Industry to focus on southern districts

CHENNAI, MARCH 17. There have been several attempts to step up the development of the districts south of Madurai. Successive State Governments have looked at the potential and examined opportunities but there has been no breakthrough yet in industrial development of the south.

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

Hidden potential

"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 realise that this is a low-cost solution to rising operational costs in major cities," explains T. Kannan, managing director, Thiagarajan Mills and Chairman CII's Task force on industrialisation of southern districts.

He says Information Technology, IT-enabled services, tourism and food processing are among the sectors with a huge potential.

"All we need are 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 make more international companies to follow suit. But Madurai needs to be made an "international airport."

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 ongoing four-laning of the National Highway will 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 ongoing projects so that the results can be realised soon."

Tourism prospects

Heritage and pilgrim centres, along with the coast, the biosphere reserve and wildlife sanctuaries also offer tremendous potential for marketing. Along with the CII's initiative to encourage its members and the private sector to invest in the south, industry expects the Tamil Nadu Government to step up "marketing" of the districts, within the country and abroad, to attract more investments.

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