1. How did Tamil Nadu grow into one of India’s most developed states? Find out here

How did Tamil Nadu grow into one of India’s most developed states? Find out here

This year is a landmark year at many levels for Tamil Nadu, for both its history and politics. It is the 101st year of the founding of the Justice Party which was supposed to change Tamil Nadu totally.

By: | Updated: May 29, 2017 5:49 AM
Tamil Nadu, Tamil Nadu government, Dravidar Kazhagam, Dravidian parties, Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, DMK, J Jayalalithaa, AIADMK, Liberalisation How did sleepy Tamil Nadu, far from the national capital and which appeared anti-national at one point, grow into one of the most developed states in the country? (Image: PTI)

This year is a landmark year at many levels for Tamil Nadu, for both its history and politics. It is the 101st year of the founding of the Justice Party which was supposed to change Tamil Nadu totally. The Justice Party is the precursor to the Dravidian parties that have ruled the state for 50 years. EV Ramasamy, known as Periyar, broke away from the Justice Party and set up Dravidar Kazhagam, to fight for social justice. He and his followers wanted to end the upper caste (Brahmin) dominance in all walks of life and the humiliation of other castes in the state.

What started as a self-respect movement evolved into a strong political entity. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), headed by CN Annadurai (Anna), quit the Justice Party in 1949, fought the assembly elections and put an end to the ruling Congress party in 1967. So this year marks 50 years of Dravidian rule (DMK and AIADMK) in the state. The national parties, try as they might, do not exist here. No other regional party outside Tamil Nadu has seen unbroken success for 50 years.

Social justice, too, prevails, even though not with perfection. This is a state where minorities do not feel threatened. Caste clashes happen, but they remain localised, and have no bearing on state elections. The historically oppressed classes are the rulers now.

Muthuvel Karunanidhi, DMK’s patriarch who became the chief minister after Anna’s untimely death in 1969, has headed the party ever since and has served five times as the chief minister. This is his 60th year as a legislator. He started as a firebrand anti-North, anti-Hindi politician, but has emerged as a national leader in the past two decades. He will turn 94 on June 3, and celebrations are planned around his birthday to build a national opposition front. Sadly, he may not be able to attend because of age-related ailments.

It is the 100th birth anniversary of Karunanidhi’s arch rival, film star-turned-politician MG Ramachandran, who unseated him in 1977. J Jayalalithaa inherited MGR’s legacy in 1991. Between the three of them, they have transformed the social, political and industrial landscape of Tamil Nadu. The parties have also left their mark in central-state relations. In their different ways, the two parties have fought for federalism and have been able to extract their pound of flesh from the Centre.

How did sleepy Tamil Nadu, far from the national capital and which appeared anti-national at one point, grow into one of the most developed states in the country? Its growth rates match that of the much-praised Gujarat. Tamil Nadu has only recently started attracting attention because of its success under various parameters. Nobody beyond the southern borders paid much attention to what was happening here. The state has only been seen as a place where film stars became leaders.

Anna, in the early days of the Dravidian movement, understood that medium is the message. He used theatre and cinema as effective instruments of communication. For many years, the Centre controlled radio and television. Cinema could, however, reach every nook and corner of Tamil Nadu. Anna instinctively understood that affirmative action will eventually lead to progress. He became chief minister at a time of severe food shortage and inflation. It was his election promise to provide ‘three measures’ (around 4.5kg) of rice for Rs 1 through the state’s public distribution system (PDS). After winning, he implemented the scheme for some time, but later had to scrap it because the state could not afford it. Karunanidhi was his successor and providing for the underprivileged got strengthened during his time. Free education, subsidised power and other schemes started covering a wider number of people. MGR launched his party AIADMK, defeated Karunanidhi in 1977, and the universal noon meal scheme he pushed through is seen as a game-changer even today. He allowed private engineering colleges after providing for 69% reservation in education.

