‘Invest India’ or ‘Invest Punjab’: Amid credit war between Amarinder, Harsimrat, stone of Rs 521-crore plant laid

A credit war for bringing Spanish investment in Punjab, broke out between Congress-led Punjab government and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal — and both took to Twitter claiming credit for the plant that is expected to process 80,000 metric tonnes (MT) of vegetables per annum with special focus on potatoes.

The foundation stone of Rs 521 crore vegetable processing plant, with the direct joint investment by the Indian Farmers Fertilizers Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) and Spanish company Congelados de Navarra (CN), was laid by Punjab CM Amarinder Singh near Samrala of Ludhiana Thursday.

A credit war for bringing Spanish investment in Punjab, broke out between Congress-led Punjab government and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal — and both took to Twitter claiming credit for the plant that is expected to process 80,000 metric tonnes (MT) of vegetables per annum with special focus on potatoes.

While Captain has claimed that project has come to state after company was facilitated by ‘Invest Punjab’ (under Punjab Bureau of Investment Promotion), SAD’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal has meanwhile claimed that it was after her meetings with the Spanish company officials as Union Minister for Food Processing, followed by her visit to Spain last year, that they agreed to invest in Punjab and the project has come under ‘Invest India’ — the national investment promotion and facilitation agency of the central government.

Amarinder Singh on his Twitter, wrote, “Laid the foundation stone of IFFCO-CN processing plant, facilitated by Invest Punjab in Samrala, Ludhiana. This project will benefit over 10,000 farmers, besides generating employment for our youth and boosting the agri-economic ecosystem of the region!”.

Captain’s media advisor Raveen Thukral also released a copy of memorandum of understanding (MoU) dated August 8, 2018 signed between CN/IFFCO and government of Punjab, under ‘Invest Punjab’ and undersigned by Rajat Aggarwal, CEO Invest Punjab apart from officials of both private companies, which says that ‘the company wishes to set up IQF project (Frozen vegetables processing) with proposed investment of Rs 320 crore and potential direct employment to 300 persons.’

On the other hand, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Ministry of Food Processing, also took to Twitter and claimed otherwise.

Tweeting her photograph with Spanish officials, Harsimrat wrote, “This project is close to my heart and a result of hand holding by the Ministry of Food Processing which assisted the Spanish company at every step. I remember the moment when an MoU was signed between the firm and Invest India in September last year during my visit to Spain.”

The Ministry of Food Processing, through its official Twitter handle (@MOFPI_GOI) also sent out five tweets claiming credit for the project. Digging out and retweeting an old tweet dated August 9, 2018 with photos of Harsimrat’s meeting with Spanish officials, the ministry handle wrote, “To Clarify, @MOFPI_GOI had signed an MoU with “Congelados de Navarra” (CN) in New Delhi on 10.08.2018 for a project with CN and IFFCO located in Chandigarh. The investment by CN in Punjab is a direct result of @MOFPI_GOI Initiative.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, Raveen Thukral, media advisor to CM said, “Harsimrat Badal can claim whatever she wants to. The fact is that project is a result of MoU signed between Invest Punjab and both companies. Whenever a foreign company wishes to invest in India, they are referred to several states and then it is on states how to facilitate them. Punjab government was successful in tapping this Spanish investment.”

And on the other hand, Jangveer Singh, media advisor to SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, talking to The Indian Express on the behalf of Harsimrat Kaur Badal, said: “Invest Punjab did not even know about the proposal before Harsimrat met Spanish officials.”

“When Mrs Badal went to company premises in September 2018 in Spain, she met the CN management and urged them to invest in Punjab. Following this, MoU was signed with Invest India. Before this, Punjab government or Invest Punjab did not even know about the proposal. One should ask CN who facilitated their entry in India? In Invest Punjab signed another MoU with them later, then what can we say.. They might have. But it doesn’t change the truth that Mrs Badal went to Spain and invited them to invest in Punjab and they did….,” he said.

But speaking to The Indian Express, IAS officer Rajat Aggarwal, CEO Invest Punjab, said that they were in negotiation with Spanish firm since July 2018 and facilitated them at every step. “We were in touch since July last year. The company officials also checked some other states but we offered them best facilities and Punjab was finalised. We signed MoU on August 8 last year and it is entirely under Invest Punjab”

Meanwhile, the inauguration plaque at the site, which had names of CM and CN/IFFCO officials, had ‘Facilitated by Invest Punjab’ written on it with its logo.

Balwinder Singh Nakai, MD, IFFCO and Eduardo Sanchez, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Spain in India, also attended.

Relief for potato farmers

Amid this credit war between politicians, the plant which is expected to be functional by 2020, is expected to benefit potato farmers in Punjab who face glut and crash in prices every year, to a point that they dump their produce.

Spread over 52 acres at villages Saijjo Majra and Rattipur of Samrala, it is expected to process 80,000 metric tonnes (MT) of raw veggies every year and procure them directly from local farmers within radius of 150 kilometers.

The project will have facilities to process wide range of Individual quick freezing (IQF) vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, rgeen peas, corn etc and especially process potatoes to manufacture french fries and potato snacks. It is also expected to create 2,500 direct and indirect jobs.

Ladhowal Food Park still not operational

Meanwhile, the Megal Food Park built at Ladhowal of Ludhiana with investment of Rs 117 crore is still awaiting inauguration and lies non-operational despite work being completed. Harsimrat said that Punjab CM should inaugurate Ladhowal park soon which was allotted to Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited (PAICL) by her ministry.

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