states, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had on August 18 said he would pursue Punjab’s demand for extending similar incentives to the border areas and ‘Kandi’ (sub mountainous) belt.
Urging Singh to take a “bold stand” on this issue, Khaira said the steel rolling mills and induction furnaces of Mandi Gobindgarh, hosiery industry of Ludhiana, sports and leather industry of Jalandhar and others have been severely affected by the “erroneous” policies of the Central governments.
“The agrarian economy of Punjab has already collapsed due to colossal debt burden of over Rs one lakh crore, forcing farmers to commit suicides in large number.
“Instead of bailing out the farmers of the state by giving a package, the Centre has further added a body blow to Punjab by extending tax benefits to hill states for 10 more year,” he said.
Khaira said AAP MLAs from Punjab, led by him, will hold the dharna outside the official residence of Harsimrat Badal who is a “signatory to the anti-Punjab decision of the Union Cabinet”.