On Monday, March 20, Tamil Nadu Finance Minister, Dr Palanivel Thiaga Rajan presented the budget for 2023-24 in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly. The budget has a slew of announcements in store for Chennai, with the focus firmly on infrastructure, health, skill development and river restoration.
Reduction in revenue deficit and an improvement in the Tax-GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) ratio were some key highlights of the budget. Improvement in these parameters is vital for the state to be able to implement its welfare schemes, many of which are being piloted in Chennai before their expansion across the state.
Budget places focus on North Chennai
While acknowledging that Chennai is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, the Finance Minister said that there are some pockets in the city, particularly in the North Chennai region, which are deficient in infrastructure and basic amenities.
To ensure balanced and equitable development of the city, the Government will implement the “Vada Chennai Valarchi Thittam‟ at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore over the next three years. Under this scheme, action will be taken to identify and address the infrastructure deficit and gaps in development. The scheme will be implemented by converging the funds of the Chennai Metropolitan Development Agency with the ongoing schemes.
In order to fulfil the medical needs of people in North Chennai, a new multi-speciality block, nurses training school and hostel will be constructed in Stanley Hospital at a cost of Rs 147 crore.
In order to improve the quality of living in the resettlement habitations constructed by the Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board, sports and recreation centres will be developed. These centres will contain sports facilities, modern gymnasiums, multi-purpose community halls to conduct vocational training and a library. Four such centres will be developed in the coming year at Kannagi Nagar, Perumbakkam, Navalur and Athipattu at a cost of Rs 20 crore.
Budget for commute and road infrastructure in Chennai
This budget’s focus is on road infrastructural projects that are aimed at improving road safety and decongesting traffic in major junctions.
Accordingly, a four-lane elevated flyover on Anna Salai from Teynampet to Saidapet will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 621 crore in the coming year.
In addition to this, allocations of Rs 1,847 crore towards the Chennai Peripheral Ring Road Project, Rs 1,500 crore for the Chennai-Kanniyakumari Industrial Corridor Project and Rs 645 crore towards Tamil Nadu Road Sector Project-II have also been made.
As part of developing bus depots in Chennai as modern transit junctions, Rs 1,600 crore has been allocated to develop the bus depots at Vadapalani, Thiruvanmiyur and Vyasarpadi in the first phase. In the second phase, three more bus depots at Tambaram, Tiruvottriyur and Saidapet will be upgraded at a cost of Rs 1,347 crore.
The work on Phase II of the Chennai Metro Rail Project for a length of 119 km in three corridors is in progress. The first stretch of the elevated corridor from Poonamallee Depot to Kodambakkam Powerhouse section is expected to be ready for commissioning by December 2025. A sum of Rs 10,000 crore has been allotted towards Chennai Metro Rail Project in this budget.
Budget for flood mitigation projects in Chennai
Long-term flood mitigation work has also found its place in the budget, with an allocation of Rs 184 crore for the districts of Chennai, Tiruvallur, Kanchipuram and Cuddalore.
“Of these, 9 works have been completed and 2 works are in progress. In the current year, 12 flood mitigation works have been undertaken in Chennai, Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu and Thiruvallur districts at a total cost of Rs.434 crore,” said the Finance Minister.
“Further, as part of its endeavour to realize the goal of Singara Chennai, the Government is committed to cleaning and restoring waterways including Adyar and Cooum,” said the Finance Minister.
As part of the first phase of these initiatives, the restoration of the Adyar river for a length of 44 km will be taken up at an estimated cost of Rs 1,500 crore through PPP mode.
The project will include river cleaning activities such as the prevention of sewage from entering the river and the construction of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs).
Further, attractive recreational facilities such as aesthetic parks, green walkways, open-air gymnasiums and quality cafeterias are set to the banks of the Adyar river.
On health infrastructure for Chennai
The Makkalai Thedi Maruthuvam scheme will be expanded to 711 factories covering 8.35 lakh workers in the first phase. Health checkup camps will be held in these factories with a specific emphasis on non-communicable diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. Migrant labourers will also benefit from this scheme.
