Lukewarm official response is typical in a city where most residents look at civic problems as a fact of life

Sangeeta Shankar doesn’t consider herself a civic activist. But the ‘Right to Walk’ campaign seemed to provide a perfect platform for this Abiramapuram resident.

She sent a picture of an overflowing bin at the junction of Bawa Street and Abiramapuram Fourth Street on Tuesday, and the next day she saw the picture published along with a note providing telephone numbers of the local junior engineer and the councillor so she could call them and complain.

Ms. Shankar did call but the response was rather lukewarm, to say the least. Her experience may be quite typical in a city where most residents look at civic problems as a fact of life, and not as a call to action.

“I spoke to the junior engineer. He was very indifferent. He asked me to talk to the conservancy inspector. The conservancy inspector asked me to talk to a private conservancy operator. I spoke to that person too. Today, I found the same bin overflowing, continuing to be a hindrance to pedestrians,” said Ms. Shankar.

The search for solutions to civic problems can often be tiring for residents such as Ms. Shankar. Many are unaware of where they should go or how to go about it. For instance, Ms. Shankar did not know that there’s a Corporation helpline that can be accessed by dialling 1913. Many other residents too say the same.

According to data with the 1913 call centre, a total of 2939 calls were made to the helpline in the last 30 days. Of these, 42 calls pertained to footpath and pedestrian problems. Records say that the process of grievance redressal for 40 of the calls was ‘completed.’

However, random checking of records reveal that over 20 per cent of the total calls recorded as ‘completed’ do not result in any ‘improvement at the local level’. Some officials have not taken efforts to solve civic problems, yet promptly make a record that the problems have been solved.

Interference from political party functionaries is often touted as the reason for official inaction. “Many junior engineers are demotivated. They face a lot of challenges from political party functionaries. The Chennai Corporation should find ways to motivate such officials,” said another junior engineer.

The councillor of ward 123, P. Jhansirani, says the local junior engineer has not been responsive to similar grievances in the recent past. The junior engineer Sundar Rajan was not available for comment.

When contacted, the conservancy inspector, Ramprabhu, on Friday, said a Chinese restaurant had been dumping a lot of garbage near the bin and he had been trying to get them to stop doing that. “We will request the restaurant to hand over the garbage directly to the conservancy operators,” said Mr. Ramprabhu.

However, Balaram, the representative of the private conservancy operator in the locality, on Friday said he did not receive any calls pertaining to problems caused to pedestrians by overflowing bins on Bawa Street or Abiramapuram Fourth Street.

Talk Back

We invite readers to participate in this campaign. You can email pictures of bad pavements (size not more than 1.5 MB) to

Please send a picture of yourself.

In the email, please give your name, contact information, location of the pavement, description of the issue and action required.

Your pictures will be posted on and will also be considered for publication in the newspaper.


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