This post is prompted by reading the archives of The Hindu – This Day That Age column that never fails to rake up some associations and conversations.
Bulk samples of lignite from the Neiveli Lignite Project have been sent to Germany for detailed test and analysis. The testing will be done by the well-known Lurgi firm. The results are expected to be received in about three or four months. …After the results of the pumping tests are known, a final project report will be drawn up, indicating the component schemes to be launched for the utilisation of the lignite in various ways.
For many years of my life I could never dis-associate the words Neyveli and Lignite. Neyveli – an otherwise dot on the Tamizh landscape hit gold when they found brown coal (or lignite). Lignite of course is supposed to be one of the worst fuels that can be used.
But it has meant employment for an entire town. The Neyveli Lignite Corporation is the centre of everything in this city. For me, Neyveli has a special relevance because some of my family is settled there, and their history is deeply tied with that of the Corporation’s. My grand-aunt who lived there would come every year to Madras (where we would be with our Grandma for the summer vacations) with big jackfruits. Big, ripe jackfruits – oozing with all that goodness that was supposed to give little kids tummy-aches if had in big quantities. I can proudly tell you that despite polishing off ENTIRE jackfruits in a single setting, neither me nor my cousin ever had the proverbial tummy-ache.
The NLC was all-pervasive. It took care of housing, health and community services. That they did a shoddy job of it quite frequently is another story. In a discussion in a classroom some years back, I remember listening to a passionate debate about how the Socialist model adopted by the Corporation then ensured that the town did not really develop as a centre for anything else. In retrospect it also developed very differently from the other mining/ points of industrial production towns like Jamshedpur. But Neyveli in turn fed development and aided the growth of urban centres in Tamil Nadu, never quite developing to the scale of Jamshedpur.
Anyhow, a dusty town is remembered thanks to an archive report that traces the genesis of a huge organisation and the foundation of a town that fuelled development in an entire state and thousands of mills. Feel free to share Neyveli/ other township stories if you have any.