Will Corporation upgrade help Avadi, Tambaram and Pallavaram?

While the proposal to designate them as Municipal Corporations is laudable, it may pose a challenge in terms of delivering quality service.
Will Corporation upgrade help Avadi, Tambaram and Pallavaram?
Factfile

Chennai

The city’s suburbs have grown exponentially but the quality of infrastructure and amenities is still lagging behind, despite the surge in population of these localities. 
With the government proposing three satellite municipal corporations in Avadi, Pallavaram and Tambaram, residents hope that the upgrade would lead to a better quality of life. Apart from the municipalities, these satellite corporations will also include the surrounding village and town panchayats into its fold. 
M Mohammed Eliyas, a resident of Avadi said that the upgrade would mean better facilities. Citing the example of its neighbouring locality, Ambattur, the social activist said, “After this area was added to the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC), there was a visible development – the road quality improved and street lights were installed. In addition, grievance redressal is faster under the Corporation than the municipalities. When we give complaints, it takes a long time to be addressed. But if you call the Corporation’s 1913, a complaint number is given immediately.” 
Residents of Pallavaram, as well as surrounding municipalities such as Anakaputhur and Pammal and Cowl Bazaar village panchayat, have been demanding basic amenities such as water supply, better quality roads, underground drainage system and even an improvement in infrastructure, such as parks and government-run schools. 
V Santhanam, President, Federation of Civic and Welfare Associations of Pallavaram, said that the upgrade will help bring in more government funding, resulting in better facilities. 
“The funding estimate is different for a municipality and Corporation. While Pallavaram has an underground drainage system, Anakaputhur and Pammal are yet to have this facility. The suburbs have a severe water crisis, which we hope will get resolved after Pallavaram Corporation comes into existence. The upgrade will mean that the quality of parks, schools and public health centres will improve and there will be more such facilities,” he said. An official from the Pallavaram municipality pointed out that the upgrade will mean an increase in the number of staff. 
“Currently, there are four members in the engineering team. Once the Corporation status will come into being, a position for city engineer will be created and the number of staff will also increase. Funding can be accessed through central government grants and even schemes such as Smart City mission. The infrastructure and basic amenities will get better, as there is a huge scope for improvement in these areas,” said the source. Raja S R, MLA, Tambaram, said that once the Corporation status is granted, administration will improve. 
“An IAS officer will be appointed to head the Corporation and tax collection will improve. Facilities such as underground drainage and cables, will come up. The infrastructure works will proceed faster, as manpower will increase,” said the MLA. Raja, who has been the Tambaram Municipal Chairman in 1996 and 2001, pointed out that smaller municipalities struggle to provide services due to funds crunch. Speaking of his experience, he added, “The concept of development started only after 1996. But there is a lot to be done – removing encroachments, providing basic amenities, improving infrastructure, etc. In many cases, the municipality cannot act autonomously. The move from a municipality to a corporation will mean more control, as the urban local body is directly monitored by the government and can take independent decisions.” Satyarupa Sekhar, Director, Government Outreach and Advocacy, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), said that the increase in jurisdiction should be supplemented with adequate revenue and manpower. 
Citing the example of Tiruvottiyur and Sholinganallur, extended areas added to the Chennai Corporation, she explained, “These areas still face several challenges, as fund availability is directed to the core city, in most cases. After addition, these areas tend to get treated as peripheral areas and the attention becomes lesser. When we spoke to residents of these two zones, they said that once their localities became a part of the Corporation, they couldn’t access their elected representatives. The addition to the Corporation has not benefitted them.” There is an additional burden to provide a higher quality of service with existing limitations, added Satyarupa. 
“The village panchayats have a lower level of standards, when it comes to quality of service. Without adequate funds or manpower, there will be a less than optimal performance, as the lag between the service that core areas receive versus that which is offered to peripheral areas will continue to exist. Point in case, the underground drainage system – while the core city has it, extended areas of Chennai Corporation are yet to get this basic amenity. More responsibility, in terms of population and geography, will be adding stress on resources that are already stretched beyond capacity,” she said.

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