Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXI No. 11, September 16-30, 2021
Earlier this month, the automaker Ford announced its decision to close manufacturing operations in India, which at present are at Sanand in Gujarat and Maraimalai Nagar in Tamil Nadu. The decision sent what media has portrayed as ‘shockwaves’ given that the livelihood of several employees is at stake. In Chennai this will mean around 2,700 permanent employees and a few hundred contract staff will be thrown out of jobs. While that is no doubt regrettable, what cannot be denied is that this was bound to happen sooner or later, given the performance of the company in India. Also, what is surprising is that the reaction is wholly on predictable and rather outmoded lines – there is talk of inviting the Government to involve itself, the Union is protesting, and political parties are making hay, one way or the other. Elsewhere in the world, such a decision would have been taken as par for the course for a liberalised economy.
The re-entry of Ford into India, in collaboration with the Mahindras, was one of the highlights of the first wave of Indian liberalisation. For Tamil Nadu, and within it Chennai, it brought about many tailwinds – the existing automotive component industry received a boost and it also made the entry of Hyundai and several other companies a lot easier. The plant’s inauguration was a high-profile event and since then, the setting up of other facilities such as an engine plant or an R&D centre has always had the ruling Chief Minister in attendance. While Tamil Nadu did have other marquee names in the auto sector, Ford was considered special.
What was often forgotten in all this hype was that the company’s performance was always below par. Its best was in FY 2018/19 when it posted a profit of Rs 526 crores, which incidentally saw the company returning to the black after ten years. But even then, year on year sales of vehicles were dipping. The last successful model launched by Ford in the country was in 2013. Of course, the Indian plants also exported considerable numbers but that meant the company was subject to the vagaries of the international market. Globally Ford had embarked on cutting operations in what it defined as non-core markets (euphemism for being unable to withstand competition from Japanese and Korean automakers) and was withdrawing. It was but a question of time before it pondered over India. Accumulated losses of USD 2 billion would jolt any company into action. In any case, Ford is not alone. GM and Harley Davidson have also closed and moved on.
As part of its mission towards a cleaner and greener Chennai, the newly elected administration has announced its plan to revive the Singara Chennai project of the late nineties. The plan is supported by a budget of Rs. 500 crores, out of which the Corporation has been allocated Rs. 300 crores and Metro Water, Rs. 200 crores. In an official quote to the Times of India, the goals of the campaign have been described as thus: “The funds will predominantly be used for beautifying Chennai under heads that include solid waste management, artwork, culture, improving greenery, setting up new infrastructure such as streetlights, improving water bodies and air quality of the city. The corporation has been encouraging private institutions to take up beautification of city walls with murals and paintings. The civic body has been reviewing this work every two weeks while working on the upkeep and illumination of heritage buildings and spaces. The space under flyovers will soon be attractive hangouts and new allocations will add pace to the projects.”
Mylapore is in the news, for what seems to be the wrong reasons. It is learnt that the Government, by way of modernisation, has decided to demolish all the single-storey residences that are owned by the temple, to make way for structures of two or three floors. The families residing there, it is understood, will be compensated.
The deluge of creative output for Madras Day continues unabated and we are delighted at the fact that artists have seen such potential in the city. We feature here two sets of artworks, both very interestingly done based on Chennai’s heritage.
The first set are the postcards from Aafreen who claims that much of her inspiration is from what we put out on Madras Musings. She is an alumnus of the MEASI Academy of Architecture and did her thesis on Madras Heritage Interpretation. She graduated recently with a first class. Readers may see more of her work on Instagram at @ninetyeight._.
Imagine this. As you are walking on the road, you notice a crowd of people. You realise that someone has had an accident – you see a man hurt and bleeding, fighting for his life. An ambulance has been called, but there is no one to give the victim first aid. You feel a pang of pity for the poor man and move on. This is what most people do in this situation. For Kala Balasundaram, the helplessness and silence of bystanders at accident sites was so haunting that it prompted her to launch ALERT, an NGO that trains people to be first responders. Today, ALERT is 15 years old and has grown into an impactful organisation in the city.