IN MID-MAY the AIADMK government led by J Jayalalithaa completed two years in office. The government fulfilled its promises made in the election platform of 2011 relating to the offer of mixies, grinders and electric fans free of cost to the public, laptops free of cost to students, milch cows, goats and sheep to farmers. More important has been the focus on food security: the government offered 20 kg of rice every month free of cost to 1.66 crore families, 35 kg of rice free of cost to 18.97 lakh Antyodaya Anna Yojana cardholders every month. Recently, to tackle food price inflation, the government has been offering rice at Rs 20/kg apart from the provision of Rs 100 crore for price stabilisation fund to control rise in prices in the open market.
The Amma Unavagams set up across 200 wards of Chennai Corporation have become popular for their low-priced, good quality food: for just Rs 10 a full meal can be had at these canteens operated by women self - help groups. This scheme is now extended to ten other municipal corporations across the state.
Another important welfare scheme relates to the comprehensive health insurance scheme: an estimated 3.31 lakh persons have benefited by this scheme that had spent Rs 727 crore on these.
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa also succeeded in restoring the rights of Tamil Nadu over Cauvery waters. Her relentless fight has led to the notification of the Supreme Court ruling in the gazette. The Cauvery River Authority would also be constituted in the near future.
The worst phase of the power crisis afflicting the state in recent years seems to be over. With additional capacities getting commissioned in quick succession, there is the prospect for lifting the severe restrictions that had impacted severely on industry and agriculture.
However, the finances of the state are not in great shape. With debt servicing, employee costs including pensions and subsidies accounting for bulk of the revenue receipts, there is little left for other essential development needs like infrastructure.
With the acute power shortage, economic growth through last year had decelerated. Big-ticket investments are few and far between. The state can leverage the strength of the large Central undertakings like BHEL and NLC that are cash-rich. A closer involvement of the state with these units can result in large investments through joint ventures. In fact the state should explore possibilities of forming through the public-private partnership mode a consortium of companies to set up large projects. In 2002, IE mooted such a consortium of BHEL-NLC-L&T-Ennore Port-TNEB to set up large capacity power plants. Such a cooperative venture can leverage the strengths of individual corporations, economise on costs and shorten gestation.
The state could also take recourse to information technology and collaborate with the private sector to improve the quality and delivery of public services and reduce the scope for corruption. Some of the areas that will lend for such collaboration include up-gradation of primary and secondary school education by inviting private corporate units and institutions to manage corporation government schools.
Administration of motor vehicle registration, issuance of driving licence and keeping track of mandatory third party insurance of motor vehicles could be outsourced to private players. The government can also persuade large automobile companies to set up driving schools in districts. This is of special value to Tamil Nadu recording a very high rate of deaths and injuries in road accidents.
Demand for a fair share of natural gas for the state and a dedicated industrial cum rail corridor between Chennai and Bengaluru should also receive focused attention by the state.