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Exploring the new dimensions of village-centered growth in Tamil Nadu


The availability of good infrastructure and connectivity enables the growth of villages in Tamil Nadu. The semi-literates are also part of the development process. This is the crux of village-centric development in Tamil Nadu. Certain dimensions of this growth are sought to be explained in some detail in this article.

Introduction

The connectivity to the villages of Tamil Nadu, across all districts, is extremely good. The private minibusses connect many villages. The per capita income is also shooting up and people do not hesitate to use mopeds to travel across villages up to ten kilometers for their livelihood or trade in goods and services. This is exactly why the development is very good. One has to just count the hundreds of women who go door to door and sell the flowers grown in their own houses in villages. The transport cost is a bare minimum. The profit margin is good, as the flowers are sold for a premium.

Earlier we looked at the major factors that drive the village economy of Tamil Nadu. Now we will focus on other aspects, namely a) Non-agriculture employment of the semi-literate/literate b) The livestock trade c) Trading in coconuts d) Economy of the poor and e) Decreasing birth rate everywhere.

Non-agriculture employment of the semi-literate/literate

This requires quite a bit of an explanation. There are still many communities where the woman is not expected to be employed at all. For most women, employment is a temporary stop-gap arrangement before their marriage. This is exactly where the small and relatively larger assembly factories in and around the big cities matter a lot. For example, one can find hundreds of buses that ferry hundreds of women from central points that form the nucleus of many villages. The factories at Sriperumbudur depend on contract labor. They are mostly assembly units. Samsung is the best example. The basic minimum qualification is commonly a pass in the tenth standard examination. The women are transported from towns such as Arakkonam, Ranipet, Sholinghur, Tiruthani and so on and the distance is actually ninety kilometers. Yet, the connectivity is too good. The women are given dinner at a subsidized cost and the transport is almost free. There are PF and ESI benefits as well. When the woman resigns, she brings in a replacement from the same village. An estimated six thousand people are employed in the various units of Sriperumbudur.

Similarly, in the case of Oragadam, which is near Tambaram in Chennai, there are hundreds of people transported in buses from the villages near Kanchipuram. The salary in most cases is not less than Rs.10,000/-. The literates like the Diploma holders also get to work on the contract. The most important point is that the money gets spent only in the villages. Even in building concrete houses. Particularly, in the cases where two or more from the same household find jobs in Sriperumbudur. Recruitment drives to take in such people on contract are done at least twice a year in most towns. Just consider the spin-off in terms of economic development. At least twenty percent of the wages is spent on the education of their kith and kin.

The livestock trade

Tamil Nadu also has an extremely large trade in livestock. Those rearing chicken and sheep and goats in the villages would not be in thousands. It would easily at least one hundred thousand families. The trade is flourishing so fast and progressing quite well. Reason? The percentage of non-vegetarians in Tamil Nadu is around 87%. "Chicken 65" is a dish that is famous everywhere.

The money that is made through such trade is invested in education, the various temple festivities and in savings through chit funds. The chit fund movement is so active in rural Tamil Nadu. The largest organized player called Shriram Chits has already reached the nook and corner of Tamil Nadu. Every small town or an outgrown village will have at least one operator who would have been in the business, with the greatest deal of trust for over two decades. Yes. There are fly-by-night operators too. But the trends are quite positive with the spread of education. When there are so many matriculates and graduates in the villages, centers such as Sriperumbudur and Oragadam cut down on labor costs by at least twenty percent. Labor from Chennai is just not available. Skilled and managerial labor is paid handsome wages and perks.

Trading in coconuts

Tamil Nadu is among the largest producer of coconuts. In the rural areas, the farmers who depend on coconut trade for their livelihood is increasing day after day. Pollachi town is the best example. For the famous Saravana Bhavan branches at New Delhi, 4500 coconuts are transported by the GT express from Chennai every day. One can imagine quality and reliability. All coconuts are purchased only from Pollachi farmers. Pollachi is a small town. It is also a beautiful town that is famous for hundreds of movies that are shot in the surrounding villages in many languages. Such developments are also increasing the size of the rural economy in and around that small town.

Pollachi is not alone. In the neighboring district of Erode, is another lovely small town called Gobichettipalayam. It is from here that coconuts get sold to many places. Thousands of families survive on coconut trade.

Economy of the poor

One has to see it to believe it. It is an economy that supports itself and is built on relationships. The rural poor and the working class who flock to the nearest big cities for jobs in the ever-growing construction sector are fed by and through the hundreds of mobile shops selling a variety of food in the evenings. Where the buses ply throughout the night, the village folk do not bother to cook anything. The wages have gone up even in agriculture, where they are provided lunch too. In the slightly bigger villages that are also connected to the main roads, one can find night shops doing roaring business. The main eatable is the "parotta" that is made of wheat or maida. The latest price is Rs. 10 or 12 apiece. In many hundreds of Tamil Nadu villages, even the relatively big shops sell sarees on installments. The level of trust is very high. Sarees are purchased in bulk from Surat, The regular discounts during the Tamil month of Aadi (July every year), Diwali and the Pongal season are great occasions to buy textiles for the full family.

The caring and sharing in the rural economy are still very good. Caste barriers do exist. However, the rapid spread of education is slowing changing everything. When rural folk migrates to Chennai and other cities, the caste barriers are slowly coming down. Even those who live in the metro city of Chennai prefer to have one more house in their native villages. This also develops the village economy.

Culture-specific self-employment has increased too. For example, six out of ten would prefer to buy and drink only fresh coconut juice in summer. Branded drinks do not find much favor. Similarly, even here, people purchase the local brands and, in particular, the "paneer soda" that has medicinal flavor.

Decreasing birth rate everywhere

The statistics say it all. The birth rate in Tamil Nadu is decreasing day after day. The CBSE schools have not exactly multiplied in most of rural Tamil Nadu, as it is difficult to find English-speaking qualified teachers. Similarly, with the massive spread of education and improved medical facilities, the quality of life is far better now. Absolute poverty is almost zero. This is because there is less competition for low skilled jobs. Evidence of this can be found in the increasing number of Hindi-speaking labor who tend to get themselves employed in all sorts of unskilled jobs. The educated Tamil folk from the villages prefer to work in factories. In blue-collar jobs.

The aforesaid trends are likely to continue. Agriculture is seeing a massive revival with a growing number of IT people showing good interest in organic farming. This trend is seen throughout Tamil Nadu. Yet, the declining birth rate is a cause for worry, The demand for local agricultural labor is very high but it is impossible to find hands.

Conclusion

Thanks to the superb connectivity through thousands of buses, rural Tamil Nadu is slowly integrating itself with semi-urban and metro cultures. The spread of education will only increase and grow the service sector like never before. Tamil Nadu will continue to clock the seven percent growth rate. The village economy will play a significant role in this growth rate for all times to come.


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