In the concluding part of the interview under the Recipe for Revival series, senior president of Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry S. Rethinavelu recounts the positive effects of COVID-19 on people’s lives and explains the need to make Madurai the second capital of Tamil Nadu.
Looking at the positives of lockdown necessitated by COVID-19, Mr. Rethinavelu highlights how now people have to mind the way they spend their money, energy and time. This has brought about frugal spending among ordinary people who now regret how they had wasted their hard-earned money in luxurious spending in the past. He calls the new norm as “discretionary spending” by which people prioritise their spends. Eating out will no more be a habit and people will only patronise branded, healthy food items. Besides infusing a sense of discipline and making people more conscious of their health, the lockdown has inculcated clean habits. “The cleanliness we see around us is more profound than what even the Swachch Bharat Mission could achieve.”
It has also brought about a change in the mindset of industrialists and businessmen. Though the impact of the lockdown could be felt in certain sectors of the industry for a very long time, some others should look at the opportunities created by it, he says. For example, the travel industry cannot hope to bounce back in the near future. Almost all business and industry should have to cut down their expenditure, starting with cutting down on advertisements. On the other hand, entrepreneurs can think of adapting themselves to the changing requirements by reinventing. Event managers can rework the way they organise any event in tune with the new norms, thereby cutting down on cost. The government should also assist farmers and industrialists in planning their produce and product. If region-wise statistics are provided on the availability of raw materials and projected demand for a specific product, entrepreneurs will be enthused to plan accordingly. Farmers will also plan their cultivation if similar data on climate, farm inputs and demand are provided.
Madurai as the second capital
The pandemic has also brought with it a firm demand from different sections of people to make Madurai the second capital of Tamil Nadu. Mr. Rethinavelu asserts that it is certainly not a political demand. The pandemic has reiterated that development should be equitable. “The government should ensure uniform infrastructure development across the State.” In spite of being home for one-third of Tamil Nadu’s population, industrial growth is not appreciable across 14 districts of south and central regions that come under the jurisdiction of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, he points out.
Madurai, he says, has legitimate claim to be made the second capital. Talk of a second capital has arisen from the need to ease the congestion in and around Chennai. If Madurai becomes the second capital, it will mean a lot in terms of infrastructure and industrial development. Tiruchi got a railway workshop in Ponmalai in the 1920s and a BHEL unit in the 1960s. Madurai does not have a single large industry like BHEL. Even its airport is only a customs airport and not an international airport. The twin objective of decentralisation of administration and inclusive growth can be achieved by making Madurai the second capital, he says.