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(ARCHIVE) Vol. Vol. XVIII No. 12, october 1-15, 2008
Happy Birthday, CoC

– But could we, please, make some resolutions and implement them?

(By A Special Correspondent)

The Corporation of Chennai, or CoC as it styles itself these days in news reports, celebrated its 320th birth anniversary recently. Conventional wisdom may argue that the figure 320 is rather an odd one for a celebration, for such commemorations are usually associated internationally with multiples of 25, with 60 and 80 being the odd ones out in India. But be that as it may, there may be good reasons for the celebration with elections to the civic body falling due before the 325th anniversary. Such mundane considerations, however, do not bother Madras Musings which welcomes any celebration involving a historic institution. In fact, we are delighted that the Corporation and Government have begun to remember the history of Madras that is Chennai and particularly that the Corporation of Madras showed the way to municipal governance in the rest of India.

Ripon Building

What, however, concerns us is that the events that comprised the celebrations had hardly anything to do with the principal purpose of the CoC, namely that of providing a clean and effective civic administration. There were folk dances by students of Corporation-run schools, some prominent residents of the city were felicitated (did their achievements have any contribution from the Corporation?), a film on the Corporation was screened, and a souvenir was released.

An exhibition of photographs depicting the city’s past and present was also inaugurated. This correspondent has not seen it, but the list of photographs as mentioned in newspaper reports shows that these are probably the same ones that regularly do the rounds on the internet.

How all this would make for a better city stumps many. But perhaps an answer to that lies in the promises made.

An intriguing announcement in at least one city-based daily said that the “Marina Beach is the second best in the whole world and after the present beautification is over it would be the best.” How such gradations are measured is another mystery but at least a promise has been made – and that’s more to the point than all the tamasha. Another commendable effort was the presenting of new uniforms to the civic staff. These garments are said to be specially designed for the weather conditions in Chennai.

But while it is all well and good to celebrate the past and the present, the CoC would do well to ponder over the future of the city and its people. And if it is truly concerned about both, here are some suggested resolutions it would do well to adopt:

  • More pedestrian space. All over the city there are hardly any pedestrian spaces left. Footpaths have been hijacked by junction boxes of the Telephones Department and transformers of the Electricity Board. Whatever is left has encroachments like pavement shops, political flag posts and hoardings. On many roads, there are no footpaths at all, thanks to a decision to do away with them to increase the space available for flyovers. Recently, a walk was held by a forum committed to demanding more space for pedestrians. Before this becomes a full-fledged revolution, will the Corporation please wake up?

  • Public toilets. There is a feeling that any location in this city can double up as a public toilet. Street corners, spaces behind trees and compound walls of residences and offices, all of them are considered convenient public toilets. The absence of public conveniences is the main reason for this. Can we please have more of these and also better maintenance of those that are available?

  • More public transport. A recent study by IIT-Madras has said that usage of public transport has diminished in the city and the official trend is towards encouraging people to use their own cars and two-wheelers. This is alarming and is quite the reverse of what is happening in most cities of the world where the first step towards decongestion is the enhancing of public transport.

  • Better waste disposal. The present dumps at Kodungaiyur and Perungudi have overflowed. They have also proved most unscientific in their disposal methodology. The residents of these areas have protested repeatedly about the presence of the landfills in their vicinity. Can we have some better plans on waste disposal?

  • Building violations. The recent fire mishap that took place at a prominent shopping mall in T’ Nagar was directly attributed to plan violations at the time of building. Indeed, the entire T’ Nagar shopping area is a showcase of plan violations, all of which could have been nipped in the bud at the construction stage itself. While we are aware that it is the CMDA that sanctions and approves plans, it is up to the CoC to monitor the implementation. Can we have some preventive action rather than knee-jerk reactions?
  • Viability of flyovers. The CoC has wholeheartedly embraced flyovers as the panacea for all traffic ills. But it would be worth its while to examine this thinking. Flyovers, given the space in which they are put up in many instances, do not allow for buses to use them and, so, are exclusively meant for private transport. This naturally means public transport will be slow and, therefore, not used. The space below the flyovers is completely wasted, as it is closed to prevent encroachments. These need to be opened up if road space is to be used effectively. The latest flyover in the Usman Road area is a disaster in every way, with shops coming up below it and thereby clogging the narrow side roads. Lastly, flyovers only speed up traffic on them. They result in two bottlenecks, one at the beginning and the other at the end of the flyover. All these need to be looked into before fresh flyovers are planned.

  • Debates on plans. Can the public be taken into confidence when new plans are considered for beautification, road-widening and other such exercises? And when the public is consulted, can their viewpoints be recorded and acted upon?

  • Focus on N. Chennai. Even while the South is given its due status, can the North also be looked at for development and improvements?

    In this issue

    Happy Birthday, CoC
    The people propose...
    The 'hub and spokes'...
    The Parsis of Madras
    Historic residences of...
    Other stories in this issue...

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