For those who wait for water from the inept panchayat or municipal tap, burn their garbage as there is practically none to clear it and depend on the sewage cleaning truck, the recent Government Order proposing extension of Chennai Corporation’s limits has come as good news.
Many feel that extension of the limits would largely benefit them in terms of infrastructure development.
V. Rajasekaran, a resident of Manali New Town, whose area falls within three village panchayats of Sadayangkuppam, Edayanchavadi and Kadapakkam that will now be joining the civic body, says: “Though we will have to shell out more money towards property tax, it is better than not having facilities. Our voice has remained unheard for over three decades. Leave alone infrastructure development, they have not been able to maintain what little is there. Even the burial ground has been left neglected.”
Though there is a general euphoria, there is another side to the coin. Paul Ramamurthy, secretary, Federation of Residents Welfare Associations, Madipakkam (South), cautioned that there would be problems of maintaining an ‘extended family’ for the Corporation, which was already fumbling on many counts of service delivery to its tax payers.
K.P. Subramanian, former professor of Urban Systems in Anna University, said that in any system there would be merits and demerits. “Residents of the suburbs will have the benefit of enjoying the expertise and financial capability of the Corporation. The civic body will bring more accountability, people will have a helpline to call and can process their work online. However, centralisation of powers will be a problem. The civic body may become unwieldy in future because of this,” he said.
Residents and industrialists are also sceptical about the timeframe within which there would be visible change. R. Sridharan, president of Ambattur Industrial Estate Manufacturers Association, said change cannot be expected overnight. “The expected increase in the property value may prove a hurdle to expansion or setting up of small industries. SMEs [small and medium enterprises] would continue to enjoy the same incentives irrespective of the upgrade of local bodies. Major industries that may cause pollution may be asked to move out.”
K.V. Kanakambaram, president, Industrial Estate Manufacturer’s Association Guindy, said three industrial estates, Guindy, Arumbakkam, Villivakkam, which were inside the Chennai Corporation limits, were not maintained by the civic body, though it collected professional and property taxes. “The maintenance is being done by SIDCO. Only recently, the sewage network was taken over the Chennai Metrowater.”
On the real-estate front, people see a ray of hope and hope the sector would recover from the slump that it witnessed in the past decade. G. Sam of a private real-estate company said, there would be an increase in the volume of people on the lookout for property.
Unlike in the city’s southern suburbs, where there was a choice for people, in the north of Chennai, growth was mostly restricted to the Tondiarpet-Tiruvotriyur belt. Once merged with the Corporation, Metrowater would take over drinking water supply and sewerage in these areas, thereby resulting in lowering the unit construction cost, he said.
People are also wondering how soon the drawing up of wards and formation of administrative set-up can be completed. Areas under nine municipalities, eight town panchayats and 25 village panchayats in neighbouring Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts are to be merged with the present city.
Niranjan Mardi, Secretary, Municipal Administration and Water Supply, said the government had enough time to carry out the work.
Staff of the local bodies would be given an option of either joining the services of the city Corporation or remain in their previous departments, including Directorate of Town Planning. For those who opt to join Corporation, the question of seniority in service may arise, which would be addressed. He also said that schemes taken up in the suburbs under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) would be executed as planned, as they were funded for the Chennai urban agglomeration.
On how soon residents would be able to see some visible change, a senior Corporation official said better roads and street lighting can be seen within a year. “If we spread the development over two or three years, there would not be any issues of cash availability either,” he said.
When the limits are redrawn, areas under these municipalities, village and town panchayats would get more staff. Presently, each zone of the Chennai Corporation has about 1,800 staff, including conservancy personnel. Each zone consists of around 10 wards.
In the reorganised set-up, each ward would cover a population of 50,000, which would in turn would be served by 50-75 conservancy staff, one councillor, one Junior Engineer, Sanitary Inspector, one conservancy inspector and a basic health worker, among others. Also, the education and health systems in the areas to be merged will come into the Corporation’s fold.
(With inputs from K. Lakshmi, K. Manikandan and Deepa H Ramakrishnan)