Chandigarh, March 18 – Union food processing industries minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has asked chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh to bestow “serious attention” to the Ladhowal mega food park project and ensure its early completion, saying lethargy on the part of the Punjab government had delayed the project by two years and deprived farmers and youth of its benefits.
In a letter to the chief minister yesterday, the Union minister said the mega food park was approved by her ministry in 2015 with a grant in aid of Rs 50 crore out of which Rs 35 crore had been released to Punjab Agro Industries Corporation (PAIC), which was the implementing agency. She said the project had a completion deadline of 2018 but poor planning and slow decision making of the Congress government had resulted in frequent changes in the project components due to which PAIC had repeatedly missed target timelines for completion of the project.
Mrs Harsimrat Badal, who was replying to the letter from the chief minister requesting for release of the fourth and final installment of the Ministry of food processing industry grant for the project, informed the chief minister that he was not updated about the correct position of the project. Mrs Badal said contrary to the information provided by the Punjab government only four units were operational at the Park.
The Union minister said the progress of implementation was also reviewed by the Additional Secretary of the food processing ministry and it was noted that major facilities had not been made operational. She said it was reported that the cold storage was lying unused for over a year due to delay in providing electricity connection and generator. She said similarly the Silos had been completed but were lying unutilized since last many months.
Mrs Badal said as per the Punjab Agro Industries Corporation (PAIC) the cold storage was under testing and would be operational only by April end this year. She said PAIC also informed that the setting up of blast freezer was incomplete and tenders for the RTE (Ready to Eat) line had not even been awarded till yet. She said similarly the process of procuring equipment for basic food testing laboratory was yet to start. She said even the Operation and Maintenance contractor for the facilities which had been created till yet had not been hired.
The food processing minister in her letter to the chief minister said in view of all these facts it would not be possible to release the fourth and final installment of grant in aid of Rs 10 crore to PAIC. Mrs Badal said she was constrained by the scheme guidelines which clearly stated that the final installment could only be released following completion of the project which would include expenditure of hundred per cent contribution of the Implementing Agency, allotment of seventy five per cent of total plots and commencement of operations in at least twenty five per cent of the allotted units. “Till date, your government has not fulfilled any of the above mentioned conditions and hence the question of releasing the final installment of grant does not arise”, Mrs Badal told chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh.