Handing over conservancy work in four zones to Neel Metal Fanalca proved unpopular

With local body elections due next month and the term of the present Chennai Corporation Council coming to a close, it is time to take stock of the work done in the past five years.

A host of measures such as setting up of 1913 helpline, waiver of charges for conducting last rites in burial grounds, launch of free yoga classes in parks, removal of hoardings, improving property tax collection without increasing tax rates are popular among residents.

The current tenure of the Council witnessed the extensive use of information technology for streamlining property tax collection from 6.45 lakh assessees. Collections increased from Rs.284 crore in 2007-08 to Rs.376 crore in 2010-11.

It touched Rs.125 crore so far this fiscal.

Residents found the introduction of online facilities for payment of property tax and issue of birth and death certificates convenient, said R.B.Saravanan, a resident of Nungambakkam.

On the healthcare front, additional infrastructure was created, but lack of doctors remains a problem in many places.

With major maternity centres such as those in Saidapet and Kodambakkam attracting more patients, maintaining cleanliness remains a challenge.

Residents said the service is good in most of the dispensaries. Thamizhselvi, a milk supplier in Besant Nagar, said: “I go to the Vananthurai dispensary to get medicines. The place is clean.”

The civic body's Education Department made news with impressive success stories in the five years.

It introduced various schemes for students, including coaching for IIT aspirants. The civic body also rechristened its schools as Chennai Schoolsto dispel the perception that Corporation Schools were not desirable institutions.

Though it merged some of its schools, the institutions by and large did well, both in public examinations and extra-curricular activities. School heads note that the initiatives helped raise the self-esteem of students and teachers.

But, garbage handling turned out to be a messy affair.

Handing over conservancy work in four zones to private firm Neel Metal Fanalca, the lowest bidder, proved unpopular.

Councillors from Ice House, Adyar, Kodambakkam and Pulianthope zones said they would find it difficult to face voters again as uncleared garbage has evoked much public resentment.

Anna Nagar resident R.Sivakumar said conservancy even in areas under the control of Corporation is below expectations. “They either don't have enough staff or are unable to manage them... even roads must be swept at night and residents must be involved in source segregation.”

Though many roads were re-laid, they were cut repeatedly. “It is public money that is wasted,” he said.

Funds unspent

This batch of councillors did not fully spend the amount allocated under the Ward Councillors Development Funds. In 2006-07, the spending was 49 per cent and in 2010-11 it was 64 per cent.

“The unspent funds go back to the civic body's kitty. In some areas, the wards were very small and in others tenders had to be called several times before work was taken up,” said Mayor M.Subramanian.

G. Diwakar of Kotturpuram said: “Several measures, including installation of reflectors, use of reflective thermoplast paint on roads, and modernised bus shelters were done keeping road users in mind.”

However, the civic body only concentrated on the roads and did not lay footpaths or cycle tracks as promised.

With the civic body set for a major expansion, the council to be elected will have to gear up for the challenging task of maintaining the 200-wards spread across 426-sq.km.

(With inputs from Deepa H Ramakrishnan, Aloysius Xavier Lopez, Sowmiya Ashok and Meera Srinivasan)

What they Say

M. Subramanian, Mayor:

We are happy that the Corporation was able to take several initiatives, such as obtaining funds under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission for flood alleviation, tree planting drives, introduction of yoga in parks and beautification of the Marina, in the last five years. All the same, I would have been happier if we had made more progress in coming up with a permanent solution to the parking problem in the city. Our plans to set up integrated solid waste management projects in Kodungaiyur and Perungudi also did not materialise, though we had awarded the contracts.

P.Devaki, Ward 59 Chennai Corporation Councillor:

In the last five years, Chennai has got better roads, bridges and more parks. Priority was given to education. Improving pass percentage in the Chennai Schools is an important achievement. But, the civic body has failed miserably in the sectors of health and solid waste management. Many hospitals do not have sufficient doctors and mosquito breeding has not been controlled. Garbage disposal system continues to be a major challenge.

S. Arumainathan, President, Virugambakkam Residents Welfare Association:

The Corporation’s initiative in taking over Open Space Reservation lands and making them into parks was a good effort. For the maintenance of roads I would give around 75 marks out of 100, for stormwater drains around 50 per cent of the works were completed. Street lights too were well maintained. They also did well on the education front, the children got good marks. Initially garbage collection was good but in the past three months it collapsed. They were unable to do anything about the mosquito menace.

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