The step made it possible for a generation of youngsters to enter professional colleges. During Jayalalithaa’s last years, Tamil Nadu was increasingly turning into a welfare state. What is sneeringly referred to as the freebie culture has managed to reduce abject poverty. For example, free distribution of mixer-grinder kitchen machines reduces hours of slogging for women of poor household. It allows women to go out and earn more income even as a domestic. Giving away cattle to the rural poor has provided them a steady income. The PDS is much better administered in Tamil Nadu than in other states. In fact, most other states have copied Tamil Nadu, seeing that welfare schemes win elections. A highly subsidised rice scheme won Chhattisgarh for the BJP in 2013.

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However, Tamil Nadu is not just about ‘welfare’ under Dravidian parties. It has never been properly acknowledged that it was largely due to government support for education, various schemes for empowerment of girls and developmental programmes that the state was ‘ready’ for foreign investors soon after Liberalisation. Successive governments have actively encouraged industrial development through the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation and the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu, founded in 1965 and 1971, respectively.

In fact, the latter (SIPCOT) set up industrial estates in the 1970s and 1980s. These agencies have been responsible for creating land banks that proved very useful when foreign investors came knocking. There are more industrial clusters in the state than anywhere in the country.

Dravidian parties’ rule has been far from perfect. Corruption charges have tainted their many achievements. The DMK has to live down the 2G scam and accusations of family rule. Jayalalithaa, with all her dynamism and political acumen, was an inaccessible chief minister. She ruled with an iron hand, and freedom of expression suffered most under her. The Supreme Court has called her the most corrupt and she would have gone to prison had she lived.

The much-touted education standards are falling rapidly. There are engineering colleges being shut down and seats going begging. All oppressed communities have not progressed equally. Although it is the most urbanised state in the country, infrastructure in its cities is far from adequate. The state is facing one of its worst-ever droughts and not enough is being done about it.

In spite of all the problems plaguing it, the 2016 growth figures still put it among the most progressive states. Tamil Nadu is one of the three most preferred states for business investments and it is ranked second behind Maharashtra in GDP. Foreign investments attracted during the last five years is double that investments from 2000 to 2011. In terms of poverty alleviation, Tamil Nadu is only one of eight states that recorded poverty reduction at a rate higher than the all-India average. Its per-capita income—Rs 1,43,547 at current prices (2015-16)—is about 70% more than the all-India average and the third-highest amongst large states. Its Human Development Index is second amongst large states and socio-economic development status is much higher than the national average.

A lot needs to be done for the state to retain its premier position. Other states have become equally competitive. Neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are wooing investors. Ever since Jayalalithaa’s death, there has been political instability. The phase of larger-than-life leaders whose word is law appears to be over. It is little wonder that all the aforementioned landmarks are not being celebrated with the usual Dravidian vigour and extravagance.

