Corporation locks horns with KSEB

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM June 26. The City Corporation is facing mounting public unrest over the failure to install and maintain streetlights even as the KSEB is pleading helplessness in utilising the funds deposited by the local body for various street-lighting projects.

In the absence of street lamps, large parts of the city are plunged into darkness, forcing residents to vent their ire on ward councillors. With almost Rs.2 crores deposited in the KSEB's coffers, the Corporation is clamouring for an immediate solution to the issue.

KSEB officials have come under fire from the Corporation council for not taking up street-lighting projects in time but they argue that the shortage of lighting equipment and concrete posts is the main problem. Under the new system introduced by the Government in 2000, the Corporation has to purchase the lights and supply it to the KSEB while the Board has to procure the lighting fixtures.

``Less than 20 per cent of the funds deposited with the KSEB has been utilised'', says the chairman of the Works standing committee, V. S. Padmakumar. Councillors complain that repeated pleas to section-level officials are not heeded. They allege that even burnt out bulbs are not replaced.

Corporation officials attribute the problem to the absence of a separate account for the deposit money. ``The funds are routed to the main account of the KSEB and as a result, they are diverted for other purposes'', says a member of the Power sectoral committee. Demands to create a separate account for the deposit money remitted by the Corporation have fallen on deaf ears.

The Mayor, J. Chandra, had convened several rounds of meeting with KSEB officials in a bid to sort out the issue which however remains unresolved.

In March 2001, the Corporation deposited Rs. 22 lakhs with the KSEB for a street main extension project. In March 2002, an additional sum of Rs.22 lakhs was deposited. The same year, the Corporation remitted Rs. 11.69 lakhs for a slum electrification programme.

In 2003, the local body committed another Rs. 49.65 lakhs to various street-lighting projects. Another Rs. 60.5 lakhs was deposited for changing the incandescent bulbs in streetlamps to CFLs in the 26 wards annexed to the city from the neighbouring panchayats and Rs.1.59 lakhs for installing new lampposts. The Corporation also allocated Rs.6.19 lakhs to install sodium vapour lamps along the main roads of the city.

Corporation sources say that hardly Rs. 32 lakhs of deposit works had been completed by the KSEB over the last three years. At a meeting convened by the Mayor, KSEB officials cited the shortage of poles and lamp fixtures as the root cause for the delay in taking up street-lighting projects.

The Government has allotted one-third of the requirement of concrete poles for the city this year. But there are allegations that most of the supply was diverted to Kollam following the Electricity Minister's intervention. A senior Corporation functionary accused the Government of political discrimination towards the LDF- ruled Corporation.

KSEB officials are learnt to have informed the Corporation that the installation of new poles would be taken up in the Manacaud and Peroorkada areas soon.

The Corporation pays Rs.3.63 crores annually to the KSEB as electricity tariff for street-lighting.

Councillors point out that in the absence of a metering system, the Corporation was forced to remit money even for streetlights not functioning. ``This a big drain on the Corporation's finance'', says Mr.Padmakumar.

The Board has ignored repeated pleas to install electric meters for streetlights. Incidentally, the Vadagara municipality is the only local body in the State to have a metering system for streetlights.

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