These areas, where rents are relatively cheaper and where accessibility through suburban trains (Chennai-Tambaram section) and buses on GST Road is excellent, are all rapidly growing. The residents enjoy as urban a lifestyle as their counterparts in core Chennai, but the areas are behind, in terms of basic facilities like water, sewerage, waste collection and public transport, the core city by at least 10 years.
Some of the local bodies that are likely to be annexed to the new Tambaram corporation border Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) zones.
Until now, many residents in these areas watched helplessly as people in neighbouring areas under GCC zones had the garbage collected by a battery-operated vehicle, the streets swept every day and grievances resolved through an online application, while they ran behind one official who handles the entire panchayat.
This was a painful reality for people like Chitlapakkam resident Dayanand Krishnan, who says it took continuous pestering over three years to get a drain constructed. The per capita water supply is supposed to be 70 litres per day, according to Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) norms, but there is no data on how much they get.
A Sathik, a resident of an area under Medavakkam village panchayat, says that lack of underground sewage systems affected the environment. “Chengalpet district has the maximum number of lakes. Though builders claim to have sewage treatment plants, we know that most of it is let out in the water bodies,” he said.
Coming under a corporation, he said, would ensure that these issues are prioritised over others. “Electricity cables in some parts of Chennai are also over ground, but here they are underground. There is no priority over what’s necessary,” said Sathik.
Sankar of Kovilambakkam, a village panchayat, welcomed the plan, but said that local body elections to the panchayats should not be held before the merger. “Panchayats have a lot of power and they can impede citizen-friendly decisions taken by officials heading a corporation. We have made a representation to minister [K N] Nehru about this,” he said.
David Manohar, a social activist, said announcing a corporation would be mere lip service if not followed up by strong measures like generous funding for projects, appointment of IAS officials to head the corporation and executing inter-transferability of engineers between GCC and Tambaram.
Most IAS officials, he said, usually didn’t mix with local level politicians and acted more independently. “Currently, there is a nexus between officials in smaller local bodies and contractors whose quality of work is not as good as that in GCC. Transfer of engineers between these corporations will break this nexus,” he said.