Opposition stages walk out; Mayor defers decision on streetlight maintenance

Members of the DMK, the MDMK, and the DMDK staged a walkout from an urgent meeting of the Tiruchirapalli City Corporation Council here on Wednesday protesting against “the haste” with which a proposal on privatisation of streetlight maintenance in the city was sought to be pushed through.

The Opposition councillors forced Mayor A. Jaya and the AIADMK members to defer a decision on the matter until Thursday evening when the council would have another sitting after an-all party meeting.

One of the important subjects listed on the agenda of the meeting was the award of a contract for maintenance of streetlights under the private-public partnership mode. The council was to decide on the bids received for the project, which sought to hand over the maintenance of streetlights to a private agency for 10 years and achieve at least 35 per cent savings in energy consumption and the power bill incurred by the corporation for street-lighting.

The Opposition strongly protested the subject being brought up in an urgent meeting. Many councillors alleged that the agenda was made known to them only on Wednesday morning. Councillors had to be informed of the agenda for urgent meetings 24 hours in advance.

Raising the issue, M. Venkatraj (independent) said the agenda for the meeting was handed over to him only at 9 a.m., just a couple of hours before the meeting. “We need time to study the subject, the government order and the relevant files,” said Mr. Venkatraj demanding that the meeting be postponed. The Opposition was on its feet to press the demand and some even suspected irregularities in the award of the contract.

He was joined by M. Anbazhagan, former deputy mayor, and G. Sathyamoorthy of the DMK, who wondered why an important matter relating to the maintenance of streetlights was sought to be pushed through in haste. Mr. Anbazhagan pointed out that the council had passed a resolution approving the move to privatise maintenance of streetlights with the support of the DMK. But the contract period of 10 years as planned in the proposal was too long, he said.

Corporation Commissioner V.P. Thandapani explained that the initiative was part of the State government move to privatise streetlight maintenance in nine corporations and all municipalities in the Thanjavur and Tirupur regions. The project was mainly aimed at achieving energy efficiency by replacing existing streetlights with energy efficient LED lamps. The agency which bags the contract would be required to make the investment required and conduct an audit to assess how best energy efficiency could be achieved. They would be required to achieve at least 35 per cent energy efficiency per annum. The corporation was shelling out Rs. 8 crore a year as power bill for streetlights and was hoping to save about Rs. 3.20 crore every year through the project.

The government has issued an order on how the project was to be implemented and contract document was prepared by the government after extensive consultations, he said.

Not convinced with the argument, Mr. Anbazhagan led a walkout by the Opposition councillors.

After brief consultations, the AIADMK members decided to convene an all-party meeting on Thursday to clear the air in the wake of Opposition’s allegations of irregularities. Ms.Jaya adjourned the meeting announcing that the council would have another sitting on Thursday after the all-party meeting.