American standards of feedback-driven services have started to haunt the Punjab government even as it seeks investments from Non-Resident Indians. NRIs from North America are not satisfied with the around-100 facilities that are being provided to them under the Right to Services Act by the state government. Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal boasts of being one of the first in the country to introduce time-bound assured services, but the North American Punjabis’ Association (NAPA) says that the effectiveness of such services is doubtful until the government introduces a feedback on each interaction that happens between the government and the users.
NAPA chairman Satnam Singh Chahal, who is visiting Chandigarh for an NRI conference being hosted by the Punjab government, says, “Why cannot Punjab follow the United States while assuring services? Service providers in the US — private or public— are bound to get a satisfaction certificate from the service seeker. Right to Service Act in Punjab needs to incorporate this aspect also.”
The state government cannot ignore this 2.5 million-strong lobby of NRIs due to its influence on local voters. NRIs also gain strength from the fact that they invest hundreds of crores of rupees in the social sector, especially in their villages.
“Non Resident Indians have been playing a crucial role in the victory of candidates from panchayat to parliamentary levels despite having fewer than 100 registered votes in the entire state. They are also donating hundreds of crores of rupees for the development of their villages,” said Dr Krishan Chand, an associate professor with the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID). Professor A.K. Nanda, a population expert with the same institute, says, “Investments by NRIs in agriculture during the Green Revolution of the 1960s boosted production.”
Investment deficient Punjab is also desperate to get foreign money in the business sector to push growth in the state, which has turned unattractive for even domestic investors because of the high price of land, labour shortage and lack of incentives due to poor finances.
A study done in 2007 by the Punjab NRI Sabha had found out that each of 577 villages in four districts of Doaba region of Punjab — Nawanshahar, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and Kapurthala — saw an average investment of Rs 50 lakh, said Satnam Chana, a former media director of the NRI Sabha.
An aspirant to the Punjab NRI Sabha presidentship, Jasbir Singh Gill realises the precarious situation of Punjab in terms of investments and asserts that unless the state government offers incentives in cash and better services, NRIs will not come to Punjab but may go to states like Gujarat.