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Tata Steel’s project eludes Kerala; company opts for Tamil Nadu news
James Paul
26 September 2003

Kochi: Yet another industrial unit that might have provided job opportunities for a few hundreds has eluded the Kerala coast with Tata Steel signing an agreement with its consortium partners for setting up a titania project in Tamil Nadu.

The consortium partners who signed with Tamil Nadu are from Finland, USA and Germany. With a vast stretch of mineral-rich sand beaches in Kerala, what made the Tatas turn to Tamil Nadu is a case study for the planners and decision-makers of the state.

The person who is most saddened by the Tata group decision is Jiji Thomson, former secretary of the industries department of the Kerala state government. Thomson, the main brain behind the Global Investors'' Meet (GIM), was so shocked by the turn of events.

Kerala, he says, has the potential and scope to exploit the mineral-rich sands in the western coastline. "I consider this development of the Tatas looking towards the Tamil Nadu coast for the titania project as the indecisiveness on the part of our leadership."

He lists a number of reasons for investors thinking thrice before making any overtures to the offers made by Kerala. "Instead of asking what is wrong with our system, we should ask what is right here. Had we moved with a sense of dedication and devotion, no doubt, this project might have come to Kerala," says Thomson.

Any non-resident Indian familiar with the system of Kerala will hesitate to invest in the state. "Even after explaining everything in detail, investors are sceptical to deal with the leadership. Uncertainty happens to be our hallmark," laments Thomson, who has a number of incidents to tell, starting from the fiasco of the Kochin Industrial Drinking Water Scheme and the Skybus system because of a liberal dose of politics.

"I do not know the reason. You may better ask the principal secretary [industries] or someone in that level. There was a proposal to have the plant at Chavara. Then for such things to happen, you have to talk with the Tatas and convince them about your capability," says V Ramachandran, deputy chairman, state planning board.

The plant is expected to come up at Tuticorin. With the Kerala state still under the GIM hangover, the neighbouring Tamil Nadu worked a miracle by convincing the Tatas about the scope of setting up a unit in that state.

Hari S Kartha, a senior financial analyst based in Kerala, refuses to term the titania project as a coup carried out by Tamil Nadu. "It is the result of some hard work done by the TN administration. The Tatas might have understood the sincerity of the TN administration and the bureaucracy and there is nothing more than that. Had we too worked like that, the plant might have become a symbol of the beginning of a new era in Kerala."

Well, if the words of these two are to be believed, the powers-that-be in the state have to do a lot of explaining in days to come on the Tata group''s new venture eluding the Kerala coast.

There were reports that Volkswagen, the German car giant, was all set to open shop in Kerala. The manufacturers of the world-famous Beetle and Polo cars chose Vishakapattanam in Andhra Pradesh as the hub of their Asian activities.


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Tata Steel’s project eludes Kerala; company opts for Tamil Nadu