Begin typing your search...

Not enough staff, civic services hit

Public grievances have remained unresolved for months, as the city Corporation and Metro Water board have been reeling from an acute lack of engineers, field workers, vehicles and equipment. DT Next reports

Not enough staff, civic services hit

Workers from the GCC and Metro Water board doing their duties

CHENNAI: Shortage of skilled personnel is not just a ‘private sector’ problem, as the myriad departments run by the Government across the city suffer from lack of manpower and equipment. This leads to unresolved civic issues which pile up over a period of time.

The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) and Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) are both plagued by staff crunch, especially those with enough technical know-how.

This affects the way both departments manage civic grievances and resolve issues, as services have been severely hampered due to shortage in engineers and vehicles.

Too few engineers

Residents across the city have been lamenting over the unresolved issues because an engineer of the Metro Water board, for instance, is in charge of more than two places and therefore, unable to address issues quickly and efficiently.

Relentless follow-up by complainants and escalations to senior officers have not helped either. Often, issues raised in complaint cells have been closed without rectification. Residents fumed that field workers do not visit the neighbourhood.

“There are many issues including road, solid waste, and sewage overflow in the locality, but none have been resolved as civic authorities often lament over lack of staff,” said M Wajith, a resident of Korukkupet. “During the recent floods, our streets were flooded, and the stagnated water mixed with drainage. We raised complaints to the respective area engineers, but as there were not enough workers, this took time to be resolved.”

He added that even after stagnated rainwater drained out on its own, none of the officials visited the area to rectify or inspect the issues. “The area has only one engineer who is in-charge of many streets. Whenever we try to reach out, either they are unavailable or looking over problems in other streets,” averred Wajith. “North Chennai is completely neglected. If there are any similar issues witnessed in southern parts of the city, authorities would immediately rectify them.”

During the monthly council meetings at the Ripon Building, councillors always lament over the lack of assistant engineers in their respective wards. “Any official handles at least 2-3 wards. This leads to lack of coordination and incomplete development works. The civic body must recruit more assistant engineers. Also, if there is shuffling of officials, ward councillors must be informed,” suggested a ward member.

Clueless contract staff

Officials of the city corporation – assistant engineers, assistant executive engineers, executive engineers and zonal officials – handle the issues locally. There are only 3-4 permanent field workers.

Since there are no sufficient engineers to address the everyday grievances, residents complained to ward members, who have been speaking to civic authorities in the head office, but the issues remain unsolved.

“Officials in the Metro Water board at least responded to our petitions and addressed it albeit late. But, our complaints to corporation officials have not been addressed despite relentless follow-ups. More than the requirements of engineers, the GCC and CMWSSB teams need more permanent workers to manage the issues in the long-term,” opined C Raghukumar, a resident and civic activist Perambur.

Most senior field workers have retired. Contract workers who have no clue about the underground SWD, sewer networks, water lines or even the street-light cables.

“Most of the time, they are forced to seek the help of the homeowners who have been staying in the neighbourhood for a long time,” he added. “Officials at the local level must encourage their contract workers to engage closely with residents in the communities.”

No vehicles, equipment

Adding to the woes is the lack of equipment and vehicles for the workers. The Corporation has intensified the dog-and-cattle-catching drive across the city after a spike in incidents of people being attacked by stray animals. But there are only 15 vehicles to catch stray dogs in all the zones and there is a severe shortage in manpower.

M Balakrishnan, secretary of Tansi Nagar Residents Welfare Association, pointed out that unless the civic body provides enough manpower and vehicles, most of the public grievances would remain unresolved.

“During the monsoon in December, the newly re-laid road in Tansi Nagar 20th street was damaged. Till now, the repair work has not commenced due to shortage of field workers in the Corporation. When we enquired about the issue, the officials claimed that there was no vehicle to carry out patch or repair works. The road condition is abysmal; it has been a nuisance to navigate the road for the last two months,” he elaborated.

It is noted that the health and electricity departments also lack manpower, and authorities have not taken any step to recruit officers there either.

“The street lights in interior roads have not been functional for a long time. When complaints were raised to the lineman of the EB department, it took almost 2-3 days for them to visit the area and enquire about the issue. We cannot blame them for not addressing the issue immediately, as they too are burdened with more work and lack of manpower,” added Balakrishnan.

When contacted, GCC Commissioner J Radhakrishnan admitted that several residents and war councillors have complained several times about delay in resolving issues. He added, “We’ve submitted a request for the recruitment process in the Corporation and Metro Water board after these complaints. Steps for recruiting officers will be taken and vacancies will be filled at the earliest.”

Swedha Radhakrishnan
Next Story