Sukhbir Singh Badal: 'Punjab Can Become A Natural Investment Destination'
Image: Amit Verma
First we looked at our assets and liabilities. We are a landlocked state surrounded by others who get all the incentives from the government of India. One side is Pakistan border where we are facing aggression and the other side is Jammu and Kashmir. Keeping all this in mind, how do you attract people [read investments] to our state? We are an agricultural state, high consumption, high per capita; and people are entrepreneurial. We do not have a port to attract people. We do not have natural capital. So we are not a natural destination.
The only way we [Punjab] can become a natural destination is by having the best infrastructure; better than any state. Why do people go to Singapore or Dubai? Infrastructure. And the most important is power. End of 2013, we will be a power surplus state.
Then if you don’t have a port, the next is to have an airport. In Punjab, on every hour’s drive, you will have an airport [soon]. We will be the most well connected state in the country.
Once the problem of airports is solved, the next is road connectivity. We will connect every major town [about 50-60] with four or six-lane expressways in three years. The projects have been approved and are in various stages of implementation. All of these will be of world standards.
On urban and rural development
Can you imagine, since Independence [Punjab’s] towns did not have sewerage? They still don’t have. In the next four years, all small and big towns will have a sewerage system connected to treatment plants. We are spending Rs 9,500 crore on this.
We are coming out with a rural mission. Our aim is to develop basic infrastructure in every village (over 10,000 villages), that is, concrete roads with open drains and water supply. My basic funda [principle] is, do not do piecemeal. We will take up whole towns, look at all the problems and go for [solving] it. All of it through private participation.
Why did this not happen in 65 years?
Of the 65 years, more than 45 years [was under] Congress [rule]. It all depends upon who was heading the state at what time, their priorities and mindsets. I cannot talk about what happened in the past. I do not want to get into the criticisms and all that. When I got the responsibility, I looked at the functioning of the government for the first time. Governments in India function only till 31st March. Ask any secretary, before the budget is presented, what will happen on April 1—he will not know. They will know the plan for the next year only when the budget is out. How can a country run when your time frame ends on 31st March?
In our case I said let’s look at the next five years and set goals of what we can achieve. I do not want to make goals that we cannot achieve. Initially nobody believed me. Everything I said is now a reality. It may have been delayed by six months or a year but it is part of the process.
When we took over, 67,000 teachers were not there. When there are no teachers, how can a state develop? So we recruited teachers. Education is my dad’s [chief minister Parkash Singh Badal] number one priority. He handles it. We want to provide the best education at the school level. We will take up, for example, 5,000 schools and divide them into five years and take up the first lot of 20 percent. We will look at everything that these schools need and provide it. In five years we will complete all schools.
Why do scams like 2G and others happen? These scams can be eliminated in a second. You don’t need a Lokpal to eliminate scams. You need reforms. The scams took place because you gave discretion to a minister. If the whole thing was e-tendering, do you think there would have been a scam?
In our state, every tender, every purchase is through e-tendering. No discretion with anybody. Every government contract, every small contract—even a pencil—has to be purchased through e-tendering. This is part of our reforms.
Our basic funda [principle] was that corruption happens when there is interaction between government officials and a private person. If I have to meet you, there will be corruption. But if I don’t meet you, where will there be corruption? Who will I give money to? So, we said eliminate this interaction. My aim is, by 2013 end, no citizen would need to go to the government.
What about lawlessness? In Patiala, a girl committed suicide because police did not take any action. In Amritsar, an assistant sub inspector of police was shot for asking an Akali Dal leader to stop harassing his daughter.
What was Patiala and what was Amritsar? Go to the depth of the matter. The incident in Amritsar happened on a road, between one person and another. But the police people who did not perform were immediately dismissed from service. I am not saying crime has been limited. America has the best police but every day you hear somebody is killing someone. You cannot stop crime. What is important is how effectively action has been taken after crime. You look at every incident. If it is the police’s fault, we have taken action against the policemen, dismissed from the service.