A sum of Rs. 7.6 lakhs was spent on sprucing up the walls and floors

Fifteen years after it was built, a community hall near Tambaram is being spruced up and will be thrown open for public use by people in a month's time.

The community hall built by the Chitlapakkam Town Panchayat next to the town panchayat office was in a poor state for some years now. The elected council of the town panchayat gave its unanimous consent to a resolution moved in the council for carrying out improvement works in the hall.

Following this, a sum of Rs. 7.6 lakhs was spent on sprucing up the walls and floors. Concrete floors were replaced with tiles in the ground and first floors of the hall. The open space outside the halls was fitted with contemporary cement concrete tiles. Another sum of Rs.2.6 lakhs was spent on separate washrooms for men and women, said R. Mohan, Chairman of Chitlapakkam Town Panchayat.

Unlike other local bodies, especially along arterial roads such as the Velachery Main Road, Grand Southern Trunk Road, Medavakkam Main Road and Mudichur Road, where there were plenty of private marriage halls, there were only a couple of them within the Chitlapakkam town panchayat limits. They were either not big enough or beyond the reach of the middle-class and lower income groups.

Earlier, the town panchayat administration charged a daily rent of Rs. 3,500 for using the community hall. Now that they have spent a considerable sum, they will be increasing the rent by a meagre amount of Rs. 500. Many families in Chitlapakkam organising functions such as wedding engagements, get-togethers, wedding receptions and even birthday parties found it very difficult to locate a suitable venue and hence the community hall was spruced up, Mr. Mohan said. The rent was very less compared to the rent charged by private halls. The hirer had to make arrangements for interior decoration, stage and sound systems.

Nominal rent

Unlike private halls, where there are so many restrictions, there are no such in community halls constructed by the local bodies as their primary aim is to cater to all sections of the society. More important, the local bodies fix only a nominal rent and collect only the actual charges for power supply consumption. In many rural and urban local bodies in the southern suburbs of Chennai, community halls are neglected or were located in a place that are not easily accessible by the people. At the same time, there are many other community halls that are very popular among the people owing to their location and its maintenance.

The community hall maintained by the St. Thomas Mount cum Pallavaram Cantonment Board near Pallavaram bus stand is very popular not only among families to host weddings, but also among other organisations that organise day-long meetings. The community hall in Sembakkam town panchayat is much sought after as it is located near the town panchayat office and the Kamarajapuram bus stop on Velachery Main Road.

The Ambedkar Marriage Hall of Tambaram Municipality is another facility that is much sought after by low income groups. A proposal to close down the facility temporarily to carry out improvement works ran into rough weather as there was no consent among the different political parties. Community halls are also taken over by other government departments. For instance, the community halls in Kannagi Nagar in Okkiyam Thoraipakkam and Kanathur on East Coast Road function as the respective local police stations.