Implementing Large Projects – The Tamilnadu Experience

Srinivasan Arvind IAS

Implementing large projects in Government whether in the public sector or through public private participation is a major challenge faced by civil servants. This challenge emerges out of the fact that these projects require meticulous planning of project objectives and means to achieve these objectives as also effective implementation of the project. Political commitment to the project and bureaucratic continuity in the top management of the project are also vital to effective project implementation. One problem that haunts bureaucrats is the short tenure that many have in a particular position which makes them diffident in planning and implementing projects which take a long period to implement. There is therefore the need for the political leadership to be convinced of the need for a particular project and to put their heart and soul into support for the project in all its stages as also to realize that the continuity of the project management for a few years is necessary for the proper implementation of the project. Once these conditions are met implementation of large projects which are being implemented in a state for the first time is possible.

In Tamilnadu two such projects which were implemented during the first years of the Chief Minister ship of J. Jayalalitha and support my hypothesis in the previous paragraph on the need for commitment on the part of the political leadership to the project and the requirement of continuity in the top management of the organization implementing the project. In respect of the first project which I would like to highlight, namely a project to implement water harvesting schemes in all buildings in urban areas there was complete commitment on the part of the Chief Minister to implementing water harvesting projects not only in Government buildings but in all private buildings also as the idea for the project was given by her based on her observation of the benefits of water harvesting techniques implemented in some areas in Hyderabad. The idea here was that such water harvesting during the monsoons would prevent water from running waste and help store and use the water for future use and also help to charge the ground water levels within a residential or commercial complex and improve water extraction capabilities in the local area. While Government buildings were required to prepare plans with cost estimates and implement the project in their respective buildings, the implementation of water harvesting in individual houses and residential and commercial complexes required the cooperation of the public owing these complexes and houses. A massive publicity campaign was started to educate the public on the need to implement the water harvesting projects and model systems were also established throughout the state so that the public could have a look at these systems and implement the scheme in their homes. A political movement by ruling party functionaries was also started to popularize the scheme and at the end of a year from start the work was completed in all Government buildings and in most private buildings in the state. No subsidy was given by the state government for the implementation of water harvesting projects in individual houses and commercial complexes and all results were achieved through publicizing the benefits of the scheme in a water starved state. Going forward the provision of water harvesting schemes was made compulsory for approval of new building projects throughout Tamilnadu and at present water harvesting structures are there in all buildings in Tamilnadu and have helped to mitigate water shortage to an extent especially in urban areas.

Another project which was successfully implemented in Tamilnadu was the Ford manufacturing facility in Mararmalai Nagar near Chennai. Here again the commitment of the Chief minister to the project and her assurance that the project would be provided all assistance at the Government level should the Ford Motor Company decide to locate the project in Tamilnadu was a game changer for the bureaucracy to work at full tilt to get the project located in Tamilnadu. The Government also gave a commitment that the top management team from the Industrial Guidance Bureau and Tamilnadu Industrial Development Corporation would not be changed during the period of talks with Ms. Ford Motor company for location of the project in Tamilnadu and till project location was finalized and the foundation laid for the factory. This commitment was kept by the Government and helped ensure continuity of the bureaucrats involved in project location. This also gave a lot of comfort to the Ford team that the Government was very serious in locating the project in Tamilnadu. Location of the project in Tamilnadu was very crucial to the industrial development of Tamilnadu post 1991 as there was no international company in the automobile sector located in Tamilnadu and though Tamilnadu had a very vibrant automobile components industry it required an automobile factory which could utilize the products of the component industries and give a fillip to further development of the industry in Tamilnadu. In the ultimate analysis the efforts taken by the political leadership and bureaucracy in attracting the Ford Motor factory to Tamilnadu proved a great boon to the further industrial development of Tamilnadu as it proved a magnet for the location of more automobile industries like Hyundai, Bharat Benz, Peugeot, etc.

The experience of Tamilnadu described above in implementing two large projects in the industrial and infrastructure spheres underscores the need for political commitment on the part of the state government to the success of the project as well as the need for the project team from the Government’s side helping in project implementation to be in saddle long enough to get the project going.





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