Residents are often advised to get the ‘concurrence’ of councillors by bribing them

Last weekend, employees of the Chennai Corporation were busy making arrangements for commencement of online permission for road cuts in the city’s 15 zones. The same weekend, one of the employees of the civic body was allegedly manhandled by family members of a councillor in Anna Nagar for giving road-cut permission without the ‘concurrence’ of the councillor.

Many residents are advised to get the ‘concurrence’ of councillors by paying a bribe in addition to the legally permitted charges for the civic amenities. The affected employee did not file a complaint with the police station. Instead, he opted to request for a transfer to another locality as he was unable to muster courage to raise his voice against the councillor’s men who allegedly manhandled him. The incident is a reflection of how the system of local governance works in the first municipal corporation formed in modern India.

Recently, another senior citizen in Velachery had to warn a councillor who demanded Rs. 4 lakh for a road cut that he would be forced to inform corporation vigilance officials. The senior citizen was able to get a service connection only after he mustered the courage to issue such a warning to the person he elected just a year ago. Another resident said the new online permission system for road cuts was a “periya relief” but voiced his concern about the efficacy of the new system with greedy councillors still in place.

The Chennai Corporation put in place the online system for road-cut permission just this week. Residents and service providers can submit applications for road cuts online to the civic body, following which the system will generate a registration number to track the status of their application. This online system is likely to reduce delays in the sanctioning of road cuts without a need for “councillors’ concurrence”.

The charges to be paid to the Corporation will also be available online for each of the applications. Residents will also be given access to the complete list of permitted road cuts with details pertaining to the period within which the work has to be completed. Thousands of road-cut applications are received by the Corporation from telecom service providers and Metrowater. The online mode of granting permission will address the challenges faced by residents only if the councillors do not make it yet another tool in their pursuit of wealth.

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