There is good news on the manufacturing front in Tamil Nadu. While the state may not rank on par with Maharashtra or Gujarat in attracting direct investment, it has registered the highest in terms of setting up on units in the manufacturing sector. There are 33.39 lakh manufacturing units in the state. In addition it has also ranked highest in the number of manufacturing jobs added – 5.79 lakhs between 1998 and 2005. These figures come from the Fifth Economic Census released by the Government of India last month.


However what is not being looked at is the concentration of most of the industrial development around Chennai city. Just to give one instance, the city alone accounts for 35% of the automotive manufacturing sector in the country. The city and its environs can expect a total of USD 15-20 billion in this sector by 2015 says the 11th five year plan. Added to this, we have the IT Sector which is growing rapidly and so are other businesses in the city.


The question is, can the city take in so much of industrialisation in one go? And is it necessary to concentrate all the development in and around the city? The Human Development Index (HDI) for the state has shown glaring disparities. This data, released as part of the 11th five year plan for the state (2007-2012) shows that there has been skewed development towards Chennai at the cost of all other districts. Four indicators – life expectancy at birth (LEB), literacy rate, gross enrolment ratio (GER) and the real per capita gross state domestic product (GSDP) at purchase power parity in terms of $ – were used to calculate the HDI. A large difference in HDI separates the first and second districts with Chennai at 0.842 compared to Tuticorin at 0.791.


In terms of Gender Development Index (GDI) too, Chennai tops the list. GDI is defined as one which adjusts or discounts gender inequality and shows the level of attainment in human development when there is no gender disparity.


While it is a matter of pride that the city has scored on such counts in the state, the Government has in its own document noted that such disparities are a matter of concern. What has not been listed is that the city’s infrastructure is also close to breaking down in terms of roads, water supply and other counts. In addition, quality of life has also been poor. The Mercer study on Worldwide Quality of Living gave Chennai a very low score, though it fared marginally better than Mumbai and Delhi.


What does all this mean for Chennai and those in charge of its fate? It is high time industrial development is looked at in districts that are further south, most of which have qualified poorly on the HDI and GDI. In addition, it will also be good if the state looks at dismantling some of its administrative institutions in the city and moving them to other towns in the state. In this connection, the setting up of a separate administrative capital for the state should also be looked at as it can do much for decongesting the city and deflecting development to areas that need them.