Banquets and brickbats for private conservancy firm

CHENNAI, JULY 20. The operations of the private conservancy firm, CES-Onyx, came in for a fair share of criticism and some praise in the Chennai Corporation council today.

While the `effectiveness' of the Mayor's awareness drive was the focal point of the ruling party councillors' praise, the Opposition said the operations of the firm left a lot to be desired.

While Mr. Thiagarajan (Cong-I) and Mr. J. L. Mohan (TMC), highlighted specific problems, Mr. M. Subramaniam (DMK) stressed the good work done by the organisation. Mr. Thiagarajan alleged that the firm was not cleaning congested and narrow streets properly and that the bins were unsuitable for many places. Mr. Mohan said the firm also collected a large amount of debris and rubbish, which inflated the weight of garbage manifold. This practice had to be ended as removal of a tonne of debris cost less than a sixth of what was being paid to the firm for collecting one tonne of garbage.

Mr. Subramaniam said the work of the organisation had attracted wide attention all over the country and there had been many enquiries and teams which visited the city to study how the operations were being carried out.

On the issue of awarding maintenance of PCs to NGOs, Mr. P. T. Sivaraman (TMC) alleged that the NGO had the patronage of some influential people, Mr. Subas Chandra Bose (AIADMK) and Mr. `Karate' R.Thiagarajan, (Cong-I) demanded that the Corporation reconsider awarding PCs to this particular firm while Mr. Danushkodi (BJP), pointed out that the Corporation stood to lose heavily under the present terms and conditions. The Opposition Leader, Mr. P. Vetrivel, said the civic body should adhere to laid down tender notification norms.

Mr. Kadumpadi (Ind.) demanded that the maintenance of Corporation-owned community halls should be privatised so that they functioned efficiently. At present, the functioning of these places left much to be desired as some did not have furniture while others were short of vessels and other equipment, he said.

The debate on cost of construction of school buildings went on with allegations and counter-allegations flying back and forth between the ruling and opposition parties. Mr. Vetrivel said during 1997-98 and 1998-99, Rs. 2.91 crores was spent to construct school buildings. This led to a loss of over Rs. 55 lakhs. The discrepancy was discovered while calculating the per square foot construction cost of the classrooms which had uniform specifications all over the city.

Mr. Jagadeesan, contended that the charges were made against him because the works committee had put on hold release of extra funds for construction of additional facilities at a community hall in Division 97 despite repeated requests from the TMC councillor. Mr. C. V. Malayan, ruling party leader, said the opposition leader did not take into account the cost of levelling the ground and making different types of foundations.

Councillors, including Mr. K. Kothandan, Mr. P. Mohan, Ms. Varalakshmi, Mr. Krishnan, Mr. K. Gokularaman, Mr. T. Sambandam, Mr. M. Sampath, Ms. M. Latha and Ms. Renuka Vendhan, highlighted problems in their wards and sought the Mayor's intervention to speed up development works. The Tamil Nadu Assembly deputy Speaker, Mr. Parithi Ilamvazhuthi, and Mr. K. Kittu, MLA, were among those who attended the meet.