Punjab industrialists attending their maiden interaction with Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh were pleasantly surprised when their demand for curbing the illegal activities of truck unions in the state was immediately supported by Irrigation and Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, even as the CM looked on nonplussed. The issue of truck unions and the exploitation of industry by their unfair demands was raised by the president of the Punjab unit of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI), RS Sachdeva. He asked the CM to take steps to curb their influence.
The PHDCCI demanded a legislation to regulate operations of such unions, which it said were indulging in massive extortion and intimidation. It also demanded that all illegal activities of these unions be made punishable to ensure that they operate as any other service providing company.
These demand, made in the presence of nearly 150 industrialists from Punjab, was immediately supported in a speech by Rana Gurjit, who was the guest of honour at the function. The minister urged the Chief Minister to look into the problem and said that he agreed with the industrialists that the truck unions were causing problems in the smooth transition of goods in the state.
Responding to the comments made by the industrialists and the Power Minister, Amarinder said that he agreed that the truck unions, with their monopoly, were a big problem for the industry and assured early resolution.
Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar also announced that the state government would soon take measures to put a stop to the activities of truck unions in Punjab.
He said that the goods transport sector would be regulated to ensure free movement of goods in and outside the state. Speaking to the media, Jakhar said that the previous SAD-BJP government had turned truck unions into dens of corruption.
Promising his government’s full support in providing good governance and addressing the woes of the industry, the CM said he could not promise financial support in view of Punjab’s dire financial condition. Amarinder said the full extent of the fiscal problem of the state was not yet known and would be revealed in a White Paper that would soon come out.
The Chief Minister underlined the need for collaborative efforts between the industry and the government and asserted that the new industrial policy, currently being drafted, would be implemented without delay. He agreed to a suggestion to form a council of business houses and others to oversee implementation of the industrial policy.
The CM also promised to look into other issues raised by the industry, including delay in VAT refund and environmental clearances, and support in reviving the closed cotton ginning mills in Malwa belt.
Mandi Gobindgarh industrialists wanted state government’s help in seeking time extension from the Centre on the new ground water usage policy. Another issue raised during the session was the excessive levies imposed on Punjab cotton, which made import from other states a cheaper option. The CM assured the industry of elimination of all such levies to provide level playing field with other states.
Earlier, PHDCCI Punjab Committee Chairman R S Sachdeva made a detailed presentation listing out the problems faced by the state’s industry. The PHDCCI, he said, was signing an MoU with the Agriculture Department for promotion of horticulture and aqua culture to bring agricultural growth back on track.
While Rana Gurjit said the government was committed to implementing its promise of power at Rs. 5/KVAH, PHDCCI said this should be frozen for the next five years. PPCC president Sunil Jakhar called for a more responsive approach, with faster decision-making, by the bureaucracy, and added that there was no place for red tape-ism in the current environment.