  1. M
    Marudhu
    Jun 1, 2017 at 6:37 am
    India will be divided soon .. Dravida Nadu Thani Tamizh Nadu....we dontwant to waste our tax money on illiterate northies....the underdeveloped 3rd world north india is on its own...we the southern states want seperate Country.
    Reply
    1. T
      Tamil Indian
      Jun 8, 2017 at 1:01 am
      Shut up.. I am a Tamilan and proud Indian.. India is one country from Kashmir to TN
      Reply
    2. Sahyadri Hospital
      May 30, 2017 at 10:13 pm
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      Reply
      1. P
        Poohoot.V
        May 30, 2017 at 10:21 am
        Biased article. The dravidian parties have ins utionalized corruption. The real seeds of development were sown byK.Kamaraj and unfortunately he could not continue beyond 1963. The State has so much potential but its rivers have been polluted and pillaged by sand mining, lakes and tanks have been encroached by real estate mafia, the State Govt which is supposed to provide basic services such as affordable medical care and schoo is running liquor shops and canteens, whereas the private sector mafia is running the educational system and medical sector. Do you call this development ????
        Reply
        1. C
          Chelladurai
          May 30, 2017 at 9:13 am
          A vague article. The author has just wanted to fill the page without any homework. Seems like sushila wants to appreciate TN but does not have enough data point. A more data point comparing other states would justify the le. In a way she mentions, TN is on par with Gujarat. In my opinion, TN is much better than Gujarat in keeping the gender equality and social status across diff community of people. Having the solar panel over Narmada and having a flashy government - are these the just measure of growth?
          Reply
          1. J
            Joseph Fernando
            May 30, 2017 at 8:22 am
            Anna and Karunanidhi only are the true leaders of Tamilnadu after Periyar, who thrived hard to develop the state keeping in mind the down-trodden. They only showed the paths in the matters of welfare measures, industrial developments. Others like MGR and Jeyalalitha only followed suit. If Karunanidhi said and started financial istance to educated poor educated girls say Rs. 25000 Jeyalalitha will say Rs. 35000 and so on and so forth. If Anna started to think to give subsidised rice to the poor, Karunanidhi the followed suit, Jeyalalitha would say no price for the rice. Thus the paths were shown by the avobe said leaders of the true Travidian party because they always thought of the development of the stae and the well being of the down-trodden
            Reply
            1. P
              Prof. H.
              May 30, 2017 at 6:17 am
              TAMILNADU IS KNOWN AS ECONOMIC POWER HOUSE OF INDIA. (WIKIPEDIA), IT HAS THE SECOND HIGHEST GSDP OF U. S. $210 BILLION (13.39 LAKH CRORE RUPEES) NEXT TO MAHARASHTRA. IN MAHARASHTRA, MORE THAN 60 IS AGRICULTURAL INCOME. IN TAMIL NADU, OUT OF 13. 39 LAKH CRORE GSDP MUCH OF IT IS THROUGH FOREIGN EXCHANGE THROUGH SOFTWARE, TEXTILES, AUTOMOBILES, LEATHER AND ELECTRONICS SECTORS. IN TOURISM ALSO IT HAS SURPASSED KERALA. NRIs FROM TAMIL NADU HAVE DEPOSITED 64THOUSAND CRORES FOREIGN EXCHANGE BEING MAXIMUM. NO OTHER STATE IS GIVING SO MUCH OF FOREIGN EXCHANGE EARNINGS TO INDIAN GOVERNMENT. A GOLDEN EGG LAYING BIRD IS PLEADING FOR ITS SURVIVAL.
              Reply
              1. K
                krish
                May 29, 2017 at 10:34 pm
                Tamil Nadu growth is dur to selfless and not greedy industrialts like TVS, Simpson, Enfield, Leyland, India Cements, Easun Engineering, Kothari, Dalmia, , TI Group, Coimbatore textiles and engineering groups etc and not because of politicians.
                Reply
                1. தமிழன்
                  May 29, 2017 at 9:15 pm
                  Not just the freebies but also the money that is openly given to people during elections that make them win
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    Stupid
                    May 29, 2017 at 2:45 pm
                    Shame on the article writer Sushila Ravindranath! This article shows nothing but your arrogance at its best : "How did sleepy Tamil Nadu, far from the national capital and which appeared anti-national at one point, grow into one of the most developed states in the country?". Because, its rest of India that has been sleeping till date with no development. Wake up and open your eyes. These writers know that they get published, only if they demean Tamil Nadu and write about it in derogatory terms. Selfish opportunism.
                    Reply
                    1. V
                      vijay karthik
                      May 29, 2017 at 12:11 pm
                      The Tamil people always want a separate nation and Greater Tamilnadu will include the southern parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Telangana and northern Srilanka, and w parts of Andaman and Nicobar.
                      Reply
                      1. Shivkumar Beeram
                        May 30, 2017 at 12:47 am
                        Some joke this.
                        Reply
                      2. L
                        l k
                        May 29, 2017 at 10:44 am
                        I condemn this article in strongest terms. This is communist propa a. Such rabid articles should not published here rather in communist rags such as 'The Hindu'. Hope financial express doesn't become communist express. Good luck.
                        Reply
                        1. L
                          Larel
                          May 29, 2017 at 12:58 pm
                          Why you want to condemn?,. You fools hate Tamils.
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            Santhosh
                            May 29, 2017 at 6:27 pm
                            Is it because we don't fight for cows??
                            Reply
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