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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII No. 15, November 16-30, 2012
Five years on, still no power from Udangudi
Business notes by S. VISWANATHAN
Editor, Industrial Economist

The 1600 MW Udangudi power project to be jointly built by the erstwhile TNEB and BHEL was projected as one of the major projects of the then DMK government in October 2007. For 15 years (1992-2007), covering three successive five year plans, the State added little to power capacity and started experiencing the effects of this neglect. The then Power Minister Arcot Veerasamy announced a number of projects in the State and in private sectors and painted a rosy picture of Tamil Nadu generating far in excess of its requirement and of the prospects of supplying surplus power to other States to great profit. Quite disappointingly, despite the excellent relations the DMK government had with the Centre and being part of the UPA Government at the Centre, this prestigious project was a non-starter, along with others like the ultra mega power project at Cheyyar.

BHEL had invested handsome amounts in joint power projects in Andhra Pradesh (Simhadri) and Karnataka (Raichur). Cash-rich BHEL, with its sprawling production facilities at Tiruchi and Ranipet, I felt, could compress the construction schedule to around 42 months. Sadly, the then government did not pursue coal linkages and environmental clearances with the Centre.

The wisdom of the State taking on itself the burden of additional investments is questionable. Possibly, the State may invite a private promoter to join hands with TANGEDCO. But, should it lose in the bargain the considerable expertise of BHEL which produces around Rs. 20,000 crore worth of equipment within the State? In fact, I have been advocating for over a decade the State forming a consortium of companies involved in power – BHEL, Neyveli Lignite Corporation, L&T, Ennore/Tuticorin Port and TANGEDCO – to synergise their individual strengths, add to capacity economically and in quick time. The pooling of expertise of these different institutions can lead to the emergence of new conglomerates to accelerate power development. Should the State, whose finances are not in good shape, take upon itself the burden of infrastructure spend on such large projects?

* * *

Arusuvai service

A well-known vegetarian restaurant in T'Nagar is being run by Arusuvai Natarajan, the most prosperous and leading wedding/food catering contractor of Chennai. His daughter used to manage the restaurant offering homely food.

My wife and I dropped in at this restaurant on a Sunday afternoon. We were in for a surprise: the entire team of servers, young men and women, were from the Northeast and Nepal. We wondered if the management had changed hands and whether it had become a Chinese or non-vegetarian restaurant. The manager then assured us that Arusuvai Natarajan continues to be the owner and that the menu will be the familiar old items served over plantain leaf.

The waiters were, of course, new to the Chennai menu and served the items not in the traditional order. Of course, they did not know Tamil and very few were familiar with English either.

I guessed that these were picked up straight from Central railway station and quickly trained! The manager corroborated the guess. It is a familiar practice now: contractors pick up young men and women flocking to the city from Northeast and Nepal for employment. Most of these are not skilled. Thus, they fit in easily in restaurant and construction jobs. Employment by a restaurant ensures safety for the young strangers, a place to stay and also food plus a salary. In just about a year, a silent revolution has taken place: construction workers are increasingly coming from these regions. Security jobs are almost entirely taken by the Nepalis. A good number of students are pursuing higher studies in the hundreds of professional colleges.

Chennai initially attracted labour for construction and for farm work from Andhra, then it was from Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. With NREGA, this supply chain appears broken. It now extends to Northeast and Nepal! – (Courtesy: Industrial Economist)

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In this Issue

INTACH invited to restore 5 HC buildings
Will the latest plan reduce T'Nagar chaos?
Five years on, still no power from Udangudi
A great address to have
A Chennaivaasi's Chennai
Of tennis and impromptu clubs
Juicy success
The pleasure of walking at Elliot's Beach

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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