Ooty: In the era of industrial growth linked to globalization and enhancing avenues for job opportunities, Niligiris is witnessing a reverse trend.
The hills which witnessed glorious industrial growth in the past that saw industries like the Hindustan Photo Films Manufacturing Company(HPF), a central PSE, Cordite Factory at Aruvankadu(CAF) which is a central defense wing unit, Pasteur Institute of India(PII) a central government unit, an assembling unit of HMT watches which is an another central unit, and Sterling Biotech(formerly Protein Products of India), a private pharmaceutical gelatin production unit, were growing to be top flight and competent industries bringing job opportunities to thousands of hill residents and to its economy. But, sadly now, when unemployment issue is challenging task to deal with, the industries in the Nilgiris have begun to unwind.
While HPF and HMT have already been closed, CAF is said to be on the path of struggle, which was evidenced by the recent stir organised by the employees union there to urge the government not to close it.
Now, Sterling Biotech, a private industry, has been closed, at least on a temporary basis, due to issues related to pollution. The PII, which too faced closure in the recent past has somehow managed to pull on. Of course, the tea industry scenario in Nilgiris is far from good, as reflected by unrest amongst tea growers.
What is more appalling with the industrial scene in the Nilgiris is the thinning job opportunities for the educated youth in the Nilgiris. Stating that the governments, both in centre and state failed to put the Nilgiris on its deserved industrial growth path, Mr.Manjai V.Mohan, president of the Baduga Desa Party(BDP), local political outfit here, claimed that an estimated 60,000 people from Nilgiris have migrated to neighbouring districts or states, in search of jobs, as per the last census data.
“On average around 5,000 youth are passing out from the colleges across the hills every year. For them finding job in the Nilgiris is a most challenging task. The closure of HPF has curtailed the job opportunities for nearly 1,500 individuals. Now, Sterling Bio-tech is facing an issue. Though it is a private firm, it provides job for around 500 persons. The CAF closure issue is also cropping up slowly. The governments at centre and state should understand that an industry provides jobs to hundreds of people directly and thousands of people indirectly as traders, farmers and vendors are also sustained by an industry in a given area thus leading to sustenance of economy. The closure of any industry will ruin them all. The government should look at how to run an industry to give impetus for industrial growth rather than thinking about how to close it,” Mr. Mohan contended.
G. Janardhanan, president of the Ooty Town Public Awareness Association, said that though tourism is a thriving industry in Nilgiris, it cannot give livelihood to all the job seekers. Indeed, income flow through tourism is not that regular. The government should come forward to give a push to sustainable industrial growth here, he urged.
‘Convert closed HPF unit into IT park’
Voices are getting stronger in Nilgiris for giving fillip to Information technology (IT) driven industrial growth with an eye on job opportunities to hill residents.
Stating that the weather profile in the hills, which is in tune with the western countries, is highly suitable for developing IT-based industries, Mr. Rohit Jain, joint secretary of the Nilgiris Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that as HPF is closed now, the Union government should think about starting a new Information Technology related industry there to sustain with providing job opportunities.
“The government should come forward to set up an industry for production of herbal based products and aromatic oils in Nilgiris as there is good demand for these products across the globe. This will bring job opportunities to many directly and indirectly” Mr. Jain suggested.
Mr. Manjai Mohan, President of BDP, said that pharmacy industry is the ever-growing industry globally. Since, the hill weather is highly suitable for such industry, the government should encourage pharmacy industrial growth across the Nilgiris. While a renowned pharmacy college is located in Ooty, a push given to pharma industries will automatically bring employment opportunities to many in the hills, he advocated.
Rajeshkumar James, secretary of the Citizens' Forum of Coonoor said that the government should explore the possibilities of setting up software parks in Nilgiris as the climate in Nilgiris is conducive for such industry. There is always possibility in Nilgiris to develop wool industry in a big way, he pointed out.