Units at Vazhavandankottai on SIDCO estate plagued by power shortage and poor orders from BHEL

Vazhavandankottai near Thuvakudi on the outskirts of the city offered much promise for entrepreneurs who set up units, mostly as ancillaries of BHEL, on the Small Industries Development Corporation (SIDCO) industrial estate about three years ago. However, plagued by power shortage and inadequate orders from the electrical behemoth, the turnover of many of these units has been dwindling by the day. With Vazhavandankottai failing to offer them livelihood, a number of workers, particularly fitters, turners and such other technical personnel, have started moving to other places. In fact there has been an exodus of skilled labourers to some other trade.

A cross section of entrepreneurs say that their dream of assured support from BHEL has been belied . One of the units had become nearly defunct and has turned into a grazing ground for cattle. Maruthavanan, an entrepreneur, says that a support programme must be put in place by BHEL, SIDCO, and Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) to save their livelihood.

Certain new policies of BHEL exacerbated the trouble for these industrialists. For instance, the recent policy of ‘away centre facility’ (ACF) did more harm than good, particularly for entrepreneurs who were already overburdened with financial commitments. “Only a very few crem-de-la-crem entrepreneurs will benefit through the scheme,” Mr. Maruthavanan says. Other major PSUs like the Neyveli Lignite Corporation could rescue the units in Vazhavandankottai, he reckons. A. Jayakumar, another industrialist, feels that the order flow from BHEL has been improving in the last few months. “My unit has been functioning for the past few months, thanks to the orders from BHEL,” he says. However, a section of workers say that the quantum of work was not enough to make the units run to full capacity. “What could be done at a tiny lathe is being done at an industrial estate,” they say.

Rajappa Rajkumar, vice president, Tamil Nadu Small and Tiny Industries Association and former president of BHEL Small Industries Association (BHELSIA), says that the entrepreneurs have been relying on BHEL for decades, however, off late, the fall in orders for BHEL has hit the industries dependent on the PSU major. Central and State governments should come to the rescue of these industries, he says.