Chennai

Monsoon Diaries: Of bouquets and brickbats

Corporation worker clearing flooded Thamizh Salai in Egmore. Photo: Ragu R  

Sabeena Varghese from Srinagar Colony in Saidapet is annoyed. Her complaints to TANGEDCO about an exposed cable lying outside Anand apartment complex since November 14 has not been attended to, till date.

“No matter what forum you complain from, TANGEDCO does not respond,” says Sabeena who has also tweeted the complaint on Twitter tagging the chairman and the electricity minister.

A recent tweet posted by a doctor from Kilpauk Medical College has made the day of Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewage Board officials at Area VII. On November 11, head of the department of radiology rang Vaidehi Raj, area engineer, at 3 a.m. to inform that water was entering the premises and the equipment at the hospital were at risk. A super sucker machine was pressed into service and within a couple of hours the issue was closed.

As rains expose the city’s preparedness to handle the monsoon, there is a flood of bouquets and brickbats coming the way of civic departments, especially on social media.

Chennai Metrowater, for instance, has two people exclusively monitoring all tweets addressed to its handle @CHN_Metro_Water. These are forwarded to a group with all the 15 area engineers.

“We try to respond or address an issue as quickly as possible but citizens need to understand that we are attending to concerns from various platforms and we prioritise certain areas,” says Vaidehi, area engineer, Zone VII.

She says their first priority is to attend to complaints from people based on their living standards. “Our first focus is on slum pockets, and during monsoon in particular, we are given full autonomy to engage as many workers to address a grievance,” she says.

Certain messages or calls must be taken with a pinch of salt. “Some residents make a mountain out of an issue and when we realise it is not that severe it stresses the system,” says Vaidehi. Increasingly civic departments are also seeing the need to build citizens trust in the institution by engaging with them continuously.

GCC Twitter handle @Chennaicorp reminds followers: “Whether calling 1070, 1913 or 100 - Government control rooms will need zone and ward numbers in addition to one’s address for any request.” The tweet also goes on to help users find their zone and division.

“Any grievance redressal mechanism has a calming effect on people and it’s important we meet that first requirement,” says MS Prashant, deputy commissioner (works), Greater Chennai Corporation. Recently, GCC increased the number of helpline numbers or call agents at the 1913 helpline from 10 to 50 to attend to monsoon related concerns of citizens. It has also assigned a special team to track monsoon related complaints made to its helpline.

M. Somasundaram, a resident of Ayanavaram and a consumer right activist, says today with different forums to address an issue citizens must be convinced that there is someone listening to their grievances. A mechanism to offer acknowledgement must be made available.

He, for instance, has been representing to the TANGEDCO to improve the efficiency of its “centralised customer care centre” 94987 94987.

“The general number is not accessible to ordinary consumers and the staff handling the centre lack technical knowledge to understand the severity of an issue that has been raised,” says Somasundaram. One of his friends who made a similar complaint got a message from the chairman and managing director of TANGEDCO.

“I think it is important for people at the helm to make a consumer know that no complaint is considered small and that they are looking into it. And a citizen must continue raising his/her voice to make the system accountable,” says Somasundaram.

Prashant adds, “A two-way feedback process is important.”


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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 5:00:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/of-bouquets-and-brickbats/article37738013.ece

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