CHENNAI: As three momentous years have rolled since Mr. Edappadi K Palaniswami was sworn in as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on February 16, 2017, the low-profile farmer from Salem district has managed to change a crisis narrative in a nebulous political situation after former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's demise, into one of renewed opportunities for higher growth.
From agriculture, irrigation, rural development, sanitation, health, education and social welfare, to attracting direct foreign investments (FDI) to keep the state's industrial momentum going, the AIADMK government headed by Mr. Palaniswami has, overcoming various obstacles, enabled a turnaround in many sectors to make Tamil Nadu a 'happening state' again. In the last three years alone, he has cleared 16,382 files, an indicator of his quick decision-making powers.
When the entire Cauvery delta area was simmering with discontent in the wake of the renewed drilling activities by oil companies prospecting for hydrocarbons, coming as 'crowning glory' for the government's achievements is the Chief Minister's recent announcement to declare the entire Cauvery delta region spread over eight districts, into a 'Protected Special Agricultural Zone (PSAG)'.
The AIADMK Government intends to bring in a legislation to give effect to this and get the Centre's approval for the same to demonstrate its long-term commitment to the welfare of the farmers, their livelihood and State's food security. These districts include Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Pudukkottai, Cuddalore, Ariyalur and Tiruchy.
Thanks to the government's persistent efforts, following Supreme Court's directive, Tamil Nadu got the Centre to set up the 'Cauvery Water Management Authority' that will oversee the implementation of the Cauvery Tribunal's Final Award as upheld by the Apex Court and Cauvery Water Regulatory Committee.
In other important pro-farmer steps, Mr. Palaniswami for the first time in 83 years, directed the de-silting of the Stanley Reservoir in Mettur. It not only helped to increase the storage capacity of Mettur dam, but also the mined out alluvial soil to the extent of 2.37 lakh cubic metre, which was distributed free to 1,846 farmers that will help them to enrich their soil in their individual fields.
The massive de-silting and rehabilitation of system tanks and lakes across the State to help conserve excess rain water that will also enable groundwater recharge under the 'Kudimaramathu' scheme has been taken up in the last three years. A Rs.427.76 crore check-dam across Kollidam river at Adhanur-Kumaramangalam, the Athikadavau-Avinashi irrigation-cum-drinking water project at a cost of Rs.1,652 crore to benefit the drought-prone western districts of Coimbatore, Erode and Tirupur, and a massive Rs.11.250 crore project to clean-up the Cauvery and its branches in a bid to rejuvenate the river system by tackling the pollution issues are among his major initiatives for agricultural revival.
Permanent flood control measures in the western districts of Coimbatore and Nilgiris, besides in greater Chennai, relaying old roads and sanctioning new highway projects like the Rs.1,075 crore Chennai Peripheral Ring Road project, and for road works with an outlay of Rs. 12,301 crore from Ennore port in North Chennai to Poonjeri in Mamallapuram, have augmented road infrastructure.
TRANSPORTATION: In the transport sector, the Palaniswami-led government has introduced 4,921 new buses to state transport undertakings in the last three years including luxury and air-conditioned buses for the convenience of the travelling public. Retirement benefits to the tune of Rs.4831 crore have been sanctioned to Transport corporation workers. The Government has also an ambitious plan to induct environment-friendly 2000 e-buses with assistance from KfW of Germany and an additional 12,000 buses for the STUs', both involving an outlay of Rs.5,890 crore.
EDUCATION AND HEALTH
According the highest priority to School and Higher education in the State, the Palaniswami-led government in the last three years has upgraded 250 middle schools into high schools, 202 high schools upgraded into higher secondary schools. As many as 20 new primary schools were started, besides 120 higher secondary schools upgraded as 'model schools' with state-of-art infrastructure facilities at a cost of Rs. 33.60 crore.
