Opening business in Himachal to be easier: minister
By Vishal Gulati, Shimla, March 21 : The hills of Himachal Pradesh are set to roll out a red carpet for entrepreneurs.
Less than three months after taking power, the Virbhadra Singh government has opened a single-window system to not only help businessmen get time-bound clearances but also guarantee approvals from different departments within a specified timeframe.
"We have made officialdom accountable, and tried to remove policy hurdles to check procedural delay," Industry Minister Mukesh Agnihotri told IANS.
He said the state had approved industrial proposals worth Rs.48,000 crore in the past 10 years but got investment worth only Rs.13,000 crore.
"Where have Rs.35,000 crore in investments gone? Those were never made because of, mainly, procedural lapses," Agnihotri said in an interview.
Official data shows that Himachal Pradesh got maximum investment in seven years, from 2003 to 2010, when there was a special industrial package of the central government.
Most investment was in pharmaceutical, food processing, textile, packaging and light engineering sectors.
Agnihotri said now project approval by the single window clearance and monitoring authority would be given within 90 days.
"Once the proposal gets clearance from the single window, headed by the chief minister, all permissions ranging from pollution, revenue and other departments would be cleared within 90 days."
He said that earlier there were many gaps, and there was no coordination between different departments of the government.
"Now all agencies ranging from a municipality to the state government have been put together," he said.
The government is even going to amend the Public Service Guarantee Act to complete all time-bound procedures.
Official sources said the hill state, despite its attractiveness due to surplus electricity and cheap labour, has failed to turn into a preferred industrial destination.
The government has decided to grant one percent central sales tax (CST) concession to upcoming units.
"We are giving concessional one percent CST against two percent in most states to all units that will be set up after April 1. It will be applicable even for existing units carrying out substantial expansion," the minister said.
He said the benefit of concessional CST would be applicable for five years or till the implementation of the GST (general sales tax).
The government has invited investment in environment-friendly IT, software development and food processing.
"For promoting food processing industry, we are coming out with a vision document and a roadmap. We encourage setting up of food parks," Agnihotri added.
Officials said the government was focusing on developing industrial areas in Una, Solan and Kangra districts.
"Since more than 80 percent of industry is mainly cluttered in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh belt in Solan district, our focus is on other areas of the state for balanced development," he said.
A special package for industrial development in Himachal was extended by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in 2003.
But the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government curtailed it to 2007, before restoring it till 2010.
Last month, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and sought resumption of the special industrial package to boost industrial growth.
Tourism as well as horticulture and hydropower generation are major contributors to Himachal Pradesh's economic development.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)