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Vol. XXIX No. 18, January 1-15, 2020
It was exactly a year ago that the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) was launched with much fanfare. The media had at that time hailed it, claiming that it was the solution to all the ills that city’s public transport systems faced – each of them striking out in different directions and with no connection to each other. What was then forgotten was that even then the concept was seven years old. It had been approved by the Legislature in 2011 but for reasons best known to the Government, the required notifications were never issued. The change in political regime in 2011 is generally believed to be the reason why CUMTA was never notified. If so, this was yet another example, and in TN there are many, of how the public suffers at the whims of those in power. The CUMTA was an excellent scheme and its non-implementation has helped nobody. In January 2019 it was relaunched with much fanfare and what’s more notified as well, with no explanation for the intervening delays. But then 12 months later, CUMTA is as clueless as ever.
The CUMTA as originally planned was to chiefly have a planning function and oversee the work of several agencies involved in the running of the transport systems. It was also to periodically revise and upgrade its plans. Headed by the Transport Minister, it was to have the Chief Urban Planner (Transport) of the CMDA as its Member-Secretary. Others on board were the Chief Secretary and the Vice-Chairman, CMDA (both ranking as Vice-Chairpersons), the Secretaries of the Departments of Finance, Transport, Home, Housing & Urban Development, and the General Manager of the Southern Railway. Under CUMTA it was envisaged that all transport systems – buses, the suburban railway, the MRTS and the Metro being the main players – would all function in a fully integrated fashion. Commuters would be expected to switch seamlessly from one system to another without having to buy tickets at all the intervening stages.
But of course, such a paradise was not vouchsafed to Chennai and for this we must thank the usual bureaucratic hurdles. One of the main issues plaguing our mandarins is the choice of the person to head CUMTA. Initially it was proposed that the Chief Planner of the CMDA would be the Member Secretary or CEO of CUMTA. This was later changed, with a bureaucrat to head the body. This has been questioned by the Planners who point out that in other States it is one of their ilk who heads the body. The tussle continues as of now.
As another Year dawns, several programmes in newspapers make us feel heady. Traffic rules will be enforced, Pallikaranai will be retrieved, Kodungaiyur and Perungudi waste dumps will be converted into energy by high-tech solution “to end the City’s waste menace”, the Marina will be beautified and upper reaches of Adyar will be dredged for free flow of sewage free water and the estuary will bloom.
Should we rejoice or resign ourselves to accepting that things will move painfully slowly and would remain the same? That is our soliloquy. Take, for example, an important public health related necessity that has been in the air for several years. It was announced in mid-2017 that with an outlay of Rs. 1,442 crores for remediation of the vast dump yards in Kodungaiyur and Perungudi, which are serious health hazards, further dumping would be stopped. The conservancy process would be revamped. Two plants would convert waste to energy-absorbing incoming waste and converting the accumulated heap. It was then estimated that in a period of 15 months the waste heaps would be fully degraded, biologically and chemically. Not 15 but 30 months have passed. The present announcement says that the Corporation has “finalised the proposal” at Rs. 1,250 crores. The Chief secretary is “likely to review the proposal soon”. Once that is completed, officials “expect the work to start next year”. About 36 months have passed from conception to just to start of work. That is not an exceptional case but seems to be the norm as other examples would show.
Once I opened my eyes to the beauty and heritage of Chennai, things seemed to pop up literally before my eyes in unexpected places. And a site where I regularly stumbled upon surprises was, unsurprisingly, the area surrounding Chennai’s Central station.
Apropos your report on Making Chennai Water Positive (MM, XXIX, Volume 16, December 1st issue), may I submit that the various seminars held periodically on the topic of Chennai’s water problem do not talk about the basic factors that contribute to Chennai’s citizens being starved of water which, if addressed, would dramatically transform Chennai’s water scenario! Instead, many bureaucrats and experts in the field advocate the inefficient, costly and environmentally unfriendly desalination as the
For years it stood, its white pilaster façade hiding its rich musical history. The music had of course long fled and even memories had faded sometime in the first decade of the present century. The house had of late been used a godown and even that use was not vouchsafed to it in recent months, when it fell victim to the wrecker’s hammer. The home of Veena Dhanammal in Ramakrishna Chetty Street, George Town is no more.