Amma’s legacy: Feeding poor to making TN an auto & IT hub
R. K. Sinha
As the nation is still mourning the demise of J.Jayalaitha, very popular former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, she would long be remembered for her two remarkable legacies that she had left behind, A. Amma Canteen, B. Building Tamil Nadu as Auto and IT hub. On both fronts, reticent leader has proved that if one really is keen to serve the people, he/ she can easily do it. Thanks to her Amma Canteen, she achieved two things, first, It feeds lakhs of Tamils and those migrant population irrespective of their caste and social status. 2. While building Tamil Nadu as one of the most progressive Industrial states of India, she ensured that lakhs of youngsters of her state get good jobs. Arguably these are no small achievements.
Honestly, Amma Canteens proved a knock-out punch from Amma to her political rivals. They could not match any such scheme. I have been to Tamil Nadu umpteen numbers of times over the last two-three years and enjoyed the food of Amma Canteen immensely. It is clean, tasty and damn cheap. An outsider would not believe that Idli with sambar was cost just Re 1. Sambar/lemon/curry rice Rs 3, curd rice Rs 5.
During my recent trip to Chennai, I enjoyed my lunch at Amma Canteen. Two women placed white paper in a steel thali and served me and my family. The eating area is very clean. No takeaways are allowed. The best part is that Amma Canteen is demolishing caste and class boundaries. From a guard of a building to IT sector professionals are enjoying food from Amma Canteens.
All such canteens are run by ladies. These ladies get rice and dal from the state government. J.Jayalaitha used to keep track of the working of these canteens very closely.
After Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand’s Harish Rawat government a couple of months back started cheap food canteens. They are serving full meal to the poor at a mere Rs. 20. One only hopes that such schemes would be launched by other states too. After all they are duty bound to serve people. After taking over the reins of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal had also unveiled a plan to set up ‘Aam Aadmi Canteens’ to serve nutritious food for Rs. 5-10 range, aimed especially to cater to the working class population. Only God knows what happened to Aam Aadmi canteens. I would like to have food if it is still running at any place in Delhi.
And when life came to a grinding halt on Sunday last as late chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s health deteriorated, her Amma Canteens were serving hungry. That was the day when even tea shops and department stores took the day off in her state. Amma canteens came to the rescue of all those who wanted food.
And moving away from Amma Canteens, Tamil Nadu has become the favoured auto hub of India under the watchful eyes of J.Jayalaitha.
While it is true that the state became an important auto hub of the country post economic liberalisation in 1991, it became one of the major destinations for investments by the world’s leading automobile majors due to efforts of her government. Today, several global auto giants are located in and around Chennai. It is now referred to as the ‘Detroit of India’. And recently Mahindra & Mahindra has acquired 450 acres land at Cheyyar in Thiruvannamalai district in Tamil Nadu to set up a green field automobile plant. The company would invest about Rs 4,000 crore in this plant in two phases. It will be setting up a test track in the Phase-I, followed by an automotive plant. M&M will invest another Rs 2,000 crore in the second phase of investment. It goes without saying that auto companies loved setting up shop in Tamil Nadu due Tamil Nadu’s tax holidays, financial incentives, stable industrial policy and disciplined labour, proximity to a port, good infrastructure and abundance of power. It is also true that Gujarat is too attracting auto investments though nothing to beat Tamil Nadu at this juncture.
Though setback came for state when auto major Ford some time back announced its second facility-a Rs 4,000 crore investment with an initial installed capacity of 2.4 lakh units annually-will be set up in Gujarat. Ford said it selected Gujarat because of the state’s pro-business environment. Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu has many leading auto companies including Ashok Leyland, TVS Group and Hyundai. The state also houses Daimler, Caparo, Komatsu, Doosan and Caterpillar too.
Auto sector watchers say that Tamil Nadu produce practically everything that moves from bicycles to battle tanks and from motorcycles, cars, tractors, earth-moving equipment, trucks to rail, road coaches. It has to be seen whether the state continues to attract massive auto sector investment post the departure of charismatic Amma.
Jayalalitha used to say often, “My vision is to make Tamil Nadu the World’s largest auto cluster. “Every third car produced in India is from Chennai or around it. The state makes three cars every minute and one commercial vehicle every 75 seconds. The state has a capacity of 3.5 lakh commercial vehicles.
While Karnataka is the monarch of IT sector in India, neighbouring Tamil Nadu is also attracting huge investment of IT companies. Most large Indian IT companies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL Technologies and Cognizant have campuses employing thousands of software engineers in Tamil Nadu. Infosys has over 17,000 employees in Chennai, Wipro has 25,000, and TCS, India’s largest software exporter, has 60,000 employees in 13 centers in the state.
Tamil Nadu was one of the first states of the Indian Union to formulate a comprehensive IT policy. As early as 1997, the State Government released an Industry -specific Policy for the IT industry to achieve the goals spelt out in the Ninth five year plan and to focus attention on the IT industry as an engine of growth in the State.
Meanwhile, in a recent study of leading business chamber of India, Assocham, Tamil Nadu has ranked among the best performing states in terms of eight out of nine development parameters like economy, power, roads and health while Kerala was a pleasant surprise on the second spot.
In nutshell, it can be safely said that Tamil Nadu has done exceedingly well in different areas under the watchful eyes of J.Jayalaitha. One only hopes that the state will continue to make rapid progress in future too. That would be a real tribute to the visionary leader.
(The author is a Rajya Sabha member)