Shortcut to reopen TASMAC shops poses issues

Experts say quality of roads would be badly hit if highway roads are transferred to municipalities, which are already reeling under funds shortage.

Published: 06th December 2017 01:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th December 2017 02:43 PM   |  A+A-

TASMAC shop near Gimini flyover after many outlets were shut down | EPS- Martin Louis

Express News Service

Experts say quality of roads would be badly hit if highway roads are transferred to municipalities, which are already reeling under funds shortage. The urban local bodies neither have expertise nor they are good in management

CHENNAI: A move which was considered a shortcut to reopen Tasmac outlets and bars within the city limits following a Supreme Court order in April this year,  has now raised serious questions over maintenance of State and national highways within the municipal limits.

In April, a communication sent to Corporations and Municipalities by the Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA) directed the urban local bodies to pass a resolution to take control of over 2,680 km long roads within their limits.

“Municipalities and corporations have been forced to rely on highways department to carry out regular works. Particularly, administrative procedures involved in repairing the damaged roads and getting no objection for digging up the roads for water works, sewage lines, and street lights cause a lot of delay and increases the project costs,” an official explained.

Though such a move would empower the municipality to have more administrative powers, it also has its own disadvantages, say experts.

“Quality of roads would be badly hit if highway roads are transferred to municipalities which are already reeling under funds shortage. The urban local bodies neither have experts  support on road maintenance nor they are good in management. The local bodies mismanagement would destroy the purpose of road transportation,” said a retired IAS officer Devasagayam. Similarly, state highways department has expressed strong objection to transfer the roads to municipalities.

A senior highways official said the roads are maintained based on traffic volume after a detailed study. “The parameters that determine standards of State highways are higher and better in the country. Local bodies in no way will be able to match the standards,” added the official.

The construction and maintenance wing of State highways maintains about 57,493 km roads in the State, of which 12,112 km roads are classified as State highways.

The 11,623 km roads which connect districts within the State and also has a vehicle volume of above 5000 per day are classified as major district roads. Roads passing through within the district which have a vehicle carriage capacity less than 5000 are demarcated as other district roads (ODR) and they run for 32,081 km distance in the State.

The municipal administration maintains about 21,412 km roads spread over 11 Corporations (except Chennai) and 125 municipalities.

Former members of municipalities blamed the government for the severe shortage of funds and delay in taking administrative decisions.

P Suresh, a former councillor of ward 42, Kancheepuram Municipality, said out of `12 crores annual revenue, the municipality spent ` 78 lakhs per month for conservancy works. “To increase the revenue, four months back the DMA had increased the property tax, rent for buildings and other taxes in special grade municipalities (including Kancheepuram) and ordered that it be given effect to from 2012. How can we expect people to pay higher taxes for five years at one go ?  This should have been done in 2011 itself. Without increasing the revenue sources, getting highways road will only increase the burden,” he added.

Social activists demanded increasing the powers of municipalities with strong checks and balances in fund usage. Senthil Arumugam, general secretary of Satta Panchayat Iyakkam, an NGO, strongly advocated the decision to bring all services within the control of municipalities as it would strengthen the local bodies.

“The government should take action based on the local fund audit report in municipalities. There are cases, where bills are created on for 31 days in a months that has only 30 days. Ordering an inquiry and action against officials based on local fund audit report, would certainly improve the efficiency of local bodies. Reducing the powers is not an answer for mismanagement,” he added.

Questions on capacity of municipalities

The construction and maintenance wing of State highways maintains about 57,493 km roads in the State, of which 12,112 km roads are classified as State highways.The 11,623 km roads which connect districts within the State and also has a vehicle volume of above 5,000 per day are classified as major district roads.

Roads passing through within the district which have a vehicle carriage capacity less than 5,000 are demarcated as other district roads (ODR) and they run for 32,081 km distance in the State. The municipal administration maintains about 21,412 km roads spread over 11 Corporations (except Chennai) and 125 municipalities. As most of the urban localbodies are reeling under severe fund shortage, experts doubt whether municipalities can find enough funds for maintaining the roads

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