Further, a 1,000-bedded Kalaignar Memorial Multi Super Speciality Hospital on the premises of the King Institute of Preventive Medicine and Research Centre in Guindy will be inaugurated this year.
The three new speciality hospital buildings constructed in three Government medical college hospitals across the state (in Madurai, Coimbatore and Chennai’s Kilpauk) at a total cost of Rs 1,020 crore will be put to use shortly.
Budget for skilling and sports in Chennai
The Government proposes to establish a world-class skill centre named
The Tamil Nadu World Innovation and Skill Training Hub (TN-WISH) is to be established in Ambattur at a cost of Rs 120 crore with the objective of providing skill training to trainers in ITIs and polytechnics and creating a highly skilled workforce.
The hub will provide training in advanced technologies such as Mechatronics, the Internet of Things, Advanced Automobile Technology, Precision Engineering and Advanced Welding.
Following the International Chess Olympiad conducted by the government in Chennai and the competitions for the Chief Minister’s Trophy being held across the State, the Government through the Chennai Metropolitan Development Agency will set up a state-of-the-art Global Sports City in Chennai which will promote the development of sports with the aim of emerging as a favoured destination for leading sports events.
For this purpose, a detailed project report will be prepared by engaging international experts.
Further, a sum of Rs 25 crore has been allocated to renovate the iconic Jawaharlal Nehru Outdoor Stadium, Chennai.
Steps to eradicate manual scavenging in Chennai
While addressing the assembly on the welfare of Adi-Dravidar and Tribal Welfare, the Finance Minister says that the practice of manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks is a blot on humanity.
In order to completely prevent deaths due to manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks, a new scheme has been recently launched by the Government. By transforming sanitary workers into entrepreneurs and facilitating them to procure modern machinery, this scheme will enable them to undertake these works in a safe manner and generate income.
In this scheme, priority will be given to families of sanitary workers who died during manual cleaning and to persons currently engaged in sanitary work, on the basis of their willingness.
In the first phase, the scheme will be implemented in the Chennai Metropolitan area. Based on this pilot exercise, the scheme will be expanded to the entire State.
Budget for industrial development and Information Technology in Chennai
Free Wi-fi zones in popular public places in the cities of Chennai, Tambaram, Avadi, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli and Salem will be established to ensure information is accessible to all.
To promote Tamil Nadu as a global hub for IT/ITeS and to meet the increasing demand for quality office space, the Government will establish Tamil Nadu Tech City (TNTech city) at Chennai, Coimbatore and Hosur.
Pointing out that a total of 221 Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) have been inked for investment commitments worth Rs 2,70,020 crore with employment opportunities for 3,89,651 persons since May 2021, the Finance Minister said that guided by the vision to steer Tamil Nadu towards a one-trillion-dollar economy by 2030, the next Global Investors Meet (GIM) will be organized in Chennai on January 10 and 11, 2024.
“It will facilitate our industries, MSMEs and Startups to connect with the global markets and investors,” said the Finance Minister.
An allocation of Rs.100 crore has been made for the Global Investors Meet.
Budget for public spaces and public toilets in Chennai
Further, the Government has also been taking efforts to improve the operation and maintenance of public toilets in urban areas. As a pilot project, the construction of new public and community toilets, refurbishing of existing toilets and operation and maintenance have been taken up through PPP mode in Greater Chennai Corporation at a cost of Rs 430 crore.
Based on the success of this project, this will be further expanded to other Corporations in the State.
The Government has been taking several initiatives to create vibrant public spaces in the city. CMDA will develop 30 acres of land in Island Grounds with modern urban amenities such as an urban plaza, exhibition pavilions, landscaping, open-air theatre and food courts at the cost of Rs 50 crore.
With timely implementation, many projects announced in the budget have the potential to improve the infrastructure and quality of life in Chennai.