Politics

RTI Reply Shows Haryana CM Made Tall Claims about Accomplishments of US Trip

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar raising a mace at a function to commemorate the first anniversary of the state government in Sirsa on October 24. Credit: PTI

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar raising a mace at a function to commemorate the first anniversary of the state government in Sirsa on October 24. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: Two months after Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar returned from a tour of the United States and Canada to declare he had clinched food processing industry investments worth Rs 5,000 crore and several thousand jobs for the state, a Right to Information query has revealed that no such agreement was signed during the visit.

The RTI request was filed by Samalkha-based activist P.P. Kapoor, who asked the Haryana government  about the duration of Khattar’s visit to North America, the names of the government officials who were part of his delegation, the objectives of the visit, a detailed account of the expenditure incurred on it and the amount of money committed by various companies via the MoUs that the chief minister spoke about upon his return at the end of August 2015.

In response to his queries, the state government replied that the visit took place from August 16 to August 25 and during the period, the 14-member delegation visited New York, Washington, San Francisco, Vancouver and Toronto. It said the purpose of the visit was “promoting [the] State of Haryana as an ideal investment destination”. The delegation comprised Chief Minister Khattar, Industries minister Captain Abhimanyu, five senior bureaucrats and five officials of the Haryana State Industrial Investment Development Corporation, which had arranged the visit.

The HSIIDC was unable to provide details of the expenses incurred on the trip, Kapoor was told, because these were awaited from “some Indian consulates, Embassy of India” and hence the complete expenditure incurred could not yet be ascertained.

The reply Kapoor received said that “a total of five MoUs were signed by the Government of Haryana with CISCO, Google, Applied Material, Carrier and Algonquin” and provided details of these MoUs (copies of which are with The Wire). However, there was no record of a pact being signed for the development of any food processing industry in the state.

This runs contrary to the claim Khattar made on his return when he specifically declared that Rs 5,000 crore would be invested in the food processing industry, opening avenues of growth for agriculture and allied sectors. “Claiming that the visit of the 32-member delegation of officials and businessmen from Haryana, which he led, was a ‘highly successful’ one,” the Business Standard reported, “he said that the investment would include Rs.5,000 crore in the food processing industry.”

“During my interaction, I sensed that investors’ interest in China is waning. They are looking at India,” Khattar had said, adding that his visit had focused on three key areas being promoted by the Centre, namely Make in India, Skill India and Digital India.

The CM had also taken a dig at his predecessor, while making the announcements, saying he was told by an entrepreneur during the visit that the Hooda regime had signed an MoU but did not pursue it.

However, now the joke appears to be on the Khattar government. “It has announced MoUs about setting up of food processing industries without even signing them,” said Kapoor., adding that the government had claimed the CM’s visit was for promoting investments but the reply to his RTI query shows that this is false

“The RTI reply reveals that Khattar had not signed any MoU personally. Even the agreements signed by the Haryana government with the five companies had no mention of any investment in the food processing industry.”

As for the five pacts signed, Kapoor said that while an agreement was signed with Carrier Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Limited for “expanding its industrial unit in additional 7.85 acres of land,” the company is registered under the Companies Act 1956 and has its registered office at Kherki Daula in Gurgaon and thus the MoU could have been signed in India only.

Skill pact redux

Similarly, he said, the pact with Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology for “Collaboration in Skill Development” under the Skill India Mission has little relevance as it was during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Canada in April 2015 that the original pact had been signed between the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and Algonquin College.

The HSIIDC reply also revealed that the MoU with Cisco Systems International B.V. was primarily to “share its expertise and experience in development of Smart Cities world over, particularly its safe plus smart plus connected community programs and ‘Internet of Everything’ with focus on improving quality of life through use of technology.”

Likewise, with tech major Google, the pact envisaged promoting internet safety education, digital literacy for Haryana officials, and assistance for the Government of Haryana in building mobile websites. Finally with Applied Materials, the global leader in materials engineering solutions for the semiconductor, flat panel display and solar photovoltaic (PV) industries, the MoU was about supporting the Solar PV Training Programme for 1,000 technicians.

Not only is there no mention of food processing anywhere, none of these MoUs are likely to generate the Rs 10,000 crore worth of investment Khattar announced, nor the 40,000 jobs he said his North American visit would eventually generate for the youth of the state. The chief minister’s visit to the US and Canada, the RTI activist alleged, was only a “pleasure trip for fun and leisure.”

  • ASHISH SINGH

    Another Bluff-master…