Opportunities lead to changing fortunes in Tamil Nadu

March 16th, 2008 - 1:24 pm ICT by admin  

By T.S.V. Hari
Gobichettipalayam (Tamil Nadu), March 16 (IANS) A quiet revolution is sweeping this part of Tamil Nadu famous for its textile industry. Changing land holdings are reducing some to porters. The young are learning new skills. And many are finding themselves cheated of their hard-earned earnings by a land mafia. The tales of paradoxes are many. The fortunes of people have changed from dismal to attractive in one district and from promising to difficult in another.

Left with no future due to the fallowness of the land, small landholders in this region sold their holdings and migrated to neighbouring Tirupur in search of work.

Only then they comprehended that they did not possess the necessary skills. Left with no choice, they began life anew as porters.

The southward bound US dollar worsened the situation as knitwear factories began closing down in Tirupur.

Ample availability of land, proximity to rail and road links, additional electricity supply from upstream hydel plants on the river Bhavani then transformed Gobichettipalayam’s economy into one of possible prosperity in six months.

Power loom owners used the cash obtained by selling their real estate in Tirupur, relocated to this area because costs were lower for the vast unhindered tracts of land, labour cheaper and the masses were more eager to learn.

So, migrant labourers started returning to their homes in thousands though the home pastures are not exactly green.

“Due to lack of skills I was a porter earning a mere Rs.100 a day for a considerable amount of time after selling off my land. My family began learning the trades of operating machines slowly. But our children acquired the skills quickly. Now, better paying jobs are available near our homestretch,” 51-year-old Perumalsamy told IANS.

His three children, including a teenaged daughter, are gainfully employed and hope to collectively earn Rs.350 a day here.

But in Salem, some 100 km to the north, the story is entirely different.

Fly-by-night operators sold the same plots of land to thousands of unsuspecting buyers who thought there would be a nice future due to the creation of a railway division operating from Salem, another textile town.

Many tried to use the opportunity for speculative land deals and ended up losing billions of rupees as the shady realtors vanished without a trace.

“I invested as much as Rs.400,000 to buy land near the (Salem) steel plant during the past three years. Now I know that the same piece of real estate has been sold to three different people,” revealed 48-year-old R. Shanmugam.

With five mouths to feed, he faces an uncertain future.

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