Improper packing and reckless offloading blamed for faults

Hundreds of electric fans, among the thousands that are being distributed to residents for free by the State government, are lying in various stages of disrepair in shops across the city. Those running service centres for such goods and proprietors of electricals shops said that improper packing and reckless offloading of these devices have led to the necks of these devices getting broken and oscillators damaged.

“A few days ago, there was a distribution function on Eldams road. Almost, all the beneficiaries rushed to my shop with their damaged fans. The faults are due to the fans being put in cardboard boxes directly without being covered in thermocol or bubble-wrap,” said R. Sabamurthy, who runs a repair shop in Teynampet. Sabamurthy charges between Rs 150 – Rs.200 to fix a fan.

The government runs nearly 15 centres across the city, where many of its freebies can be repaired for no cost. R. Kabaliswaran, the proprietor of the 30-year-old Kabali TV centre on Ritchie Street — one of the authorised centres — too said that the defects were mainly due to the loading and off-loading. “Not enough care is taken during transit. Most of the people who bring these fans said they received them badly damaged, with missing oscillator screws and broken motors. There seems to be few manufacturing defects,” he said. Across his shop lie cluttered over 50 table fans even as dust-covered, non-functional ‘Kalaignar TVs’ line the shelves. While we hardly receive two or three damaged mixies a month, we often get at least 10-15 fans a day, especially during distribution time, he added.

Some fans are damaged beyond repair because all the parts are broken. “People bring them too. We write their phone numbers and keep them here. They never come back because even they know there is no hope,” said Mr. Sabamurthy.

Those running government-authorised service centres said that they had already informed officials about the large number of fans that need repair. “The spare parts take time to arrive. Some of the spare plug shots often turn out to be of a different size and have to be sent back. So, it takes time for us to complete repairs and give it back. Often, people are not ready to wait and so take the fan to a private shop,” said P. Vasan, who runs another centre in north Chennai.

The AIADMK government began distributing electric fans, mixies and grinders in 2011, to all the women from the families that were eligible to draw rice as a welfare measure. The scheme aimed to improve the standard of living of poor women.

Rs 1,250 crore has been earmarked in this year’s budget for the scheme. A Special Programme Implementation Department (SPID) was set up in the State, to monitor and coordinate the implementation of the freebies. According to the SPID’s estimate, 3.5 million households will have the electrical gadgets by the end of this year. “Electric fans have been distributed to 1,98,336 persons till now. We have received a few complaints about damages. We are getting them sorted,” said an official.

The fans do not have the manufacturer’s name, but do bear stickers of chief minister Jayalalithaa. “These fans were supposed to be priceless. But I have already spent Rs. 300 on getting its propeller fixed, as the government centre in Tambaram had a backlog of 500 fans,” said D. Nayagan, a beneficiary.

A table fan usually costs Rs. 1,500.

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