One year is too short a time to judge the achievements of a government. Societal change, a transformation in governance at all levels, and creation of infrastructure involve long gestation periods. But it is time enough to take stock of the direction in which a party in government is travelling and its position on issues that concern people, and to determine if it will work towards fulfilling promises made before the election.
On all these counts, the Tamil Nadu government comes out on top. Critical to making this assessment is the question: what kind of philosophy guides the party in government? Is it sectarian, catering to a particular section of people in society, or it is inclusive, seeking to carry forward all people, without any discrimination based on caste or creed? This is where the guiding principle of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) comes in: the Dravidian model of governance.
Chief Minister M.K.Stalin asserted in a statement to mark one year of the DMK being in power in Tamil Nadu: “The name of my goal is the Dravidian model. To reach that will strive on the path shown by late leaders Periyar, Aringnar Anna and Kalaignar (M. Karunanidhi). The second year of this government will be incomparable.”
What is the Dravidian model?
At its simplest, the Dravidian model of governance is about peace, progress and prosperity, which is achieved by pursuing the principles of social justice, rational thought and action firmly rooted in equity. This translates to inclusive financial planning, access to education, housing, nutrition and health for all, a meaningful implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, encouraging independent decision-making in structures of democratic governance at all levels, and the State adhering to the Indian Constitution in letter and spirit on all issues—including that of religious and personal freedom. The first year of the DMK government is replete with examples of how this Dravidian model works. Soon after he took charge as Chief Minister, Stalin signed five important orders that included Rs.4,000 as financial assistance for families during the COVID pandemic, free bus travel for women, reduction of milk prices, creation of a department to fulfil the promise of addressing people’s complaints within 100, days and covering expenses for COVID treatment in private hospitals under the Chief Minister’s health insurance scheme.
In his budget speech, Finance Minister P.T.R. Palanivel Thiaga Rajan said that free travel scheme for women had increased the share of women passengers in town buses from 40 per cent to 61 per cent. The government had allocated Rs.1,200 crore for the scheme. Given its popularity, it has increased the allocation to Rs.1,520 crore this year (2022-23). Several women, who were quoted in different news outlets, praised the scheme. For instance, a New Indian Express report has this comment from a woman: “L Jayalakshmi, a resident of Paravai village, said, ‘My husband does not go for work due to heart disease. I have a son who is pursuing Class 12 at a government school in Perambalur. I work in a restaurant in Perambalur and run my family. I travel to Perambalur from my village by bus four times a day. The daily bus fare came to Rs.72, when my daily salary is only Rs.250. I was thus forced to set aside a portion of the wages towards bus fare.’” That has changed now, she said, thanking Stalin.
Reclaiming Temple Land
The DMK has effectively silenced the vocal and self-proclaimed Hindu protectors by the way it has handled the Hindu Religions and Charitable Endowments Ministry. Soon after the DMK came to power, the Ministry began the process of taking stock of all land under various temples. All information was placed before the people. The Ministry’s policy note said: “In the first phase land documents belonging to Religious Institutions under the control of the temple were uploaded on the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department website. Details of 3,43,647 acres of land have been tallied with the documents of ‘A’ Register, Town Survey Register and Chitta were uploaded on the website.”
The government has taken up seriously the task of reclaiming all temple land. The policy note says: “Encroachments on lands, buildings, and hilling sites belonging to Religious Institutions worth Rs.2,344.44 crore have been recovered and brought under the control of the temple. Encroachments on 753.02 acres of land, 513 grounds 0544 sq ft of sites and 34 grounds, 2,285 sq ft buildings and 46 grounds and 2077 Sq. ft area of tank bund has been recovered. Kancheepuram Arulmigu Egambaranadhar temple on which Seetha Kingston House matriculation Higher Secondary School was earlier functioning was taken possession. The School has been renamed as Kancheepuram Arulmigu Egambaranadhar Higher Secondary School and is now being efficiently run by the temple.”
Sustainable industrial development is the key to prosperity. The government has initiated various methods to attract investment and improve the industrial climate. Through investment conclaves held in Chennai, Coimbatore and Thoothukudi, it has so far signed 124 MoUs for investments totalling Rs.62,276 crore, which will create job opportunities for 1,90,702 persons.
The government is creating a Land Bank to the extent of 45,000 acres in the next five years. It has released the Tamil Nadu Fintech Policy 2021 and the Tamil Nadu Export Development Strategy 2021 and launched the Single Window Portal 2.0, the Single Window Mobile App and the Tamil Nadu Land Information Portal at Investment Conclaves.
Given the sudden shortage of oxygen that India encountered during the pandemic, the Tamil Nadu government has sanctioned 30 per cent capital subsidy, apart from other incentives to investors who would establish manufacturing facilities and commence commercial production of oxygen concentrators, oxygen cylinders, medical oxygen and large liquid oxygen plants in Tamil Nadu.
State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu Limited has allotted 982.39 acres of land to 163 industries and attracted an investment of Rs.17,251.03 crores, thereby providing employment opportunities for about 27,771 persons. Food parks will be established at three SIPCOT Industrial Parks at Manapparai, Theni & and Tindivanam. Also on the cards are an E-Vehicle Park at Manallur, a Medical Devices Park at Oragadam, working women’s Hostels at Thoothukudi, Perundurai, Siruseri & and Bargur; a Leather Park at Panappakkam, a Future Mobility Park at Shoolagiri, a Textile Park at Karur, a Ready Built Factory at Nemili and Plug & and play warehousing facilities at Vallam-Vadagal, Oragadam and Perundurai.
The government has created an Industrial Eco-System Fund at an estimated cost of Rs.500 crore. This will enable the creation of infrastructure facilities for industrial parks and businesses innovation centres, research and development activities and general facilities.
The government has made it clear through various initiatives that it will preserve and protect Tamil Nadu’s wealth of wisdom across fields of activity. The Agriculture Department’s Nel Jeyaraman Traditional Paddy Conservation Mission is one such. This will preserve, produce and distribute the medicinally valued traditional paddy varieties to farmers. In this mission, 16 traditional paddy varieties are produced on 200 acres in the 33 State Seed Farms functioning under the Department of Agriculture and the seeds produced will be distributed at a 50 per cent subsidy to the farmers.
Walking the Talk
Unlike Indian politicians in power who seek excuses for not fulfilling promises, Stalin was upfront about what his government had accomplished so far: “I won’t claim we have accomplished everything during the past year. But I can comfortably say that this government has accomplished more than what it could be expected in just one year.The reasons for this government not being able to move faster are the financial crunch and certain stances of the Union government.Had these blocks were not there, the government could have devised more schemes…I am not engaged in politics on the basis of the strength of others. I engage in politics on my own strength. And my strength lies in my goal and I will reach that goal.”