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Reviving the long proposed Madurai- Tuticorin industrial corridor will address the regional imbalances in growth in the state. Industry is expecting that the state budget to be presented on March 18 will kickstart the project.

With five million micro, small and medium enterprises, Tamil Nadu is the third largest state when it comes to the MSME sector. Tamil Nadu also boasts of having many non-farm industries ranging from automobile, leather, textiles, apparels, engineering components and pharmaceuticals. Out of total small, micro and medium industries, Tamil Nadu has eight percentage of total sector. When it comes to micro enterprises, Tamil Nadu has 15.24 % of units.

What would the sector expect when the state finance minister P T R Palanivel Thiagarajan presented the state budget on March 18? “State has nothing much to do when it comes to MSME because the central government has more command on the sector,” says an industrialist.

Much of the industrial growth in Tamil Nadu, unfortunately, is nestled around the districts around Chennai namely Tiruvallur and Chengalpattu. Apart from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu needs industrial growth to be spread across which is not happening.

Before the Goods and Service Tax, the uniform taxation system for the country, was rolled out, the industrial bodies used to present memorandums urging the state government to come out with various measures. Now, the state government has much less legroom to intervene. “It has been many years since the Madurai – Tuticorin industrial corridor was announced,” says S V S Velshankar from Madurai. The ambitious project was announced by then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in 2013. In the last nine years, a special purpose vehicle was launched with a special officer without much headway. The corridor is designed to give a major industrial thrust to ten districts of southern Tamil Nadu.

Much of the industrial growth in Tamil Nadu, unfortunately, is nestled around the districts around Chennai namely Tiruvallur and Chengalpattu. Apart from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu needs industrial growth to be spread across which is not happening.

An international airport and port facilities to ship raw materials and finished products were always termed as reasons for industrial growth around Chennai. “We do have an international airport at Madurai and adequate port facilities at Tuticorin. We can even ship to Kochi port if necessary. Yet, the push for industrial growth is not happening in the rest of Tamil Nadu especially in the south,” says Velshankar.

Industrialists like Velshankar urge the state government to revive Madurai – Tuticorin industrial corridor at full throttle. The trade and industrial bodies have been urging to create 8,000 acres of land bank between Aruppukottai and Ettayapuram region. Such a land bank for industries in this stretch would be easily connected to Tuticorin port by national highway 38. With the presence of Power Grid Corporation at Tuticorin, the industrial units could also get uninterrupted power, they say.

Chief Minister M K Stalin, while announcing a library on his father’s name at Madurai on January 21 this year, promised to set up one more SIPCOT industrial estate in Madurai. Such projects should not stay merely with announcements but the budget allocation should happen, the industrialists here say.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has wrecked most of small and micro industries in Tamil Nadu. Many could not revive, says Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s senior president S Rethinavelu. “It is true that the state government doesn’t hold much control on policy decisions in the MSME sector but it can throw its weight,” he says.

Chief Minister M K Stalin, while announcing a library on his father’s name at Madurai on January 21 this year, promised to set up one more SIPCOT industrial estate in Madurai. Such projects should not stay merely with announcements but the budget allocation should happen, the industrialists here say.

Rethinavelu reasons that most of the schemes announced by the central government are bagged by the medium industries whose turnover should be Rs 250 crores. The micro and small industries with a turnover ceiling of Rs 5 crore and 50 crores respectively are no match to medium industries. “The immediate need is to separate medium industries from small and micro units and chart out separate policies,” he says.

Rethinavelu adds that the state government should bring out specific schemes to revive small traders affected by Covid-19. Small traders are usually not considered by the governments, he added.

“When the first wave of pandemic struck, we were left with nothing. I borrowed Rs 40,000 and survived on bare minimum food,” says Veeraiah, a small trader from Madurai.

Before GST days, the trade and industrial bodies used to meet the finance ministers of state and central governments with their demands. They are no more entertained and were told the GST council would decide everything. “The state finance minister could at least meet us before going to the GST council meeting so that we would be able to present him the ground reality,” added Rethinavelu.


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