Issue of repairing streetlights ahead of Onam

Despite disclaimers that they are not politicising development issues, the consecutive press conferences, first by Mayor K. Chandrika and then the councillors of the United Democratic Front (UDF), on the issue of streetlight maintenance seemed to lapse into just that.

Considering the approaching Onam season, the Mayor and Corporation works standing committee chairman V.S. Padmakumar had asked the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) to ‘take back’ the responsibility of repairing streetlights, at least until the board completed the metering all off the lights.

A circular issued on August 15, 2011 had relieved the KSEB of streetlight maintenance work and passed it on to the local bodies concerned.

While this may work for panchayats and smaller municipalities, it was difficult for Corporations to even find agencies with whom an Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) could be inked, sources said. “The Kozhikode Corporation had floated tenders thrice and failed to get takers,” Ms. Chandrika said.

She said the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation had not invited tenders drawing from the experience of the Kozhikode Corporation.

The KSEB had not started the metering work in spite of the Corporation paying Rs.1.20 crore for that, they said. “This will, at the very least, take six months to cover the city. After that, we plan on installing magnetic induction lights or light emitting diodes as power saving measures,” Mr. Padmakumar said.

He said there were agencies willing to install them free of cost, but only if the lights had been metered.

UDF leader Johnson Joseph said the Mayor never seemed to get a grasp of the Corporation’s responsibilities and always shifted the blame to the State government. He asked why the Mayor had not tried to find alternatives in the past three months, when the contractors employed by the KSEB had completely been withdrawn.

Ms. Chandrika criticised the recently concluded solid waste management workshop organised by the State government and a New Delhi-based think tank. She said she was ‘fed up’ of attending countless such seminars, all of which invariably concluded that the Vilappilsala model was the best if managed right.

“All we need the government to do is help create an environment that makes it possible for us to reopen the plant, upgrade it, and maybe even demarcate the region as a solid waste management zone,” she said.