MADURAI: Despite Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy scotching reports of Madurai being declared the second state capital, stating it was the view of individuals and not the state government, Minister for Revenue, Disaster Management and Information Technology RB Udhayakumar on Friday preceded a meeting with representatives from various chambers of commerce of southern Tamil Nadu by raising the demand.
Denying allegations that the move was politically motivated, he said the COVID-19 outbreak has renewed the two-decade-old demand to declare Madurai the second capital. "Even when Kabasura Kudineer has existed for thousands of years, only after the outbreak of COVID-19 did we start consuming it. Similarly, as the need to decentralise the capital has arisen now, we have brought it to the table," he said.
With population density being the major reason for Chennai seeing a peak in COVID-19 cases, scattering the population could be a solution to curb the spread, he said. "During British rule, Madras was declared the capital of Madras Presidency as it was easily accessible from places like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. Though Chennai has no significant agricultural activities, farmers from across the state have to go all the way there if required as it hosts the secretariat," Udhayakumar said.
He added that declaring Madurai the second capital would reduce the burden of such travel for people from southern districts and also draw investors for industrial growth here. He also said that the demand was not only from people of Madurai but also from all southern districts.
Responding to Tourism Minister Vellamandi N Natarajan's demand pitching Trichy as the second capital, Udhayakumar said that it is fair on his part to demand the welfare needs for his district. "However, considering the existing industrial growth in Trichy, he should rather support Madurai now," said Udhayakumar.
Addressing the gathering, President of Madurai Chamber of Commerce, N Jagatheesan, said when the Chamber sought to establish the Madras High Court's branch in Madurai, the Coimbatore bar council gave a tough competition. When a plea seeking an All India Institute of Medical Sciences was submitted, several cities including Thanjavur were initially considered. "However, it was declared that Madurai was a suitable place. Akin to how the establishment of Madurai Bench of Madras High Court had eased the legal fight for people from southern districts, declaring Madurai the second capital would lead to development of all the sectors," he said.
"Need outweighs qualifications," said Senior President of the Chamber S Rathinavelu, pointing out that industrial growth of Trichy began as early as 1928 with the establishment of the Golden Rock Railway Workshop. Trichy was chosen for establishment of Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) as it had the broad gauge railways. Around 60 percent of power plant equipments manufacted in BHEL are used for power production across the country. It has several other industries including defence.
"However, when we sought a car manufacturing unit in Madurai, it was denied as jumbo flights to carry cars were not available here. Despite a long-pending plea, the lack of an international airport in Madurai has been a hurdle to growth. If an industry is set up, hundred ancillary industries would crop up leading to growth. To attract investors who are keen to invest only in capital cities, we need the privilege of being the second capital," demanded Rathinavelu.