interview | Tamil Nadu

DMK govt. will fulfil poll promise of reserving 75% jobs for Tamils, says Minister Thangam Thennarasu

Madurai, Tamil Nadu, 02/05/2021, DMK candidate for Tiruchuli Assembly constituency Photo; Moorthy G / The Hindu  

The DMK government will stick to its poll promise of reserving 75% jobs in the private sector for Tamils, according to Industries Minister Thangam Thennarasu. In an interview, he shared his thoughts on the investment climate, plans for the future and more. Edited excerpts:

Tamil Nadu ranks 14th in the Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) ranking. Does this have an impact on investor sentiment? What steps are you taking to improve the State’s ranking?

These rankings don’t always depict the ground reality of the investment climate in the State. Even at the global and national levels, concerns have been raised around the conceptualisation, methodology and evaluation process of the EoDB ranking. Tamil Nadu does well in many rankings, like the Export Preparedness Index and the Innovation Index, which complement EoDB. The EoDB ranking methodology needs a holistic relook. The Chief Minister recently launched 100-plus services on the single window portal. This will help us better our rankings. The true indicator of EoDB is the investments attracted. In three months, our government has signed MoUs entailing investments worth ₹17,141 crore.

But big names like Tesla are missing in the new investments…

We have signed MoUs with globally renowned firms like CapitaLand (Singapore), ZF (Germany), Hyoseong (Korea), Araymond (France), AxleTech (USA) and Cryolor (France). We are confident of getting many mega projects.

Is the State in talks with Tesla?

Tesla is talking about entering India, and has flagged the issue of high import duty. Whenever the firm evinces interest in foraying into India, the Tamil Nadu government will make its pitch.

When Kitex Garments exited Kerala, there was buzz that it would come to Tamil Nadu. But it eventually went to Telangana. Why?

The day Kitex announced its withdrawal from Kerala, Industries Secretary N. Muruganandam and I offered it the best incentives we could put forward. Our doors are not closed. Kitex has got other plans, and we are open to its investments. Talks are on at various levels.

The DMK’s poll manifesto promised 75% quota in jobs for Tamils in the private sector. Is it feasible? A similar move by Haryana drew a negative reaction from the IT/ITES sector...

Yes, it is possible. Tamil Nadu has skilled and semi-skilled labourers. Name the category, and we have the talent pool. We are concentrating on it, and we will make it possible by way of industrialisation. That is why when we talk about investments, we are also talking about employment opportunities. The availability of human resources in Tamil Nadu and Haryana is totally different and not comparable. Industries prefer Tamil Nadu because of skilled labour. It is only logical to hire locals. Tamils are ruling the IT/ITES industry across India as well as the [San Francisco] Bay Area. We will give priority to locals, and we will stand by it.

The former AIADMK regime banked on the Global Investors’ Meet to woo investors. What are your plans to attract investments?

There isn’t a standard playbook for attracting investments. We are focusing on three things — industrial infrastructure, enabling ecosystem and proactive investment promotion. Under industrial infrastructure, Sipcot will create a land bank of 15 new industrial parks and upgrade the existing parks on an outlay of ₹15,000 crore [in the next five years]. Secondly, digitisation of G2B services, reduction of compliance burden, investor-focused policies for sunrise sectors and financial assistance for large industries [will be implemented]. Thirdly, [there will be] targeted investment promotion to attract value-add investments in focus sectors. The government has set a target of the State becoming a $1 trillion economy by 2030 and attracting ₹23 lakh crore worth of investments with the potential to create jobs for 46 lakh people.

A year ago, the State Industrial Policy spoke of incentivising firms looking to shift base from China to India. Do you have any plan to attract them now?

The Union government has set up a panel for screening investments from China. More than 100 proposals involving FDI from China are pending. Prospective investments in Tamil Nadu from China that are in the pipeline are worth at least ₹10,000 crore. We are working towards getting these cleared.

Under the GST regime, States have to design their own incentives for industries. With the State’s financial position under stress, will it be feasible? Some feel the State should not provide incentives to industry, and should use the funds for welfare measures instead...

The subsidies provided to large industries constitute less than 1% of the State’s Budget, and it is neither a matter of contention nor of competition when it comes to welfare. True welfare can be ensured through the creation of meaningful and gainful employment, which is fully aligned with the mandate for industrial development. In that sense, any dissonance between the expenditure towards industries and welfare is purely suppositious.

What is the status of the Aerospace Park at Sriperumbudur?

The project is spread over 250 acres. So far, 14 plots have been allocated to aerospace industries. Two firms have commenced production. Two more have completed construction, and will start production in two months. The ₹250 crore Aero Hub (advance computing design centre) is under construction, and will be completed by July 2022.

Many Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have been lying vacant for several years. How do you intend to fill these spaces?

After the sunset period, industries are less keen on setting up shop in SEZs. Some of them are being denotified as Domestic Tariff Areas, and the land is used for new industries setting up shop.


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