Not upgrade, obstacles galore in Vellore works

Similarly, in CMC Colony when a resident approached the Mayor regarding raised platforms preventing moving out of cars, they were promised steps when the work was over.
An uprooted street sign after drain work in Vellore.
An uprooted street sign after drain work in Vellore.

VELLORE: Non-application of mind and Corporation engineers okaying contractors work despite openly visible deficiencies have resulted in the Rs 963.40 crore Smart City work being one of the most vilified government schemes in Vellore Corporation.

So bad is the work the residents openly state that Sathuvachary - the location where the scheme was implemented – being far better off before the scheme’s advent.

A total of 52 works (see box) were taken up under the smart city scheme in 2018-19. Though 31 of the 52 works estimated at Rs 541.66 crore have been completed, “local residents have been angered by the casual way the scheme was implemented, specially, with regard to roads and drains,” said Vellore District Consumer Federation president K Sathiyamoorthy.

The main contract was divided into sub contracts and as most workers were north Indians, locals found it even hard to complain when road were dug up willy nilly. In CMC Colony, platforms with metal railings were constructed resulting in cars in many houses being unable to come out and those on the road unable to enter their sheds. The same complaint can also be seen on the main South Avenue Road where “roads being laid without milling the old road to ensure no increase in road level has resulted in the entire stretch seeing houses fearing inundation during rains,” said social activist and engineer S Sridharan.

When drains were constructed, domestic water and drainage connections were broken with the local body not doing anything to alleviate residents suffering Sridharan added.

Residents had to spend money to create makeshift bridges and purchase water for all purposes, Sathiyamoorthy said.

Adding to residents woes was that railings placed in such a way that vehicles were unable to enter houses.

Non-application of mind resulted in small streets in Kagithapattarai – where many godowns are located and thus sees heavy vehicle traffic – being provided platforms with railings resulting in daily traffic jams as vehicles find it hard to negotiate this stretch. Construction of platform and railings in small streets was stopped only after collector Kumaravel Pandian intervened.

Lack of common sense lead to hand pumps and metal power poles being erected on drains. They were removed over night when the press revealed it recently. Taking a cue from such shoddy work, the Highways Department also put up a hand pump on a drain at Vellakalmedu in Katpadi, which was removed overnight after being informed by civic officials.

In the Phase V area, the street is always flooded with sewage on seeing which mayor Sujatha Anandakumar promised immediate action and that was more than 45 days ago. Today residents of the four houses regularly pay out of their pockets to remove accumulated sludge.

Similarly, in CMC Colony when a resident approached the Mayor regarding raised platforms preventing moving out of cars, they were promised steps when the work was over. “But that too was months ago and the work is yet to be completed,” said an irate resident on condition of anonymity.

Also boards about the ongoing works, its estimate, the name of the contractor and expected time of completion usually found in other scheme works was conspicuous by its absence here.

Officials attribute shoddiness to staff shortage, inter-department issues

Houses surrronded by sewage due to shoddy underground
drainage work in an area in Vellore.
Houses surrronded by sewage due to shoddy underground drainage work in an area in Vellore.

Vellore Corporation Commissioner S Ashok Kumar who was brought in specifically to ensure speedy completion of the works by Municipal Administration Minister KN Nehru, said that June 2023 was the deadline for completion of Vellore’s Smart City works.

“Storm water drains with manholes very 30 metres are put up in the center of the road, while underground sewage lines border both sides of a road. As they were broken we now have to get engineers from the TWAD, corporation, contractor’s engineer and highways engineers to chalk out who created the problem and then take remedial action,” he said.

This will take time as other departments priorities differ, official sources added.

Also, while Vellore Corporation’s ongoing works need at least a superintending engineer, the local body has to make do with an engineer at the assistant divisional engineer (ADE), Ashok Kumar said.

On the CMC Colony issue, he said, “We have to get a special technical team from Chennai to go into this as breaking constructed pavements and railings will entail a huge loss to government.”

An official, when asked why contractors alone were taken to task while only minor action was initiated against Corporation officers, said on condition of anonymity, “If action is taken against local body engineers then there will be nobody to undertake official work.”

What makes our work difficult is that Vellore Corporation has 14 km of NH Roads, 83 Km of state highways and 760 Km of Corporation roads. “While 350 Km roads have been laid, work is on to complete the remaining portions expeditiously,” Ashok Kumar said.

Asked why a perfectly good road in front of the Collector’s office (neither the Mayor nor the area councillor were aware of this move) was being replaced by a cement road, officials said, “rules stipulate that roads seeing high traffic volume should have cement roads.”

When asked why this work was not undertaken after the road became old, the Commissioner said, “the stretch beyond the Collector’s and SP’s office connected residential areas where culverts were also being built and to ensure completion at one stretch the whole road was replaced. Also, while a tar road lasts only for 5 years, a cement road lasts for 10-12 years and thus saves the Corporation more funds.”

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