Corporation Special Meeting Is An Eyewash
Dec 2, 2008
Monday’s special meeting on the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission schemes does not seem to have infused the much needed optimism among councillors of the Coimbatore Corporation, especially some Opposition parties, that the schemes can be implemented within the seven-year time frame (2005-2012) fixed by the mission. The views expressed by councillors at the meeting and also later points at pessimism persisting, despite the Corporation assuring them of concerted efforts to get the schemes going.
After describing the special meeting itself an eyewash, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam member P. Rajkumar says there is hardly anything that assures the people of the desired development. Mr. Rajkumar virtually echoes the charge of embezzlement of funds made by Communist Party of India (Marxist) member. Solid waste management and the project for establishing two sewage treatment plants are some of the instances, he says. Mr. Padmanabhan even demanded a probe into the procurement of bins and containers for waste management.
The councillors now pin hopes on the new Commissioner, Anshul Mishra, to take the schemes forward. “For some time there was total breakdown in administration at the Corporation and this has affected the pace of works. The new Commissioner needs some time to understand the situation and act. We pin our hopes on him,” says Mr. Rajkumar. Councillors point out that the Corporation has not been able to cross the stage of inviting bids for some schemes because the bidders have quoted rates much higher than the estimates. While fresh tenders have been invited for some, the Corporation is negotiating with at least one firm to persuade it to scale down the rates.
Scepticism over the projects is caused not only by the pace so far, but also because of the non-viability of the outlays that the bidders seem to suggest. The Corporation will get grants only on the outlays that have been mentioned in the project reports cleared so far. (The Central Government will provide 50 per cent of the project cost as grant and the State Government will provide 20 per cent a grant or interest-free loan. The Corporation has to mobilise funds for its 30 per cent contribution.) Mr. Padmanabhan feels there is no proper review of the schemes in Coimbatore by any senior Government official. “How many times has any senior official come to Coimbatore to review such a major mission,” he asks.
Mr. Rajkumar says it is clear that both the Governments will not provide grants for the excess amount that the bidders quote, above the sanctioned outlays. This only means that the excess cost will have to be borne by the Corporation, he points out. There are already doubts over the Corporation’s ability to meet the 30 per cent cost as per the approved estimates. So, the rising cost of projects will only offer very little of hope of all these taking off soon.
There is no confidence that the major schemes the city has been waiting for will take off soon, says Mr. Padmanabhan. (Only the Basic Services for Urban Poor project is in progress.) As for the bottlenecks the Corporation faces, not much weight seems to be given to its pleas to the Government, he says. “Above all, what can the Corporation aim to achieve without having adequate staff to implement massive schemes?”