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‘Global Standard Education in Food Processing, Agriculture & Technology is the Key to Growth Path for Punjab’

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ASSOCHAM made a memorandum of suggestion for the upliftment of Punjab state and submitted to the Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh. The suggestions highlighted the market fact that tens of thousands of students, boys and girls migrating abroad for quality higher education. Such education with top global standards of learning can be provided here. If well known foreign universities, particularly from the US, Canada and UK are roped in to set up their campuses in India.

“We have suggested that since not all students aspiring for quality education can afford to go abroad and there are limited number of A-grade institutions within the country and the state, Punjab should take a lead and collaborate with some top foreign universities, preferably from the Canada, UK and the US,” ASSOCHAM president Mr Sandeep Jajodia said after his meeting with Captain Amarinder Singh along with chamber’s secretary general, Mr D S Rawat, Chairmen of ASSOCHAM Regional Council Mr. A S Mittal and ASSOCHAM Punjab State Committee, Mr. Suneet Kochhar.

“We should allow them to set up full-fledged campuses here, which would mean that the best of education can be imparted within the country at one-third or one-fourth of the cost which is spent by the aspiring students,” he said.

“Though the policy parameters for opening doors for foreign universities largely fall within the purview of the Centre, states like Punjab can take a lead in working with the Union Government to bring the best of the foreign universities within the country,” added Mr Jajodia.

“The favourite destinations for students and young professionals are Canada, the USA, UK and other European countries. While, the state surely gets remittances, those choosing to stay within the country and the state are bereft of adequate opportunities in upgrading their skills, education and gainful employment,” he said further.

Supplementing the point, ASSOCHAM secretary general, Mr Rawat said, “Quality education would open up several opportunities and lead to industries, especially those in high-end manufacturing, agro-industries, food processing, information technology, health services, financial services to invest in Punjab.”

The ASSOCHAM chief said there are several other areas which give distinctive advantage to Punjab and in all these areas, the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can be roped in to be part of the overall supply chain, rather than operate in isolated manner.

For instance, the organised retail need not always be big time hyper stores; the neighbourhood kirana shops can become part of a well-integrated supply chain with the help of modern IT applications. Likewise, SME traders and manufacturers of textiles in Ludhiana need to remodel their businesses with the help of the state government and policy support of the Centre, in terms of becoming more cost competitive and quality-oriented.

“If gainfully utilised, the biggest resource for Punjab is its youth who need employment outside agriculture into different sectors viz., industry, trade, health, education, transportation, food processing, dairy products and tourism. All these sectors need a re-look and infrastructure support along with friendly policy environment,” Mr Jajodia said.

Sectors like food processing and dairy products would be transformational for the farmers and entire rural landscape. Besides cooperatives, the private sector entrepreneurs should be involved in the value-additions in the entire agri-chain.   “Here, there are some examples to be replicated by the successful NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) who can be roped in to look back and handhold the budding entrepreneurs.”

“The traditional industrial hubs like Jallandhar should be given a lift-up with liberal infrastructure support, particularly for SMEs. These cities can be catalysts again for re-invigorating the industrial development while cities like Patiala should reach out to top notch foreign universities. While the policy has to be dealt largely with the Central Government, Captain Saheb can take up the issue with New Delhi and get the policy re-aligned. In the process, not only Punjab but other states would also gain,” said the ASSOCHAM president.

When it comes to the state’s agricultural economy, water management is key. It appears to be a somewhat paradox that while Punjab is considered to be a land of rivers, its dependence on groundwater has been rather excessive, leaving the negative fall-outs like toxicity. The state should work closely with the Centre and work out some large irrigation and water management projects which can help both the hinterland as also cities for the drinking water.

On tourism, while religious tourism is on top the chart, with Punjab being the land of the revered Gurus and the holiest Golden Temple, the state can become a major centre of other opportunities like conferences, conventions including those from the government agencies and India Inc.

Cities like Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jallandhar, Mohali  should be promoted for organising meetings,  conferences by the private sector companies. ASSOCHAM would like to work with the state government in this regard.

Mr Jajodia said ASSOCHAM would be happy to partner with the Punjab Government to hold ‘Invest in Punjab’ events supported by expositions in different sectors.

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