The former Chief Minister had asked Nehru if Centre would give State a share in NLC profits
It may be just a coincidence, but one wish of former Chief Minister K. Kamaraj became a reality on his 110th birth anniversary on Monday – the Central authorities agreeing to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s proposal of buying five per cent stake in the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC).
In May 1957, at a function to mark the inauguration of the Neyveli project, Kamaraj interjected while Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was addressing the function, according to Congress leader A. Gopanna in his well-researched work in Tamil titled “Kamaraj – An Era” five years ago.
Kamaraj wanted to know whether the Centre would give a share in profits to the State government. Nehru replied that this issue would be taken up when the occasion arose.
By then, the Union government had decided to implement the project as its own. This was why the query came from Kamaraj, whose record of remaining in office as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister for an unbroken spell of nine years (1954-1963) remains intact.
From the beginning, the Neyveli project, which owes its origins to a group of great men of integrity and commitment to the public well-being, including Kamaraj, was conceived as an integrated scheme of lignite mining and electricity generation. But, in the years immediately after Independence, power production was regarded in certain quarters as one of the functions of the States despite the subject ‘Electricity’ figuring in Concurrent List of the Constitution.
It was against this backdrop that one had to view the Union Planning Commission’s opposition at that time to the Tamil Nadu government’s proposal that the Neyveli project be implemented as a Central scheme. While the Commission took the stand that the project was, in effect, meant for electricity production and the State government was free to execute it, the State’s position was that the project involved mining of a major mineral, which fell within the domain of the Centre.
The second-in-command of Kamaraj’s Cabinet, C. Subramaniam, had even walked out of a meeting with the Planning Commission authorities, as narrated in Subramaniam’s memoirs, “Hand of Destiny” – Volume I (page 310).
It was left to Kamaraj to prevail upon Nehru to agree to his government’s proposal. This was acknowledged by Nehru himself in the inaugural event of the Neyveli project, according to Gopanna. Over the last 56 years, Neyveli has become an important hub of power generation in the northern part of the State.
Its three power plants can generate 2,490 MW and lignite mines 28.5 million tonnes per annum.