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Chennai civic disaster, corporation lacks experts

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The Times of India        03.11.2014 

Chennai civic disaster, corporation lacks experts


CHENNAI: Bustling roads cave in without warning, neighbourhoods are flooded every time it rains, and encroached footpaths force pedestrians to leg it along broken and waterlogged roads. The city has turned into a civic disaster and Corporation of Chennai has had its epiphany: It has awoken to the fact that it lacks expertise.

Corporation officials said the spate of problems that accompanied the monsoon has made them aware of the need do create positions for fulltime professionals. These include posts for urban planners and experts in finance, transport, bridges and communication officers. It is also planning to form an IT team.

To be able to recruit professionals, the corporation may have to retrench or reassign employees. Every department of the civic body has prepared a list identifying mistakes in organisational structure and redundant jobs that can that be eliminated.

Senior corporation officials are looking to increase the workforce at the top level and shave it at the bottom and will seek the government's approval to introduce more senior posts in the hope that the professionals they hire will come up with the ideas they so sorely need to keep pace with the development of the city.

"We have few professional employees compared to the city's population," a senior corporation official said. "City municipalities in the West have a more professionals and they are responsible for smaller populations. We need to expand, particularly at the top level."

"We have a town planner but not an urban planner. We have no financial experts to advise us on optimal expenditure or how to raise capital. If we want exceptional roads, we need a transport planner," he said.

He said the civic body needs to create such senior positions for professionals just like private companies. "Every department has come up with a wish list, but we will be able to finalise the posts and make a representation to the government only after we decide how to meet the additional expenditure that an increase in professional recruits would involve."

Engineers of the civic body are currently undergoing a six month certified course designed by Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP) and Anna University. Many corporation officials say they are forced to handle multiple portfolios and are unable to focus on routine work. The superintending engineer of bus routes in the roads department, for instance, is also in charge of bridges, solid waste management, public health and mechanical engineering.

The corporation has taken up a Rs 1,500 crore project to lay roads build footpaths in the city but doesn't have a dedicated superintending engineer for most roads. The lack of an engineer for the solid waste management department, about which there are the most complaints, and the bridges department, which is planning 24 flyovers, is also sources of concern. 


Parking contractor fined Rs 50k for overcharging

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The Times of India        03.11.2014  

Parking contractor fined Rs 50k for overcharging


COIMBATORE: Corporation officials have slapped a fine of 50,000 on an erring parking contractor Namachivayam, who had taken a two-wheeler parking contract for Singanallur bus stand in the city, a year back. On a sudden inspection on Friday, officials noticed that he was violating the parking fee norms and was overcharging customers. The incident has exposed the rot in corporation's parking lots. Twelve corporation parking lots in the city were leased out to private contractors and it was found that all of them were overcharging.

According to the rates fixed by the corporation, for the first three to six hours, the contractors are supposed to charge only 5 for two wheelers and for four wheelers, the rate is 10 for three hours. But they have been charging 10 for two-wheelers and 20 for four-wheelers. "They charge just like the private companies," said Devarajan, a frequent user of corporation parking lot.

"There is no point in arguing with these people either. They will come up with multiple reasons to thug us," said Sundar, an IT employee.

Even as this reporter parked her vehicle for just 15 minutes at Cross Cut Road parking lot, the contractor's employee charged Rs 10 instead of Rs 5. On being confronted, the employee said he didn't know the tariff and returned excess fare.

Most of the time as people are in a hurry, these employees use that situation to their advantage. "Those who object would either waste their time or end up parking elsewhere," said Rajesh, who frequents the bus stand parking lot.

TOI noticed that the tariff in the parking ticket was crossed out so that the commuters would not argue with them. In many other places as ticket machines were used, one could not argue as well.

The civic officials said they had been inspecting these parking lots regularly and have also fined them on earlier occasions. "Three months back, we fined Gandhi Puram town bus stand contractor 1 lakh for overcharging customers," said the M M Kanagaraj, central zone assistant revenue officer.

But even after the fine, the charges remain really high. If one calculates for a 300 capacity parking lot, the contractor earns 3 lakh every month. A fine of 1 lakh once a year will hardly affect their revenue in any way.

Generally, each contractor signs a three-year contract with the corporation and then fresh tenders are released.

"We will take action against private contractors if they are found involved in irregularities and overcharging customers, '' said a corporation official.

On the other side, the labourers who are engaged by the contractors said their salaries were very low and they get paid based on their collections. "Most of these contractors have political affiliations. The leased land is under the contractor's name but the real owners will be some politician, and even if they are caught hardly there will be any strict action against them," said a source. 


Corporation plans to study skill sets

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The Hindu      29.09.2014  

Corporation plans to study skill sets

The Municipal Corporation is undertaking a study to determine skill sets and deficiencies of employees in manufacturing units, factories, service units and the transport department.

The corporation has entrusted the task to a private firm, Conso Tree.

The exercise is being taken up as part of a Central government scheme to ascertain skill gaps in industries.


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