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Tamil Nadu industry worried over row of protests

After the protests in Thoothukudi against a copper smelter plant belonging to Sterlite Industries claimed 13 lives in police firing, now the agitation against the Salem-Chennai Green Corridor is picking up pace.

tamil nadu Updated: Jun 19, 2018 23:36 IST
CS Kotteswaran
CS Kotteswaran
Hindustan Times, Chennai
industry,protests,Thoothukudi
Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami recently admitted in the assembly that Tamil Nadu had witnessed the maximum number of protests in the country, which is unusual for a state considered to be industry-friendly. (PTI/File Photo)

With just six months away for the second edition of Global Investors’ meet (GIM) scheduled in January 2019, the clock is ticking for Tamil Nadu.

The southern state is the country’s second most industrialised state as well as its second richest according to Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), but a wave of protests against industry gain momentum in the state.

First, it was the long standing protests in Thoothukudi against a copper smelter plant belonging to Sterlite Industries which ended when the police allegedly opened fir during ongoing protests, leading to the loss of 13 lives.

Now, the agitation against the Salem-Chennai Green Corridor is picking up pace.

Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami recently admitted in the assembly that Tamil Nadu had witnessed the maximum number of protests in the country, which is unusual for a state considered to beindustry-friendly.

Whether it is the IT cluster in and around Chennai or the automobile companies around Sripermbedur, the textile exporters in Tiruppur, the electrical industry in Coimbatore or the leather export cluster in Ambur, the state has carved a niche for itself on the country’s industrial landscape.

According to the Confederation of Indian Industries, Tamil Nadu, with its contribution of over 20% to auto exports, 28% to the renewable energy capacity in the country, has been a front-runner in attracting investments over the past three decades.

“The protests are mainly due to the weak political stability in the state. At present, the medium and small scale industries are under severe stress.

Trouble for Chennai-Salem green corridor project
Protests over the project have the government worried
What is it? The project is an eight-lane highway which would be a joint venture between the Centre and state.Rs 3,000 crore will given by the Centre for compensation.
277 km Total length of highway
Rs 10,000 crore Total cost of the project
Detailed project report
The eight-lane project promises economic growth by reducing the journey time between Chennai and Salem from six-and-a-half hours to three hours and ten minutes.
The project, which cuts through nine reserve forests in Salem and Thiruvannamalai will reduce the road distance by 68 kilometres from its currrent distance of 340 kilometres. The vehicles can ply at a top speed of 100-120 kilometres per hour against the current speed of 60-80 kilometres per hour.
Political reactions Opposition parties, particularly the PMK and the CPI(M) have opposed the project. The DMK and Congress have also demanded that the project be stopped. They have warned of Thoothukudi-like protests.
Why the protests The highway passes through five districts, 14 taluks and 159 villages. It may affect the lives and livelihood of more than 6,000 people. More than 10 km of forest area would be lost for the project.

“Thousands of small industries have closed down due to multiple factors ranging from GST, demonetisation and issues pertaining to Tamil Nadu including the agitations and unrest,” said KE Raghunathan, national president of the All India Manufacturers Association.

Over the last four years, TN has not added any major company to its industrial clusters in Gummidipoondi, Hosur, Coimbatore, Vellore and Sriperumbudur, but there are reports of several largecompanies shifting their additional new investments away fromTamil Nadu, he noted.

However, office bearers of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Chennai are hopeful that the state will bounce back.

“The launch of a single window portal under the Tamil Nadu Business Facilitation Act would attract large number of companies to invest and expand their operations in the state. The proactive steps taken by the industries department have raised the confidence of investors in the state,” opined M Ponnuswami, chairman, CII TN state council.

The proposed eight-lane corridor project under the Bharatmala Pariyojana initiative would be a game changer in enhancing the economic growth of central districts of Tamil Nadu, said Ponnuswami.

When asked about the recent protests and unrest, senior minister D Jayakumar said the police had to enforce the law of the land.

Tamil Nadu industries secretary K Gnanadesikan said all is well with the industry sentiment in the state.

Denying that the state has attracted less investment in the recent years, he said, “We are holdings talks with Foxconn and are on the process of reviving the Nokia plant which has been shut down in Sriperumbudur and more industry friendly talks are underway.”

First Published: Jun 19, 2018 23:22 IST