MADURAI: More than four years after being selected under Smart City Mission Programme, Madurai Municipal Corporation has convened the Smart City Advisory Forum (SCAF) meeting for the first time here on Tuesday.
Presided by Collector T Anbalagan, who is the Chairperson of SCAF and Madurai MP Su Venkatesan, the Co-chairperson, the meeting was held at Aringar Anna Maligai campus. Also present were the members of the forum including Virudhunagar MP B Manickam Tagore, Madurai Central constituency MLA PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan, Madurai North constituency MLA VV Rajan Chellappa and Madurai East constituency MLA P Moorthy. According to official sources, not all the stakeholders were present at the meeting as it was planned in the last minute.
Meanwhile, the announcement made by the civic body which stated a review meeting headed by State Minister for Cooperation Sellur K Raju would be held at 11 am, while the SCAF meeting was already scheduled to begin at 10 am, irked many. Later it turned out that it was a miscommunication on part of the officials and the SCAF meeting continued for almost four hours.
Addressing the media persons, Venkatesan said that the CEO post for Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), who is the designated official to convene SCAF, remains vacant in eight of the 10 Smart Cities across Tamil Nadu. The lack of appointment forces the burden of holding dual post on part of Corporation Commissioner and also opens the gate for misappropriation of funds. "This is an utter failure of governance," he said, adding that SCAF meet should have been held at least three times in a year as per the guidelines.
As on date, the air pollution in Madurai is much higher than that of Chennai. "The complete lack of planning and execution has not only led to pubic inconvenience but have also caused environmental hazards," he said.
Pointing out the number of followers in the Bhubaneswar civic body's Smart City Facebook page (more than 89,000 followers), Venkatesan said that Madurai Corporation has completely ignored the participation of both public and elected representatives in the process of choosing and executing the Smart City projects.
"One such example is the redevelopment at Periyar Bus terminus project. More than 50 per cent of city residents had sought for projects that would ease the traffic congestion. However, by increasing the number of commercial establishments by three times in the said project, the civic body has further paid way for bottleneck traffic in the locality," he said adding that the officials have been directed to reduce the number of commercial establishments by one third. However Corporation Commissioner S Visakan said that the number of shops relocated from the locality were 429 and the number of newly constructed establishments were 450. "There is no drastic hike in commercial establishments. Further, as the parking facilities has also been construed, it would not result in traffic congestion," he assured.
Reviewing the works carried out in Masi Streets, Venkatesan said that the officials have assured to complete the works in two of the four streets soon. They have been directed to begin the works in other two streets only after completing the existing works and only after consultation with the residents welfare associations in the locality. Further, the roads should only be dug to a stretch of 50 to 100 meters at a time.
Speaking on heritage development projects undertaken by the civic body, he said that the corporation has failed to consult and seek approval from Archaeological Survey of India, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage or any other central body before carrying out the projects. Further, all the quality control agencies have been conveniently choosen from private sectors. They have been directed to include government quality control agencies to assess the quality of constructions, he added.
Later speaking on the construction of roads and parks along Vaigai river, he said that the district collector has been directed to hold a meeting with National Highways and the Corporation to seek clarifications on the projects.
Inviting the public to come forward with suggestions on improving the projects under Smart City Mission, he assured that SCAF would meet every month from now on.
SCAF was convened on Tuesday only after Venkatesan declared to hold it on Monday, independently on his capacity as Co-chairperson of the forum. Answering a question on why it took so long for elected representatives to convene SCAF, MLA PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan said that the first District Development Coordination and Monitoring Committee (DISHA) meeting was convened only in March 2020 as none of them including the officials were aware of the existence of the committee.
"Six collectors and 5 corporation commissioners have been placed and transfered since Madurai got selected under Smart City Mission. Yet, none were aware of it. We accept that we should have convened it earlier on our capacity as elected representatives. But why did the central government, which provided the guidelines and the fund, fail to monitor it?" he asked.