With Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee making no mention of extending the special industrial package for Himachal Pradesh, fears are being expressed that investors may stay away from the hill state.

A miffed Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal alleged discrimination by the Centre and said it could affect industrial growth in the state.

“The Union government once again discriminated against Himachal by not extending the industrial package. This will stop industrial growth in the hill state,” he said.

While the package has been continued in the North-eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir, where the Congress is running a coalition with the National Conference, BJP-ruled Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have been left out, despite similar geographical features.

The industrial package with several concessions for setting up new units was provided in 2003 by the NDA government and will expire on March 31, this year.

The package, originally for 10 years, was first curtailed by the UPA government till 2007, but later extended.

The package proved a boon for the hill state as it invited large-scale investment in the last seven years.

Sources in the state Industries department said proposals for 12,802 new industrial projects (small, medium as well as large) were cleared in Himachal Pradesh between January 7, 2003 and December 31, 2009.

Sources said these proposals totalled Rs 40,649.6 crore and offered potential employment for 4,58,614, workers.

They said 6,151 new units started production during the period while expansion projects of 288 units were completed, adding the total investment was Rs 6326.84 crore with employment for 80,338 people.

Industries came up mainly in Baddi-Barotiwala, Nahan, Poanta Sahib and Kala-Amb, Una and Gagret and Sansarpur with the pharmaceutical, food processing, textile, packaging and light engineering sectors drawing most investments.

Sources said as the deadline of expiry of the package was nearing, very few industrial units were showing any interest.

Only three new industrial proposals were cleared by the state-level single window clearance and monitoring authority (SLSWC&MA) at its January 8 meeting, while in the last one on February 8, 2010 only two proposals got the green signal.

The industrial climate had definitely received a beating due to non-extension of the package so far, State Industries Minister Kishan Kapoor told PTI.

“This is happening even when Himachal has two ministers -- Union Industries and Commerce minister Anand Sharma and Union Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh -- in the UPA cabinet,” Kapoor said and made a fervent appeal for extension of the package.