COIMBATORE: Three decades after it was first conceived, an industrial park of and by micro and small entrepreneurs has finally taken shape. At a time when the corporate sector expects the government to provide subsidised land and other infrastructure, a group of entrepreneurs from Coimbatore and Tiruppur districts has set up an industrial park on its own against all odds.
Spread over 315 acres, the Arignar Anna Industrial Estate, located on the busy Coimbatore-Tiruppur corridor, is a product of community effort. “We are happy that our dream project has finally come true,” says K M Ramadasu, president of Arignar Anna Industrial Estate Land Owners Welfare Association. “The dream started way back in 1989.
A group of 584 micro and small entrepreneurs had a vision for a huge industrial estate on the outskirts as the burgeoning Coimbatore city was becoming too costly for smaller manufacturing units.” The park promises to give jobs to about 10 lakh people once it is fully functional.
The units had a wide range – from those that make small automobile parts to those which make pump-sets. By 1993, they had managed to buy a mass of 415 acres of land after painstaking negotiations with individual land owners. The land was registered under a new co-operative society the entrepreneurs formed. They took little help from the government.
But they say gave nearly 100 acres of land a private company on request of a few then influential state ministers. “With the financial help from the TAIKO Bank (Tamil Nadu Industrial Co-operative Bank), we spent more than `50 lakh for levelling and road laying in the remaining 315 acres.” Since the funds were tight, they could not lay tar roads, but settle only for roads laid with mixture of mud and bitumen stones.
Even then the going was tough. As the regimes change, there were demands by men affiliated to political parties of various hues. “A top politician wanted a piece of land for someone close to him. But we stood our ground as we have to share the remaining land among 584 members who formed the cooperative society. We have to face all consequences you could expect and hence things got so delayed,” said I Sahul Hameed, general secretary of Arignar Anna Industrial Estate Land Owners Welfare Association. The association was itself formed to safeguard the interests of the society members from people with political affiliations.
The battle is now almost won. “Only water connection and power are remaining. But it will also be provided in just 10 more days,” says Ramadasu, explaining all necessary government approvals have been obtained.
Several of the founding 584 members of the society are no more. But as the industrial estate is now a reality, Hameed hopes either their family member would set up units or pass on the land allotted to them to other entrepreneurs. “I invested in this before my wedding. Now I have crossed 60 years of age. But I am still interested in starting my unit again. My request is government should help us by all means it can, especially with loans,” says P C Boopathy, a lathe workshop owner.
The entrepreneurs hope once all the units were set, it can give employment to estimated 10 lakh people. “Only due to lot of political pressure, things got delayed so much. We have managed to organise the plots ourselves, laid roads and drainage. Many of the original investors who formed the society have died in the meanwhile and most others are between 60 to 70 years of age. If we get support at least now, the younger generation will set up their business here,” says A Natarajan, who owns a small weaving mill a Somanur in Tiruppur district.
Out of the total 315 acres, 100 acres are consumed for common facilities like road, electricity office, parking, fire service station, and water recycling plant. “In the remaining 215 acres were distributed to 584 original investors. We have classified the plots into three types - A(45 cents), B(30 cents) and C (15 cents). Documentation work is all over and we have handed over the land to the concerned people. Even the TAIKO bank loan was repaid,” says Sahul Hameed as he brims with pride of what the decades of struggle achieved.