Globalization on the road to kanchipuram
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Globalization, on the road to Kanchipuram *. Miriam Thangaraj Dept. of Educational Policy Studies (SKJ Fellow, Summer 2009). G.

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Globalization, on the road to Kanchipuram*

Miriam Thangaraj

Dept. of Educational Policy Studies

(SKJ Fellow, Summer 2009)

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lobalization, at least in terms of movement of goods (and people) is perhaps nothing new to the rural district of Kanchipuram* in the southern Indian state of Tamilnadu. Where south Indians have gone, the famous Kanjeevaram sari, with its glorious colors, ‘pure’ silk and exquisite gold zari borders, has followed, even to the far corners of the globe (online shopping has ensured that the bride in New Jersey is resplendent in the latest ‘Kanjeevaram’ on her wedding-day).

However, in the last decade, the extent of globalization has clearly grown beyond the looms where the Kanjeevaram is painstakingly hand-woven: from large-scale industrial parks catering primarily to exports & global joint-ventures, to popular notions about schooling, architecture, and indeed lifestyles – one experiences global connections without ever needing to travel globally (a characteristic that anthropologists increasingly point out as typifying globalization today).

I have attempted to capture some of these global connections, literally on the road to Kanchipuram – a 60km bus-trip from Tambaram (Chennai), that I undertook daily for about a month this past summer (thanks to the Scott Kloeck-Jenson Fellowship)..

Presenting then, a photo-essay on globalization, through the windows of state-transport buses, and as reflected in the billboards, the shop-signs, wall-posters etc. that dot the road (cf. Appadurai’s ‘mediascapes’…?).

*Alternate spelling: Kancheepuram

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he State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu, or SIPCOT, a development “catalyst”, takes credit for the most obvious changes on the road to Kanchipuram town: midway lies the SIPCOT Industrial Park (SIP) at Oragadam, a sprawling complex of nearly 2000 acres, home to a large number of factory-units in the “preferable industry” sectors of Bio-Tech, IT, Auto & Electronics. Key units in construction include those of Renault-Nissan and Apollo Tyres; in the neighborhood are Ford, Hyundai, Nokia & Motorola.

One of many Nokia ‘company-buses’ drops off a female factory-worker.

Areva, France’s Indian subsidiary reveals all its links? The infrastructure giant flies the Indian, French & EU flags at its factory

Seco Komos, a S. Korean company, supplying a 3rd of Hyundai’s global requirements

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The rapid introduction of new industry sectors is changing the landscape, quite literally…

An industrial, steel-girders-&-concrete-structures-scape meets the eye everywhere

Sights such as these, once unremarkable in the rural district of Kanchipuram, are not so any longer…

In fact, the SICOT Industrial park is built on agricultural land acquired by the state govt; 1200 acres was bought by the govt. in 2007.

Agriculture is not just shrinking, but also changing; paddy fields and subsistence farming give way to commercial farming ventures & methods:

A combine harvester, given the size of farm-plots was a surprising ‘modern’ sight.

Sugarcane, a cash crop, is a popular paddy substitute, as is teak, grown for timber

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The Renault-Nissan factory, under construction. the landscape, quite literally…

Much of the equipment is imported into India; it lands at the Chennai Port,

and the containers are trucked over to the site at Oragadam.

The ubiquitous

‘company-bus’ to transport labor.

(When the Renault-Nissan project is completed, the car manufacturing capacity in the Sriperumbudur-Oragadam industrial corridor would exceed 12 lakh cars annually, making it one of the world’s top10 car producers.)

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Komatsu, the world's 2 the landscape, quite literally…nd largest manufacturer of construction & mining equipment after Caterpillar, is also at SIPCOT, Orgadam.

The Indian & Japanese flags flutter in the breeze, by the factory gates…

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Of course building an industrial park to “attract foreign companies” implies a huge infrastructure investment….ROADS for one

As the sign reads “Investment in Road is an Invitation to civilization”. Hmm.

All roads leading to Roman? The road projects are carried out by ‘Roman Tarmat’, an Indian company, employing ancient “Roman Road Methodology”

Other signs, put up by the state Road Infrastructure Dev. Corp., divert traffic as roads are widened

As the signs go up, old trees come down, making way for new roads…

One of Roman Tarmat’s asphalt preparation sites along the road

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Telecommunications is yet another lucrative investment option…Everyone, from national players like Airtel, or regional ones like Aircel, to international companies like Virgin & Vodafone, wants a piece of the action.

Pawnbrokers are turning into mobile-phone dealers, while houses become internet cafes…

…and transmission towers come up everywhere

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Other supporting infrastructure is coming up too... option…Everyone, from national players like Airtel, or regional ones like Aircel, to international companies like Virgin & Vodafone, wants a piece of the action.

Bank offices dot the roadside – be it a new Barclays branch, or Western Union money transfer services or national banks, they underline global (financial) flows.

Older, smaller, independently-run ‘petrol bunks’ are increasingly replaced by huge, company-owned gas stations, as demand goes up.

Both HP (Hindustan Petroleum) & IndianOil are “Fortune 500 companies”

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This rapid and globally-funded industrialization can only be sustained by the ready availability of ‘qualified’ labor…

A slew of professional, vocational & educational training institutes have mushroomed along the road in the last 5 yrs, an assembly-line of skilled labor for global supply-chains

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With these changes have come new ways of living, new lifestyles, new aspirations for the good life. As an advertising slogan has it, it’s “not just tiles, lifestyles”….

Signs exhort you to hip up, shape up or shop at the “world’s favorite jeweler”. & of course, Coca-Cola is available everywhere…

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And of course schools are not to be outdone, advertising their global connections/aspirations…

Public schools have local Scouts & Guides chapters, Junior Red Cross units, or environment clubs.

Many private schools have links with church dioceses or catholic orders

Some highlight an “international” curricula, others are “global”; one is “ISO9000 certified”, another has “six sigma process”, & a 3rd has “LCD panel in all classrooms”

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Architecture too is being ruthlessly ‘modernized’ as old mores give in to new construction sensibilities.

Old-style houses, with sloping, tiled roofs, held up by stone/wood pillars and mud/brick walls are increasingly giving way to…

…straight lines & sharp angles, cement structures and bright paint

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And finally of course, ideas about leisure are changing too – why not watch the latest Harry Potter (and in Tamil too), or perhaps party the evening away on ‘Friendship Day’ at a public song-and-dance competition?