Over half a century after upgrading Madurai to Corporation, voters still seek for basic amenities

The problems faced by voters such as bad roads, poor underground drainage system, and traffic congestion, however, remain unchanged.
Image for representational purpose only. ( File | EPS)
Image for representational purpose only. ( File | EPS)

MADURAI: It’s been more than 50 years since Madurai, the second largest civic body in the State in size and third biggest in population, was upgraded into a corporation. The problems faced by voters such as bad roads, poor underground drainage system, and traffic congestion, however, remain unchanged.

Madurai became a municipality as per the Town Improvement Act of 1865 on November 1, 1866, and was upgraded into a corporation on May 1, 1971. The Madurai Corporation’s limits were extended on September 28, 2010, to subsume more city areas, three municipalities, three town panchayats and 11 village panchayats into it. After this, the corporation’s area increased from 51.82sq.km to 147.99 sq.km and the numbers of the wards went up from 72 to 100. Number of people living in the corporation was 14, 70,755 as per 2011 census.

In the urban local body polls held in 2011, VV Rajan Chellappa of the AIADMK was elected mayor. He secured 3,12,226 votes against his DMK rival P Bakkiyanadhan who got 1,38,329 votes. Of the 100 wards, AIADMK won 78 awards, DMK 12, and independent candidates won eight wards. PMK and CPI (M) won one ward each.

AIADMK has decided to contest alone in the polls and has announced the candidates for all 100 wards. While DMK is contesting in 76 wards, it has shared nine seats with Congress, eight seats with CPM, 3 seats with MDMK, and two each with CPI and VCK. Madurai is set to get its second woman mayor. The first one was G Thenmozhi (2006-2011).

Projects in pipeline

Madurai was selected under round two of Smart City Mission programme on 14 February 2017, for getting 14 projects worth Rs 1,000 crore. But only three projects --- improving basic amenities at fruit market, better tourist facilities, and conversion of streetlights into LED lights ---- have been completed fully so far. While 24hour water supply project work for residents of 100 wards under AMRUT scheme is on, Chief Minister MK Stalin recently said Rs 500 crore would be allocated for providing underground drainage facility in newly-added wards and for enhancing existing facility in other wards and Rs 100 crore would be allocated for easing traffic congestion and widening roads.

Key demands

The major demands of residents include enhancing road infrastructure, projects to ease traffic congestion, and improving basic amenities to address the needs of a growing population.

"The primary aim of Smart City projects was to ease traffic congestion and improve basic amenities like road infrastructure and underground drainage system. Absence of an elected council led to several irregularities. Projects currently being implemented worsened the existing infrastructure and increased air pollution in the city," said L Kalaiarasi, a resident, adding that the new council should focus on grassroots issues in each ward.

"Though it has been more than a decade since 28 wards were annexed to the Madurai Corporation, there are no basic amenities like UGD connection, drinking water lines or proper roads. Domestic sewage is being discharged into nearby waterbodies which finally mixes in Vaigai River polluting the whole stretch," said R Karthika, a resident of Anaiyur.

While new wards lack amenities, old wards have their own issues. "The existing UGD facility was created decades ago. Areas around the Meenakshi Amman Temple and Periyar Bus Stand have become full commercialized and the number of residential areas too has increased. The existing UGD pipelines lack capacity to handle the current load, "said J Kathiravan of North Veli Street. He said an integrated city development plan must be framed in consultation with people. H Ganesan, another resident, said the city needs more high-level bridges to ease traffic congestion.

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