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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 19, january 16-31, 2010
Will bigger be better?
(By the Editor)

Expanding Chennai Corporation needs re-thinking

The latest Government Order expanding the municipal limits of Chennai to over twice its present size has been welcomed in many quarters. What is not being addressed, however, is whether the Corporation can manage the larger area. Also, the latest decision marks a complete about-turn in Government thinking. Just six months ago, an announcement was made that the city’s limits would come under three Corporations, the two new ones being headquarted in Tambaram and Ambattur.

The Government Order in one stroke has increased the city’s area from 174 sq km to 426 sq km. Seven municipalities, three town panchayats and 13 panchayat unions in Tiruvallur District and two municipalities, five town panchayats and 12 panchayat unions in Kancheepuram District are to be merged with the Chennai Corporation, the oldest in the country.

Government says this expansion is necessitated because the local bodies have been unable to build their infrastructure in keeping with the expanding population of Chennai and its environs. While there is much truth in this, will Chennai Corporation be able to handle the extended responsibility when it struggles to manage its own?

The world over, the trend has been to ensure that local bodies gradually acquire the competency to handle their own civic issues before being elevated to the level of city corporations. By their very nature, city corporations are meant to be self-sustaining, collecting funds by way of rates and taxes from the residents within their jurisdiction and then spending the money on welfare and infrastructure. Even within the existing jurisdiction, Chennai Corporation has been complaining of lack of funds when it comes to development work and this despite the fact that it has within its limits the highest tax-payers in the State. Now with added areas coming under its purview, will the already financially-stretched Corporation not be spreading itself thinner? How can it claim to be able to bring the peripheral areas in line with the demands of modern infrastructure when it has not been able to set its own house in order? And if the Corporation hopes to get funding from the Centre or from the State by way of the JNNURM and other such corpuses to fulfil its demands, then how different is it from any State-funded agency? Would it not be losing its status as a Corporation and one of the oldest in the world at that?

A few months ago, Government mulled over the idea of three Corporations to govern the city. The reason given was that the city had become too large to be managed by one body and so each region would receive individual attention if the proposed division took place. The division envisaged a North Chennai Corporation headquartered in Ambattur and a South Chennai Corporation headquartered in Tambaram. The rest of the city was to fall under what is Chennai Corporation, formerly the Corporation of Madras. The idea came from a study by a special committee set up by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and headed by its Vice-Chairman. The fundamental reason for demanding separate Corporations was the need to ensure focussed attention in specific areas. How this requirement has changed in the last few months is anybody’s guess.

A much better decision would have been to upgrade Tambaram and Ambattur and their immediate vicinities into independent Corporations. That way, the requirement of specific focus would have been met. Tambaram with its IT base and Ambattur with its industries would have ensured the ability to mop up funds and utilise them for local requirements.

The other smaller municipalities, town panchayats and panchayat unions in the area now being looked at could have been directly mentored by the Local Administration Department. And there would have been hope.

Instead, the present enlarged role for Chennai Corporation could well see the civic body ending up pleasing none.


In this issue

Will bigger be better?
Road-widening no answer for increasing traffic
When the RK Math put down Madras roots
A collection well past its prime
Historic Residences of Chennai - 34
Other stories

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Short 'N' Snappy
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Quizzin' with Ram'nan
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