India’s Homegrown Solutions: Socio and Economic Pulse of Tamil Nadu

 Authors: Srimal Fernando and Meiyappan Mohan*

Over the past 70 years, Tamil Nadu was in the forefront among Indian states in socio-economic progress and continues to occupy a special place in the Indian Subcontinent history. . Given the odds it faced at beginning Tamil Nadu has proven to be one of the most progressive stat’s in India. Striking a balance between social and economic reckoning was indeed one of the most difficult task during early years of state formation. The southern states socio-economic growth and development were shaped largely by circumstances confronting the region. The strategic thinkers have periodically held that socio – economic upliftment are great equalizers to narrow the gap of inequality.  A number of policies were initiated to facilitate the diversification of welfare systems namely, the mid-day meal scheme, Anna Marumalarchi Thittam that provides statutory services, the Ayyan Thiruvalluvar Noolagam and Padippagam programs mainly focused on state level  Millennium Development Goals(MDGs).

Tamil Nadu, economy shows a very robust and consistent growth indicators by the recent 10 percent GDP growth. It should also be noted significant GDP growth rates of Tamil Nadu economy had been around 179.73 billion USD in 2015-2016 ( The high acceleration of GDP in Tamil Nadu can be seen as a positive sign. The human development index (HDI) is a another indicator of convergence among different districts of Tamil Nadu. It is a matter of deep satisfaction that there has been a revival of Social, and economic indicators of Tamil Nadu beginning with transformation of education, health and other welfare policies. The dividing line between higher literacy levels and the upward economic mobility to reduce poverty was often very thin in the state . In 1961, for example poverty head count incidences had dropped from 43 percent in 1988 to 12 percent in   2018 permitting the optimistic speculations.

 Nevertheless, under the leadership of Kalaingar Karunanidhi, Selvi J Jayalalitha the reformist Chief Minister’s did initiate far-reaching policy reforms to sustain Tamil Nadu progress. They wisely tackled these issues    with   changing   circumstances and chose to implement well-coordinated programs at grass root level specifically, by implementing educational scholarships, free bus passes, cycle’s and tribal welfare schemes.

Difference in socio measures observable among various parts of Tamil Nadu can be justified by the different geographical, culture, political experiences that unfolded over the years.  In fact, “Tamil Nadu vision plan 2023” can be positively regarded as pushing progressive far reaching changes to the state. Even though the vision plan has progressive features, Tamil Nadu as a state face’s many obstacles and has distances yet to travel before it reaches the upper middle-income level of US$10,000 for the people the state. One of the most visible and most powerful trends in Tamil Nadu economic environment today was the infrastructure boom. Tamil Nadu plans to allocate annually 10 percent on infrastructure under the “Tamil Nadu Vision 2023”.

Whatever the nature and scope of Tamil Nadu’s socio-economic difficulties and whatever the degree of success may be expected in coping with them two main factors stand out. One is the higher literacy rate and the other is the   agriculture that sustains livelihood in many parts of the  southern  state. . A major part of Tamil Nadu GDP is dependent on agriculture. The 48.9 lakhs hectares of cultivatable lands in the state is perhaps cited as one of the most important factors that achieves   required levels in food security for the state. Hence according to 2017 figures the southern Indian state contributes over 13 percent to the national GDP. Therefore farming and other related agricultural small holding sectors provided the largest employment opportunities in the traditional areas in commerce.  Fisheries are a crucial component of Tamil Nadu way of life. It is estimated that nearly 2,00,000 fishermen in 590 coastal villagers are actively engaged in the  marine fisheries industry. . Statistics for 2018 reveals that the South Indian state with an annual potential of about 0.719 million tones is one of India’s largest fish production States (Fisheries Department Government of Tamil Nadu). 

In the recent years the planned Socio-economic reforms had focused on Industrialization. The Southern state has a labour force with high motor mechanism skills. The demand for automobile manufacturing in Tamil Nadu has been thriving since  1980s. Major global automobile manufacturing companies such as  Ford, Hyundai, BMW, Mitsubishi, Renault as well as home grown companies MRF, JK Tyre, and Mahindra contributes  significantly to the  industrialization of the state  . It is estimated that   automobile industry in the state manufactures  over 13,80,000 cars and about 3,61,000 commercial vehicles per year (Business-Standard ,2014).Tamil Nadu is geographically positioned in the Southern part of India is closer to Sri Lanka and Maldives. Therefore maritime connectivity between Tuticorin and Colombo ports is a geostrategic asset for India and Sri Lanka .The  V.O. Chidambaram Port, formerly Tuticorin Port in Tamil Nadu is fast turning into a key transshipment hub in India. The latest figures, shows that Tuticorin port handles more than 28 billion kilograms of cargo annually.

To conclude the post economic reforms period of the south Indian state evidently shows both setbacks and progress. It should be evident that the states performance to be measured in terms of its acceleration of economic change. The importance of well recognized state level policies    contributed towards   achieving various state and national level objectives as far as its external engagement is concerned. Tamil Nadu needs to think beyond its borders especially by consolidating the trade links with Southern Island nations like Sri Lanka and the Maldives.   The process of decision making in Tamil Nadu must begin with a strategic agenda setting   followed by political will and finally the choice that determines the wellbeing of the people. Understandably, the 21st century had a heralded a new beginning for Tamil Nadu on the socio-economic fronts.      

*Meiyappan Mohan, a student of Law at Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) , India and has attained a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science, from Bharathiyar University, Coimbatore,  Tamil Nadu , India .

Srimal Fernando
Srimal Fernando
Research scholar at Jindal School of International Affairs, India and an editor of Diplomatic Society for South Africa