Erode is a tier III city emerging dynamically with nexus of national and global markets. Erode city is known for various facets of its history and antiquities. It is situated on the western part of the State on the bank of Cauvery River. Erode is known for its ancient temples, stunt firebrand of political ideology, Bhavani and Noyyal Rivers, several centuries old Kaalingarayan irrigation canal, unique economic activities of far-reaching globally with competitiveness in turmeric, textiles, leather, construction, and food processing products.
Since the early 1990s, the industrialization flourished through private enterprises in Erode without any national institutions like big thrusts given to textiles and manufacturing sectors in Coimbatore, SAIL in Salem and BHEL in Trichy. Unlike other major towns and cities in the Kongu region, Erode is more of self- induced with entrepreneurial talents which penetrated quite dynamically along with agriculture and allied activities besides the manufacturing sector.
The growths of private enterprises in Erode were due to the growth of productive agriculture produces which helped them to pursue trade and commerce outside the traditional farming activities. Unlike national and State level economies, in Erode, the agriculture and industry sectors are by and large equally competing with a large share of productions and services that contribute to the Erode economy.
Erode is now one of the top industrialized districts of Tamil Nadu. Alas, the city’s land, air, water and water bodies have become highly polluted now than what it was two decades ago. Three things had happened simultaneously in the course of urbanization and wealth creation, namely the hefty urbanization in a limited land, faster wealth creation by exploiting the environment and natural resources and non-adhering to safeguarding constitutional laws and policies. Moreover, the growth of slums and encroachments on the banks of streams, canals, and other water bodies were extremely polluted with solid waste, municipal sewage and industrial effluents. Now, it is often said that entrepreneurs who either export their products to developed countries or travels to different parts of the world feel ashamed and betrayed by themselves when they return to their home city- Erode! It is the same for every cities in which we have huge pride and faith in identities.
The Dravidian ideology cannot stop the army of labourers who are moving in large numbers since the last two decades from north to south for education and employment opportunities. How people in Tamil Nadu are employing Hindi speaking labourers in industries from the north without even knowing the Hindi language is interesting? Partially, it’s done through bigoted managers, contractors, and modern bonded labourer systems! But it is ironic that some of the Tamils like Hindi speaking labourers but not the Hindi language.
Erode city is the 7th largest in terms of population in Tamil Nadu and is also the busy trading city with a floating population of about one lakh daily. Erode Municipality was constituted in 1871. After independence, Erode was part of the Coimbatore district until 1979 when a separate district was created with Erode city as its headquarters. In the 1980s, the city was made as Special Grade one. Erode City Municipal Corporation (ECMC) was created in 2008. In 2011, 11 adjoining local bodies’ town and village panchayats were merged with the city and made as City Corporation. Till 2008, the Erode city’s population grew about ten times since 1901, it was about 5 lakhs in 2011 and now, the City has close to 6 lakhs and projected to increase to 9 lakhs by 2045. The first elected Mayor of the City Corporation was interestingly a woman but she could not bring any major changes even on essential services like sanitation, water, road, electricity, etc.
Although, Erode was once said that it was highest earning Municipalities in the 1980s but no longer. However, it is unbelievable that despite having access to huge resources for making better living conditions for all sections of the society, the city struggles with several challenges. It is also quite ironic that the economic and social development has flourished in and around the Erode by many folds but the city’s basic civic infrastructure as mentioned in the 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts, 1992 did not improve at all. Though, many argue that these issues are due to mainly adding new areas into the city corporation limit and those areas had minimal infrastructure facilities. This is not true at all.
Erode city is now part of Smart City Mission but yet to make any creditable gauge into the challenges with doable antidotes. The city did not take advantage of many of the schemes and programmes of central Government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi mainly due to its poor governance systems, lack of political leadership to city development and failure of engagement of citizens through community organizations. The transparency and accountability of the development projects of the city were highly susceptible. All-round corruption is everywhere and still breading massively in the administrative machinery of the city. As a result, the ranking of Erode city at the national level did not improve on the physical, social, economic and institutional parameters. The 2015 CAG Audit Report on Erode City Corporation had strongly criticized the failure to provide most of the essential services in good quality to the city residents. But years have passed, the authorities did not show any pulse to improve the teething problems.
The lethargic attitude of most of the departments in city administration causes the delayed implementation of projects like Underground Sewerage System projects under different phases are implemented for more than a decade now! Similarly, the Sewerage Treatment Plant, construction of toilets in individual households under Swachh Bharat Mission, Smart City initiatives, Under Urban Governance (Model City) Component -2017-2022, Slum Free City Action Plan, Erode City Sanitation Plan, interest expressed by Denmark Country’s Royal Danish Embassy under Smart City Projects, Semi Outer Ring Road, projects under AMRUT, etc.
Therefore, the Erode City failed to take proactive steps to bring pragmatic policy changes in all above projects to address the challenges of the city. Also, many of these projects were not even formally announced by the City Corporation for public discourse to bring citizens participation and feedbacks which would be useful for implementation and fixing the governance failures. But this is not something expected from states like Tamil Nadu and that is too in the vibrant city of Erode which has a dynamic environment glowing with national and global markets. Surely, fostering of citizen’s centric governance system would only helpful to build twenty-first cities with aspirations of people. The city planners should take advantage of proactive and assertive citizens into the folds of overall governance systems to make sustainable solutions to core issues.