Published Date: 30/Oct/2009
By G Saravanan
Chennai, October 28: Privatisation of civic work is supposed to improve efficiency. But according to residents of Thiruvottiyur municipality, the only area in which it has enhanced efficiency is corruption.
Privatised civic services like drinking water supply, maintenance of streetlights and garbage collection are extermely poor, moan residents. Yet, DMK councillors propose to bring in a new resolution at a council meet scheduled for Friday to privatise more services, which has got their goat.
Of the 48 wards in Thiruvottiyur municipality, streetlights maintenance has been privatised in 13 wards. Garbage collection in 19 wards is being handled by private contractors. The municipality also privatised supply of drinking water by hiring eight private water tankers.
When the services were privatised for the first time, locals welcomed it hoping it wopuld mean better services. But nothing changed on the ground as the private contractors allegedly pocketed the civic body’s money, charged one of the AIADMK councilors, who wished anonymity.
While the municipality coughs up Rs 1.05 crore annually to the private drinking water supplier, Rs 1.5 crore has been spent on garbage removal and another Rs 15 lakh (per year) for streetlight maintenance.
According to M D Sekar, an AIADMK councilor, the actual expenditure in these three privatised projects could be well less than 30 per cent of the pay out. He estimated that 70 per cent of the money reaches different pockets, including DMK councilors and other officials.
He cited a recent case where the municipality bought more than 500 energy-saver lights. “While the bill, tabled recently for council clearance, claimed that each light cost Rs 6,380, enquiries revealed that the actual cost was just Rs 1,350,” he said.
In all, the civic body has over 7,500 streetlights, including a few hi-mast lights. Last time around, other members of the municipality were upset when the DMKCongress councillors forced municipality chairman R Jayaraman (CPI-M) to allow a resolution to privatise the remaining 35 wards for streetlight maintenance.
Speaking to Express, Jayaraman said, “For the past three months, DMK councillors are consistently pressuring me to allow it, but I am avoiding it since it will further deteriorate the kind of service we are providing to public here.”