TAMIL NADU

Madurai can become a manufacturing hub: CII

CHENNAI, MARCH 24. Madurai district has the potential to become a ``manufacturing hub'' and can be promoted as a gateway to knowledge and the tourism corridors of southern Tamil Nadu. Tuticorin emerges as a key export-cum-services hub.

This is the crux of the Confederation of Indian Industry's task force report on `Industrialisation of the southern districts,' released at the annual day of the CII State Council here today.

Madurai, perceived as the gateway to the southern districts, is ``eminently suited to fulfil this role and can act as the engine driving industrialisation and economic advancement of the region.'' Strategically situated to serve the region, including adjoining States, Madurai needs but limited investment from the State Government to serve as catalyst for development.

International air connectivity will be a major priority in promoting Madurai as the manufacturing hub of the corridor. A concerted developmental push will be strongly felt in the neighbouring districts, especially in Virudhunagar and Sivaganga.

While the former can focus on core industries such as fireworks, printing and textiles, they can be scaled up to global standards with world-class facilities.

Other growing sectors such as food processing, herbal medicines and bio-diesel need to be incubated and nurtured and provided with appropriate infrastructure, says the report.

As for the export-cum-services hub in Tuticorin, the task force suggests that apart from encouraging large, medium and small industries, which are already well established, the establishment of a special economic zone will ensure that it becomes a thriving export hub.

This can have spin-offs in Ramanathapuram and Kanyakumari with industrial clusters developing, leveraging their resources. While Ramanathapuram can leverage natural gas and its coastline, Kanyakumari has an abundance of rubber wood apart from marine resources.

The report has also come up with a vision for achieving these objectives and called it ``SPEED'' — Southern Prosperity Through Enhanced Economic Development. A four-pronged approach has been outlined (see graphics) to cover all seven districts south of Madurai.

Integrating major avenues

It has highlighted the need for integrating major avenues into the development plans so that economic progress will be rapid and sustainable and will meet the aspirations of all stakeholders. These include manufacturing (textiles, auto, and rubber) and employment-generation sectors such as food processing; services and port-based activities such as storage; new export markets for the existing industries that should be scaled up; and tourism to capitalise on the cultural, heritage and pilgrim centres.

The key infrastructure priorities for rapid industrialisation will enable international connectivity to the Madurai airport and re-activating the Tuticorin airport. The process could benefit immensely from a six-lane connectivity between the two southern hubs of Tuticorin and Madurai and Chennai. As Central and State sector projects, in addition to private investments to the tune of Rs. 33,735 crores, are already under implementation, it would useful to speed them up. for early completion.

The task force was headed by the Thiagaraja Mills Chairman and Managing Director, T. Kannan. The report was put together by Scope e-Knowledge Center.

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