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City in the dark as street lights sleep

Krishnadas Rajagopal
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Over 50 per cent of street lights in many wards not working

By 6 p.m. everyday, the streets of Kozhikode, sinks into darkness as streetlights fail to come alive.

On roads, motorists detect other motorists by the criss-crossing beams of their headlights while pedestrians tread the brink of roads as vehicles move past them at high speeds.

The annual budget figures of the Kozhikode Corporation, which managed the city’s streetlights, showed that while expenditure on street lighting had been on the rise each year, the city’s main roads and arterial bypasses continue to remain dark.

As much as Rs.2.55 crore was earmarked for street lighting during the 2012-13 fiscal. It was Rs.2.13 crore during 2011-12.

“The problem started when the government, without any notice or discussion, in February, assigned the task of managing street lights on local bodies. We used to supply the spare parts and materials, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) used to do all the civil work. We do not even have dedicated electrical or mechanical wings,” Mayor A.K. Premajam told The Hindu on Sunday.

The Corporation is in a ‘difficult position,’ she said.

“Two tenders have been called so far but we have not been able to get any agencies from the outside for maintenance and repair of street lights. As a temporary arrangement, we have again gone back to the KSEB. They now perform repairs like an outside agency, charging us for the work done. We are trying our best to get an agency,” she said.

On the law and order front, City Police Commissioner G. Sparjan Kumar said policing in the city was virtually done in the darkness.

“Every meeting, we tell the Corporation to do something. They said at the last meeting that the issue will be taken up on a priority basis. Danger lurks at points where small lanes meet bypasses. People and vehicles are accident prone in such places,” he said.

During power outages, street lights too do not work in certain areas, he said.

“We have already sent several letters to the Corporation. Nothing solid has come out,” he said.

“I have spoken to the Deputy Chief Engineer, KSEB. He said the KSEB had no role in this after the government issued an order directing the local bodies to mange streetlights. But they are prepared to carry out repairs if the Corporation provided the materials and spare parts. They already have done some work,” District Collector K.V. Mohan Kumar said.

Sources in the Corporation’s Public Works Committee said there were 13 electrical sections under the civic body’s jurisdiction. Over 50 per cent of the street lights in many wards had stopped working.

As of now, the arrangement with the KSEB was to make functional at least 26 street lights per ward a month. “But this is not reaching anywhere, as a ward has about 200 street lights,” a committee member said.

Besides, streetlights on Beach Road, Mavoor Road, Gandhi Road, Ernahipalam-Arayadathupalam bypass, Thondayad bypass, Medical College route, leased out to advertising agencies, were not functioning. The agencies’ boards dominated the space on the posts.

The Mayor said a brainstorming session would be held on December 3 in which Executive Engineers from the Feroke and Kozhikode divisions, along with all other engineers working under the Corporation, would meet to find a solution to this problem.

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