The purpose of setting it up stands defeated

During her previous tenure as Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa had announced the establishment of Women’s Industrial Parks in the State to encourage women entrepreneurs. It raised the hopes of thousands of women.

But seven years on, it turns out that the project has failed to enthuse women entrepreneurs in Madurai, who own industrial plots at Kappalur Industrial Estate, the second largest in Tamil Nadu. The Women’s Industrial Park (WIP), spread across 17.5 acres in Kappalur, was among the first to be inaugurated in the State. It has 75 industrial plots allotted to women entrepreneurs. At present, less than 20 industries function in the WIP and all is not well, say women entrepreneurs.

“We submitted our proposals to the Tamil Nadu Small Industries Development Corporation Limited (SIDCO) in 2008 following which the selection process was conducted. The land was allotted in 2010. By then the cost of construction and materials had increased manifold. Not many industries came up as per the proposal submitted. As a result, a large number of plots remained vacant,” said G. Uma Maheswari, proprietor of a paper cup manufacturing unit.

“The frequent power cuts have affected our business so badly that we are not able to repay our bank loans. Besides, we lack basic facilities such as telephone connection, water supply, garbage disposal and streetlights. The approach roads are narrow,” she complained.

According to the women entrepreneurs, Uchapatti panchayat collects professional tax from the entire Kappalur industrial estate, but has not done anything to improve the infrastructure.

R. Latha has built her industrial unit in the plot allotted to her but is awaiting electricity connection for more than six months now. “I was told that an electric line passes through my plot and hence the delay in sanctioning power connection. I have sent a representation to SIDCO.”

A few plots located next to Uchapatti village have domestic connections. The industrial units on these plots are running on these domestic connections. But it is no easy task, points out Ms. Uma Maheswari.

While a large number of plots lie vacant, a few of them have half-completed buildings. “The entrepreneurs, who own plots in the WIP, are required to set up their industrial units within two years of land allocation. When they fail to do so, SIDCO has the power to take back the lands. The partial constructions are aimed at averting seizure of the plots. When they are ready to start their unit they demolish these temporary structures and construct a proper unit,” explains V. S. Manimaran, president of Madurai District Tiny and Small Scale Industries Association (MADITSSIA).

“Many of the women who own plots in the WIP are hesitant to start businesses because of the stringent conditions imposed by the banks that provide loans. The SIDCO provides no objection certificates for us to set up industrial units, but the banks demand collateral security,” says N. Satha, who runs a pharmaceutical industry in the WIP.

“The moment women ask for jewels or land deeds for security, their families withdraw support to the business venture. The banks should stop asking for collateral security and should also waive the interest rates for women entrepreneurs considering the adverse effects the power crisis causes to our business,” she said.

“SIDCO should also extend its support to us. For those who have not established their units, the SIDCO should give more breathing time,” added N. Satha

“I have a plot in the WIP, but I am waiting for the power situation in the State to stabilise before establishing the industry. Now that the State government has promised that the crisis will be over by the year-end, I am hopeful of setting up my unit,” said G. Mallika, who has been waiting for more than two years to set up a snacks manufacturing unit in the WIP.

Speaking to The Hindu, P. Veerabadran, branch manager of SIDCO, said the allotments of the industrial plots were made in 2009. “The industrial units are in various stages of construction or operation. The women entrepreneurs were given two years’ time to start their units. We have already issued notice to the owners of the plots where nothing has been initiated,” he concluded.

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