The plummeting performance of the State of Tamil Nadu may be attributed to challenges related to industrial unrest. The high rate of industrial and social disputes is hampering the economic growth in Tamil Nadu. Stalled projects should be resumed and the grievances of workers should be resolved promptly, otherwise the State will lose the stature that it had built up over the centuries. It will also result in skewed industrialisation where only powerful people will run the businesses and small investors will be abolished. All these issues should be noticed and taken care of by the Government in order for the State to continually prosper
Tamil Nadu is regarded as one of the most developed States in India. The noticeable aspect of this State has been inclusive growth. In other words, economic growth and human development have been the quintessential features of this region. Tamil Nadu has one of the lowest “Gini scores” among Indian States, which indicates the lowest income or wealth inequality in this region. It shows that the distribution of wealth and resources in Tamil Nadu has been comparatively better than in many other Indian States. This is a remarkable feature of the economic growth in Tamil Nadu in geographical or spatial distribution of the same.
Undoubtedly, the State of Tamil Nadu has been consistently performing better compared to the average of whole of India, and continues to occupy the status of one of the most developed States in the country by making impressive contributions towards India’s economic growth. However, in the midst of better than all India averages in most indicators, few trends stand out as very alarming in this State.
The growth rate of Tamil Nadu’s manufacturing sector was highest among all major industrial States in the period 2000-01 to 2010-11, which stood at 8.73 per cent, and fell to 7.13 per cent during 2011-12 to 2020-21. The service sector in Tamil Nadu witnessed declining growth rate over the years. It went marginally down from 9.34 per cent in 1993-94 to 1999-00 and 9.20 per cent in 2000-01 to 2020-11. Unfortunately, in the last decade, it saw the steepest decline (just 6.25 per cent) as compared to preceding decades.
The manufacturing sector generates the biggest number of jobs in Tamil Nadu but the share of employment in the said sector has been decreasing over the years. It plunged from 6.02 million in 1993-94 to 2.26 million in 2018-19. The construction sector provides the second largest number of employments in Tamil Nadu, and though this sector has overtaken the manufacturing sector (in terms of employment) because of rapid urbanisation, the growth in this sector is not sustainable.
This plummeting performance of the state of Tamil Nadu may be attributed to challenges related to industrial unrest. Industrial disputes hamper industrial growth and reduce the opportunity of employability.
This may also be the cause for the reduction of the number of man-days labour by the workers. In the year 2003, out of a total of 552 industrial dispute cases registered in India, 81 cases were from Tamil Nadu. In the year 2016, 102 industrial dispute cases were registered, in which 5.79 lakh workers were involved and 12.71 lakh man-days got affected.
Tamil Nadu contributed about 15 per cent of total industrial disputes in India in the year 2003 which increased to 23 per cent in 2010. When we compare Tamil Nadu’s share in industrial disputes among the seven most industrialised States (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Combined Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh), then we find that it contributed about 42 per cent in the year 2003, which increased to 56.86 per cent in 2010.
Though it came down to 18.87 per cent in 2016, the damage had already been done by then. Tamil Nadu as the leading State was accounting for a sizable number of protests for various reasons.
There were protests to demand wage revision, as well as against ill-treatment and unemployment issues from different industries. Apart from these, there were also protests linked to professions such as blue-collar workers, manual labours, daily wage labours, technicians, auto engineers, Government sector jobs, sanitation workers, etc. for various issues.
Often, protests led to a law-and-order crisis which when checked stringently by the Tamil Nadu police led to even more violent outbreaks. Police firing, either to dispel the crowd or to control the situation sometimes, resulted in vehement repercussions.
The Manjolai tea estate incident is a case in point where the act of firing 2 rounds of bullets in the air, resulted in numerous deaths.
The data from 37 districts of Tamil Nadu can be broadly categorised into seven kinds of protests. The first is that of the farmers and fishermen protesting against their land being taken to be utilised for some industrial purposes, or their water bodies being targeted, or inadequate compensation received from the Government; the second kind is the protest by residents agitating against the industries depositing waste and contaminating drinking water; the third kind of protest is similar to the second kind, except for that it is undertaken by green activists; the fourth kind of protest is by workers who are trying to reopen the stalled projects in order to resume their livelihood; the fifth is against privatisation; the sixth is due to workers coming together to demand issues related to work and social security; the seventh and the last type which is still going on is because of units closing due to the lockdown in India owing to the Covid crisis.
The high rate of industrial and social disputes is hampering the economic growth in Tamil Nadu. Stalled projects should be resumed and the grievances of workers should be resolved promptly, otherwise the state will lose the stature that it had built up over the centuries. It will also result in skewed industrialisation where only powerful people will run the businesses and small investors will be abolished. All these issues should be noticed and taken care of by the Government in order for the State to continually prosper.
(Anish Gupta and Mousumi Biswas are Assistant Professors at Delhi University and Rahul Ranjan is working with Ministry of Commerce and Industry. This article is an outcome of ICSSR-IMPRESS project titled Industrialisation and Social Unrest: A Case Study of Tamil Nadu)