The Government has appointed 3,355 teachers, besides improving the quality of school infrastructure by constructing additional class rooms, labs, toilets and other facilities. A separate educational television channel has been launched by the State to take the benefits of new ways of learning directly to the students.
While the government has been implementing four per cent reservation in state jobs for the physically challenged, in the realm of higher education, for the first time the State government has obtained Centre's approval to set up 11 medical colleges in just one year at a cost of Rs.3,575 Crore. These colleges will come up at Ramanathapuram, Virdhunagar, Nilgiris, Dindigul, Namakkal, Tirupur, Tiruvallur, Krishnagiri, Nagapattinam, Ariyalur and Kallakurichi districts.
In health care, under the Chief Minister's Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme (CMCHIS), the total insurance coverage has been enhanced to Rs. five lakh per annum. In the last three years, 21.50 lakh patients have benefitted under this scheme, involving an outgo of Rs.2,873.39 crore for various treatment given. The government recruited 5,282 doctors, 3,240 nurses and 13,437 para-medical staff for various public hospitals across Tamil Nadu in the last three years.
INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT: Though Tamil Nadu is already highly industrialized, in these last three years growth in this sector received a big boost with the Chief Minister, Mr. Palaniswami travelling to the UK, USA and Dubai last year to attract additional FDI. As many as 63 MoUs' were signed involving an investment commitment of Rs.19, 136 crore. This has the potential to create 83,837 new jobs.
Earlier, through the second Global Investors Meet (GIM) held in Chennai, Tamil Nadu under Mr. Palaniswami's dynamic leadership has been able to secure fresh investment commitments from captains of industry in diverse fields to bring in Rs. 3,00,501 crore to invest in new industries here, to help create 10.50 lakh new jobs. He has also simultaneously encouraged micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) and Rs. 330 crore subsidy given for new entrepreneurs. In all, during the last three years, the State to give a fillip to industrial activities, has disbursed Rs.810 crore by way of various subsidies/grant to 11,062 beneficiaries.
SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE: The Palaniswami-led government's determined effort to enforce the ban on one-time use plastics from January 1, 2019, as a measure of environment protection. In the area of urban rejuvenation, augmenting sources of potable drinking water supply in Chennai and other major urban agglomerations including launching the Rs.1259.38 crore sea water desalination plant at Nemmeli near Chennai, implementation of water supply, underground drainage systems and storm water drainages, besides reviving public spaces like parks involving a huge combined capital outlay of Rs.7,263.26 crore, are among major social and ecological initiatives in the last three years to improve the overall health and sanitation for the people. The latter includes a capital outlay of Rs.3,034.31 crore for 25 'combined drinking water supply schemes' across various districts of Tamil Nadu. Chief Minister on January 13, 2020, also launched the 'Amma Youth Sports Scheme' with an outlay of Rs.76.23 crore, to provide play fields and sports equipment to village and town panchayats.
AWARDS FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE:
As a fitting recognition to the Edappadi Palaniswami-led government's development initiatives across sectors in line with Amma's motto of 'Peace, Progress and Prosperity', the Central Government has given various awards to Tamil Nadu. Under the 'Swachh Bharat', the State was recognised for its cleanliness campaign in rural areas, even as Tamil Nadu bagged the Centre's award under the scheme to protect and educate the girl child 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padao.
Tamil Nadu under the stewardship of Mr. Palaniswami also won the 'Government of India Good Governance Award' for 2019. By ensuring law and order, Mr. Palaniswami has made Tamil Nadu a haven of peace and tranquility. This has been recognised by the Central government. The 'India Today' media group has also awarded Tamil Nadu as the 'Best Performing State' in the country for two years in a row.
Tamil Nadu was also chosen as the 'second best state' in overall governance by the Public Affairs Centre in Bengaluru. Tamil Nadu also bagged the national
e-Puraskar Award for best e-governance in rural panchayats.
All these prove that Tamil Nadu under Mr. Edappadi K Palaniswami's leadership has not just survived for three years but gone from strength to strength.