Reeling under worker shortage, Corporation struggles to ensure upkeep of commercial hub
Solid waste management in the Gandhi Market, the city's primary marketplace, appears to have gone from bad to worse over the past few months following the Corporation's decision to terminate the maintenance contract given to a voluntary agency.
Faced with a severe shortage of sanitary workers, the Corporation has been struggling to ensure the upkeep of the market complex that generates a substantial portion of the about 450 tonnes of garbage generated in the city every day. The market complex presents a picture of neglect owing to a poor and unscientific system of garbage collection. The situation is particularly bad on the side and rear entrances to the market on the Thanjavur Road.
Motorists have to negotiate a cess pool of garbage and slush opposite to the side entrance on the Thanjavur Road. Scores of cattle could be perennially seen rummaging on vegetable waste. The Corporation has been unable to control the stray cattle menace either. Most traders dump their waste near the two entrances from where they are transported to the Ariyamangalam garbage dump by Corporation lorries. However, a substantial amount of garbage remains at this spot and other places at any given time in the day.
The garbage and stray cattle effectively occupy half of the narrow road space at the site. Adding to the squalor is the fact that areas around both the entrances have been converted into open urinals by workers and visitors to the market.
The move to privatise the maintenance of the Gandhi Market, the Central and Chathram Bus Stands in the city was initiated in 2005. The decision had initially worked well, problems cropped up subsequently.
The Corporation decided to terminate the contract given to the voluntary agency last year owing to “public complaints” over their performance. Though many councillors of the Corporation came up with complaints against the agency initially, subsequently some took a soft line resulting in a confused approach from the civic body.
Corporation Commissioner T.T.Balsamy, while confirming that the contract given to the private agency has been cancelled, said additional manpower was being mobilised to clear garbage. He promised to take up a special drive to improve sanitation at the market.
The Corporation took over the task of clearing the garbage from the market every day by spreading its sanitary workforce thin. According to sources, sanitary workers were being drafted for duty from the wards in the city, a practice strongly opposed by the councillors.
Traders though incensed by the sorry state of affairs, however, prefer to remain reticent. “The situation is pretty bad. It's time that the Corporation paid more attention to the problem,” says a vegetable vendor. The situation turns worse after rains when even walking inside the market becomes a problem in slushy conditions. Some traders say that previously garbage was cleared twice a day, but now collection was very irregular.
When contacted, Jerome Arockiaraj (Congress), Ariyamangalam Zone Chairman, who were among those who complained against the private agency, conceded that the Corporation was faced with a problem of shortage in workforce. He, however, felt that the civic body should continue its policy of privatisation and find a proper agency to take up the task by conducting an auction.