GUMMIDIPOONDI : Native Tamil businessmen in a tiny industrial town in the State, bordering Andhra Pradesh, have become keener on learning Hindi and Odia. Shopkeepers now ensure their stores’ names are displayed in Hindi as well. Thanks to Gummidipoondi steel plants’ growing labour demand, the town, situated about 50 km north of Chennai, has seen recent a spurt in the number of migrants from Odisha.
Keeping in mind the 15,000 odd strong population from Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha, shops here have begun selling DVDs of recent Odia movies and mobile phone memory cards that have the latest Ollywood earworms.
Gummidipoondi’s Odisha connection dates back to over two decades with the establishment of heavy industries here in the late 1980’s. Steel plants started attracting hard-working labourers from remote villages in Odisha, opening the doors for large-scale migration.
“Cashing in on the migrants, many small accommodation facilities for labourers spruced up. We are even thinking of starting an association for migrant labourers who are subjected to exploitation,” said K K Dhalay, a shopkeeper from Odisha and a resident of Gummidipoondi for over 20 years. Over 300 people from Gummidipoondi participated in the Utkal Divas celebrations in Chennai recently, he proudly added.
“We are trying to familiarise ourselves with Hindi to communicate with people from north India. I can speak basic Hindi words like ek, dho, theen (one, two, three) and pani (water),” said Ravichandran, who runs a pharmacy on G N T road. Stores here even sell Hindi magazines and varieties of paan.