by N. S. Venkataraman 25/5/2018
In recent times, Tamil Nadu has been in the news for all wrong reasons.
A few years back, investors and employees in Kerala and West Bengal, both those residing in the state or from outside the states, were reluctant to invest or seek employment in Kerala and West Bengal, as violent protests and gheraoes were frequently taking place, mainly due to the instigation from political parties, who controlled the trade unions. However, in the last few years, the situation has significantly changed, and the industrial and investment climate in the West Bengal and Kerala have considerably improved and have undergone sea change for the better.
Now, Tamil Nadu seems to have taken the place of Kerala and West Bengal, as incidents of public protests, violence, hate speeches, caste conflicts have almost become the order of the day in the state.
With a state government that appears to lack the determination and the will to govern and the politicians in power lacking the charisma of their leader former Chief Minister Jayalalitha and not commanding the type of political authority that she had, those with extreme views and fringe groups have inevitably become bolder. They often make provocative utterances and organize protests and seem to think that they can say or do anything and get away with it.
The recent agitation against the IPL match in Chennai is an indication of the approach and mindset of the fringe groups of agitators.
Unfortunately, section of media, number of which are owned by politicians and business houses, highlight mostly the provocative acts of some politicians and activists and provide undue publicity and space to the fringe groups and their hate views, without exercising care and caution and unmindful of the adverse impact on the people, particularly the youth . Section of the media creates an impression as if agitators are the be all and end all of the thought processes in Tamil Nadu and represent the voice of the state.
In the last few years, several medium and large industrial and infrastructure projects in Tamil Nadu, have been blocked by the agitators who claim themselves to be environmental activists. It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between the politicians and those who claim themselves to be environmental activists.
Kudankulam nuclear power project was delayed by several years due to protests and agitation, that resulted in colossal project cost escalation. The negative campaign against the nuclear power projects is continuing.
Neutrino project, which is an advanced research activity of high significance which was advocated strongly by late President Abdul Kalam, is now being blocked and high passion is being whipped against the project amongst the local people by the fringe groups and those who claim to be activists.
So many other projects like natural gas pipeline laying project from Kerala to Tamil Nadu has been suspended now due to agitation, though the project could have resulted in significant industrial activities with the investment potential of more than Rs. 10,000 crore in the state
Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region ( PCPIR) project in Cuddalore, which was hailed as very vital project scheme for Tamil Nadu during the last global investor’s conference by the former Chief Minister Jayalalitha and who hoped that it would lead to several crores of rupees of investment and substantial employment, virtually remain stranded now. When Tamil Nadu government announced a proposal for acquisition of land for the project, huge protest came from the activists and politicians and the scheme now remain in the doldrums.
A proposal to build a massive port in Colachel in Kanyakumari district is now facing opposition from the agitators, and it appears, for all practical purposes, that this project may not take off.
A proposal to build an airport in Salem too is facing opposition.
Chennai – Salem green corridor express highway project was announced by Tamil Nadu government, and the agitators have already become active opposing this project.
Even as India is facing huge shortfall in domestic production of crude oil, consequently leading to massive import of crude oil to the level of more than 220 million tonnes per annum, the proposal to set up crude oil exploration project in Neduvasal has to be given up ,as the agitators protested and went for massive agitation.
Of course, latest is the massive violent protest against Sterlite project in Tuticorin, which appears to be heading for closure due to agitation, that would result in loss of jobs to thousands of persons. The matter is before the court, but the agitators insist that they should have the final say and want permanent closure of the unit, irrespective of what the court would decide. This massive factory remains closed now.
Several scientists and engineers continuously state about the safe nature of the several projects that are in operation or that have been announced in recent times, but their voices are not being heard or being ignored. Media provides massive space for the activists, fringe groups, and some opposition parties to voice their protest but not to the scientists and engineers, who are as much concerned about the welfare of the state and it’s industrial and economic progress as anyone else.
Tamil Nadu seems to be now dangerously sliding on a slippery path, where every project activity is being opposed by some sections, with the state government not being able to make them see the reason.
The net result of the situation is that the investors from other states in the country and abroad are losing their confidence to start ventures in Tamil Nadu.
While a large number of concerned citizens in Tamil Nadu understand the gravity of the counterproductive situation that is gripping the state due to such protests and agitations against projects, they feel helpless and are watching the scenario with apprehension.