TAMIL NADU

Industry to focus on southern districts

CHENNAI, MARCH 17. There have been several attempts in the past to step up the development of the southern districts - south of Madurai. Successive State Governments have looked at the potential and examined the opportunities, but there has been no breakthrough yet in industrial development of the south. Now, there seems to be an initiative from industry itself to highlight the potential of the region.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has undertaken a detailed review of the conditions, the resources and the potential of the southern districts - Madurai, Sivaganga, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram, Tuticorin, Tiruneveli, and Kanyakumari. A presentation will be made at its annual day to be held here on March 24.

"We have always heard that the south is underdeveloped, underexploited and abounds only in social tensions. But there is a hidden potential in terms of resources, talent pool and basic infrastructure. Industry will also realise that this is a low-cost solution to the problem of rising operational costs in major cities," explains T. Kannan, Managing Director, Thiagarajan Mills, and Chairman CII's Task force on industrialisation of southern districts, looking at the potential of the region.

Potential sectors

He says Information Technology, IT Enabled Services, tourism and food processing are among the major sectors with a huge potential. "All we need is better connectivity and strengthening of infrastructure and we will be there." Honeywell has already set up shop in Madurai and is moving into Phase II. This can trigger more international companies to follow suit. But Madurai needs to be made an "international airport." There are any number of educational institutions, including engineering colleges, and quite a few universities in the districts.

Industry is convinced that Tuticorin has the potential to spur industrial activity in the region. The development of a Special Economic Zone to tap one of the country's most efficient ports may be the trigger for future growth. The on-going four-laning of the National Highway will further enhance the port's service and connectivity.

Mr. Kannan says "About Rs. 33,000 crores is already in the pipeline if you take just the public and private sectors projects under implementation. We would like the Centre and the State to speed up these on-going projects so that the results can be realised soon."

Tourism is another sector with a huge potential. The number of heritage and pilgrim centres in the south, along with the coast, the biosphere reserve and the wild life sanctuaries offer tremendous potential for marketing.

Along with the CII's initiative to encourage its own members and the private sector to go and invest in the south, industry expects the Tamil Nadu Government to step up the "marketing" of the southern districts, within the country and abroad, to attract more investments. The process of migration from the southern districts has to be reversed so that the region can not only retain the talent pool, but also woo high-end industries and talent to settle down there.

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