If there was one aspect most residents across the southern suburbs of Chennai had to cheer about in the recent past, it was the government’s proposal to create a Corporation for south Chennai.
During public hearings, meetings and discussions organised by government agencies and citizen groups, there had always been near unanimity that formation of a Corporation similar to that of Chennai alone would bring a permanent end to the never-ending problems.
Interactions with a cross-section of society around Tambaram revealed that citizen groups and even the government machinery were simply unable to fight the autocratic attitude of highly influential elected representatives belonging to both ruling and Opposition parties.
C.M. Krishnan, a senior citizen and resident of East Tambaram, said the Chennai Corporation was in a position to provide better roads and water supply among other basic amenities. Hence, the creation of a separate Corporation was not only inevitable but also urgent.
D.S. Sivasamy, president of Citizens’ Forum in Chromepet, said that any development relating to merger of local bodies or creation of a Corporation should be done with utmost caution. The former Additional Director of Municipal Administration feared that hurried attempts in creating a new south Chennai Corporation by merging urban and rural local bodies would only result in creation of “bigger municipalities.”
He recalled that Saligramam, Thiruvanmiyur and Velachery, among other areas, were originally constituents of St. Thomas Mount Panchayat Union that once had 52 village panchayats, whose number had now come down to 25. While conceding that residents in the existing Chennai Corporation were fortunate to be beneficiaries of many people-friendly projects, he sought to know if the same benefits would be extended to people living in this part of Chennai once a new Corporation was created.
There is the possibility of elected representatives moving further away from people, feared A. Chinnathambi of Perumbakkam. According to him, ward members were voted to power by a few hundred people and they could now be easily accessed. In a Corporation ward, they were accountable for at least a few thousand residents and hence the gap between the people and elected representatives would only widen. Even now in town and village panchayats, people could voice their grievances in ‘grama sabhas’ (village councils) convened on important national holidays and it would be a thing of the past if a Corporation was formed, the senior citizen pointed out.