Eight months since he took over as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, DMK president M.K. Stalin has set his priorities on attracting big-ticket investments while simultaneously battling the global novel coronavirus pandemic. He is pushing for a ‘Dravidian model’ where economic development is inclusive.
“Our goal is equal economic development that will be in tune with social justice. It has taken root since the days of the Justice Party government [in pre-Independent India]. I have explained this as Dravidian model,” Mr. Stalin told The Hindu in an interview on the occasion of the launch of ‘Tamil Nadu in focus’, a special weekly section showcasing the southern State’s history, culture, heritage and progress in key sectors.
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The first-time Chief Minister, who gained rich experience as administrator in his past roles of Mayor, Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, is planning for the long term on the basis of a 10-year vision he unveiled in Tiruchi in the run-up to the last Assembly election.
“I had requested the people to give the next 10 years to the DMK to rescue the State, which lagged behind during the AIADMK rule. They have given us the first five years. As per the seven promises made in Tiruchi, we are focussing on economy, agriculture, water resources, education-cum-health, urban development, rural infrastructure and social justice,” he said, exuding optimism that the people would come forward to give him another five-year term in 2026.
Mr. Stalin said big industrialists in India and global investors now felt Tamil Nadu had a favourable investment climate. Such faith by the industry had helped the government take income-generating measures without affecting the economic infrastructure in the midst of the pandemic.
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While setting a mission to make Tamil Nadu a trillion-dollar economy, the Chief Minister did not believe in organising ostentatious global investors’ conference “for propaganda as done by the AIADMK government”. Instead, his government believed in providing infrastructure that instil confidence in investors along with transparent governance and expeditious clearance for projects. So far, at two events in Chennai and Coimbatore, 108 MoUs were signed for cumulative investments worth ₹ 63,716 crore to generate 1,60,277 jobs.
Excerpts from the interview:
‘Our industrial policy opens doors for investors without their having to knock’
What is your vision for the development in the next five years? Are you planning to bring about reforms in governance to ensure efficient delivery of services and benefits to people?
Not just for five years. I announced the vision for 10 years at Siruganur in Tiruchi before the Assembly election. I requested people to give the next 10 years to the DMK to rescue the State which lagged behind during the AIADMK rule. They have given us the first five years. As per the seven promises made in Tiruchi, we are focussing on economy, agriculture, water resources, education-cum-health, urban development, rural infrastructure and social justice. The government is functioning with the objective of inclusiveness on the basis of an integrated and sustainable development. We have fine-tuned the administration in such a way that the government can reach out to people. I have gained experience as an MLA, Mayor, Local Administration and Industries Minister and Deputy Chief Minister and I know the expectations and aspirations of people. The government has ensured speedy and transparent services to the liking of people. The speed will continue consistently and prudently for five years in such a way that people will come forward and hand over another five years to us.
For the first time an Economic Advisory Council to the Chief Minister has been set up. In what way has it helped you shape economic policies?
Our goal is equal economic development in tune with social justice, which took root during the Justice Party government. I call this the Dravidian model. We constituted an Economic Advisory Council comprising internationally renowned economists, since there is a need to evolve an economic development to suit the current situation. We are getting their advice for the sustainable development of Tamil Nadu. I elicit their opinion through webinars whenever possible. We have divided our task into short-term and long-term, and travel with the objective of improving the economy by implementing them within the time frame.
With the onset of the third wave of COVID-19, how are you planning to ensure that the economy stays afloat and the livelihood of people is not affected?
When we assumed office, the impact of the second wave was very severe. The steps to control it was launched immediately and even before the formation of the government. Oxygen production and medical facilities increased. We speeded up the integrated functioning of various departments. Vaccination was organised as a movement, which produced the desired results. The arrangements already in place are handy to deal with the spread of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus now. Since the government is very particular that the livelihood of people should not be affected, we distributed ₹4,000 during the second wave despite the severe economic crisis. Now we are distributing the Pongal gift hamper. On the day of launching the booster vaccine dose, I also inaugurated the conference of the Indian Science and Technology Entrepreneurs Parks and Business Incubators Association. We have divided investments into small and big and are creating infrastructure accordingly.
Big industrialists and global investors are holding talks with us. They feel Tamil Nadu has a favourable climate for investment. It helps us to take income-generating measures without affecting the economic infrastructure at the time of the pandemic. We will also continue to press the Union government for Tamil Nadu’s share of the Goods and Services Tax.
Under the current conditions, what will be the reasonable time period for the State to hold the next Global Investors Meet?
There is no need to organise ostentatious investors’ conference for propaganda as done by the AIADMK government. Investors expect infrastructure that inspires confidence, transparent governance and expeditious clearance, and we are providing them now. When we announced the goal of a trillion-dollar economy for Tamil Nadu while launching the investors conference in Guindy, MoUs were signed for 49 projects worth ₹28,508 crore to create 83,482 jobs. At CODISSIA in Coimbatore, 59 MoUs were signed last month for projects worth ₹35,208 to generate 76,795 jobs. Foundation was laid for 13 projects on the day itself. We have achieved projects with investments to the tune of ₹13,413 crore to generate 11,681 jobs. The FinTech Policy 2021 for industrial development has been released. We have achieved a leap forward through projects such as creation of a financial city in Chennai, Neo-TIDEL parks in second and third tier cities and a fully digitised single window portal 2.0 to help investors.
There are complaints of anti-social elements causing trouble to industrial units in Kancheepuram and Chengalpattu districts...
The government is committed to maintaining law and order without any compromise and ensure protection of individuals, organisations and industrial peace. Immediate action is taken on complaints about anti-socials in districts where more industries are located. Senior officials and Superintendents of Police have already issued orders to ensure the safety of industries by taking immediate action on complaints against anti-social elements. The government is committed not only to the protection of industries but also to the relationship with workers and their protection. When workers of Foxconn unit protested recently, the Collector, the superintendent of police, the Minister for Industries and the Minister for Rural Industries visited the spot and dispelled their fear. We are also implementing far-sighted schemes for workers.
There is a view that protests against industries and projects — Sterlite and hydrocarbon exploration, for instance — may affect the industrial climate. Your comments...
The government’s policy is to promote industrial development without affecting the environment and with the whole-hearted support of people. People object to industries causing damage to the environment since these industries also pose a danger to their health. As far as our government is concerned, we will not allow any project that will mortgage people’s lives. At the same time, we will grant approval for industries that will contribute to Tamil Nadu’s economic development and generate employment. We will encourage investment and people’s welfare and protection without one affecting the other.
What is your message to investors?
The industrial policy of the government is such that the doors will open for investors without knocking. It is my introductory message to the investors.
Tamil Nadu has achieved laurels in medical and engineering education but lacks centres of excellence for humanities and arts and science. Is there any proposal to set up such institutions?
Uniform education is the fundamental policy of the DMK. New courses will be launched in schools and higher educational institutions to meet the changing times. Computer education was introduced during Kalaignar ’s rule. Visual communication courses were started in colleges. Now there is an awareness of social sciences, arts and literature. Special attention is paid to them since these courses are connected with Tamil Nadu’s unique cultural identity. Anna [former Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai] said the history of the Indian Union should be written from Tamil Nadu and it is also the policy of the DMK government. The new findings from the Keezhadi and Adichanallur excavations have kindled the youth’s interest in art and literature. An education policy will be evolved to encourage studies in epigraphy, archaeology, literature and anthropology. Decisions will be taken at an appropriate time to launch universities and educational institutions for the purpose.