Looking back at the 50 years of Dravidian movement rule, what I feel is the state governments could have done better in power generation and prevention of corruption — the two major factors which affected industrial development.
The previous Congress government, headed by former All-India Congress Committee president K. Kamaraj, put Tamil Nadu on the roadmap of industrial development through the setting up of several public and private industries. Industrial estates and big public enterprises were set up by the Central and state governments, laying the foundation for future industrial growth.
While Kamaraj laid the foundation, the successors developed on it. Tamil Nadu saw significant growth in industry, particularly the automobile sector. Some power plants too came up, though this was not enough to meet the growing demand and attract major investors.
Tamil Nadu had a good industrial climate since it did not have labour problems and the tradition still continues. But, the biggest setback was electricity generation, which made us fall back on industrial development. We failed to do what states like Gujarat did, generating surplus power through perfect planning and implementation. Under the stewardship of the then chief minister Narendra Modi, Gujarat rose as an industrial power as it had more than sufficient energy. Due to the power-cut scenario, many industries have shifted out of Tamil Nadu.
Besides, corruption too has hit the setting up of industries. Coupled with delay in taking decisions, corruption had forced some industries out of Tamil Nadu.
The state should have fixed a time frame for approval and other procedures for setting up of new industries. Fixing of time frame would have been a deterrent for corruption. A single window clearance and avoiding delay in land allotment could have helped the state to maintain the tempo in industrial development.
Corruption has originated from the electoral system itself as money has turned out to be a major factor in winning elections. Cash for votes is a detestable malady that has brought down democracy to an abysmal level, besides affecting the growth of the state.
When I contested in the 1967 general elections, I spent Rs 50,000 out of which Rs 4,000 was contributed by my party DMK. The entire budget of the DMK, which won the Assembly elections and captured power, was just Rs 10 lakhs. Now, even a candidate for panchayat elections needs to spend more than this.
So, political reforms will go a long way in curbing corruption and state funding of elections could be one of the major reforms that could end the menace of money power. The problem is that the number of parties in India is very high compared to Europe where funds for elections are given by the state. There are about 1,900 parties in the country and about 150 in Tamil Nadu — more than all the European countries put together. Besides, the system of primaries in the US where party candidates are decided by voting and not by the leadership will ensure democracy.
Besides, the crime rate in Tamil Nadu should be brought down. It is a shame that crimes against women are high in a state like ours known for its culture and tradition. The chief minister holding the portfolio has deterred everyone from criticising the police department. Kamaraj never handled the police portfolio and allocated it to home minister P. Kakkan. Similar arrangements should be followed by Dravidian party governments to curb the rising crime rate in the state.
Dravidian parties have also failed to make higher education available for all. They should increase the MBBS seats so that anyone aspiring to become a doctor could join the course. There are about 2,80,000 engineering seats compared to just 6,000 to 7,000 medical seats. More number of medical colleges should be opened in Tamil Nadu, a state which has the infrastructure and a history of academic background to draw the best faculty. This not only will serve Tamil Nadu but also the national cause of healthcare for which only about 40,000 doctors are being produced by the country every year.
As for the terrible fall in teaching standards we must take note of the fact that in the affiliating system the curriculum is decided by the university and the latter sleeps over this very critical area. At the VIT, we upgrade the syllabus every year, comparing our syllabus with leading universities in the world and also checking on the emerging needs of the companies. We involve the companies in our board of studies for evolving the new curriculum. This is not done by other colleges because they are not allowed to do so and the universities to which they are affiliated, have not been undertaking this vitally important task of upgrading the syllabus. This exercise must be done every year.
The rate of unemployment is highly disturbing. An important element in improving the employability of the engineering graduates is to encourage them towards entrepreneurship while creating a new mechanism to find placements for them in companies abroad. We could use officers in our external affairs ministry and also our missions abroad to help in this. We have the potential but not the reach and that is a pity....