Defined: How GCC administers the town and why we want an elected council


Rippon building, headquarters of the Greater Chennai Corporation
Chennai Company has an elected council after a niche of over 5 years. Pic: Korah Abraham.

“Folks in Chennai have virtually forgotten what it’s prefer to have an elected consultant from their wards,” jokes Charu Govindan, coordinator of Chennai-based citizen’s group, Voice of Folks. Charu was referring to how the town has gone with out an elected native physique council for a complete time period since 2016. Though the official web site of the Larger Chennai Company (GCC) nonetheless states that the executive arrange features a council of 200 councillors, headed by a Mayor, that hasn’t been the case prior to now 5 years. Native physique elections haven’t been held because the time period of the final council expired.

Over this era, that’s since October 2016, GCC, the civic physique that governs Tamil Nadu’s capital metropolis, has been administered by a set of officers led by a Commissioner, who’s an IAS officer. This, nevertheless, is just not the primary time that the GCC, which can be India’s oldest municipal establishment, is working within the absence of an elected council. In 1973, when the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) authorities was in energy within the state, the Company Council in Chennai was suspended following the muster roll scandal. The administration of the company then, as it’s now, was handed over to a particular officer of the IAS cadre. 

Learn extra: Lacking! Our metropolis’s Company

It went on to operate beneath bureaucrats for over twenty years, till 1996, when the DMK authorities as soon as once more got here to energy within the state and ordered for civic polls. Equally, with the DMK having taken cost of the state authorities in Could this yr, the MK Stalin-led cupboard has known as for polls to varied native our bodies within the state.

With elections on the playing cards, it’s necessary for us as residents to grasp how the town is split for the aim of administration, the zones or the wards we belong to and extra importantly how the company features in Namma Chennai.

Administrative divisions

As talked about earlier than, not like a number of cities in states like Kerala or Karnataka, the Company of Chennai has not been headed by a Mayor during the last 5 years and as an alternative was administered by a bureaucrat, who’s known as the Commissioner of the Company. 

The Commissioner is additional assisted within the administrative course of by varied Deputy Commissioners and Joint Commissioners, who’re in command of varied departments like Well being, Works, Schooling, Income and Finance and so forth. These officers are additionally, most of the time, officers within the civil providers cadres.

GCC Administration Chart
Administrative chart of the GCC. Pic: GCC web site

Zones and wards

Now, for the aim of administration, the town is split into three areas: North Chennai, Central Chennai and South Chennai. These three areas are additional divided into 15 zones, consisting of 200 wards. The assorted zones that come beneath the three areas and the respective ward numbers in every zone are:

North Chennai

I. Thiruvottiyur: 1 to 14

II. Manali: 15 to 21

III. Madhavaram: 22 to 33

IV. Tondiarpet: 34 to 48

V. Royapuram: 49 to 63

Central Chennai

VI. Thiru Vi Ka Nagar: 64 to 78

VII. Ambattur: 79 to 93

VIII. Anna Nagar: 94 to 108

IX. Teynampet: 109 to 126

X. Kodambakkam: 127 to 142

South Chennai

XI. Valasaravakkam: 143 to 155

XII. Alandur: 156 to 167

XIII. Adyar: 170 to 182

XIV. Perungudi: 168, 169, 183 to 191

XV. Sholinganallur: 192 to 200

For every of those three areas, there’s a Regional Deputy Commissioner in cost, who’s additional assisted by Zonal Officers on the zonal degree and Assistant Engineers on the ward degree. When an elected council was there, every of those 200 wards used to elect a consultant or a councillor, who would act as a bridge between the residents of that ward and the Company.

There was additionally a system of ward committees in every of the 15 zones, the place the councillors of the respective wards used to debate the assorted points of their zones to be offered earlier than the Mayor throughout the Company Council conferences.

Company Departments

The GCC, established in 1688 (then Company of Madras), is the establishment that maintains the town’s streetlights, cleanliness and hygiene, drainage methods, lots of the roads and junctions, parks and a number of other public areas, registration and subject of beginning and dying certificates and so forth. 

Learn extra: Who administers and gives public providers in Chennai?

Nonetheless, with the presence of varied ranges of parliamentary and native ranges of administration, a number of residents are nonetheless confused about whom to strategy for what. For instance, Charu says that throughout the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, a number of residents complained to the MP candidates concerning native points similar to improper streetlights or poor street circumstances, which usually fall beneath the management of the native administration. 

GCC Departments chart
Screenshot of the “Departments” part within the GCC web site.

It’s subsequently useful to have an understanding of the totally different departments inside the GCC and their respective features.

Income Division

Underneath the supervision of a Income Officer, that is the division that’s liable for the gathering of Property Tax, Skilled Tax, Commercial Tax, Assortment of Parking charges and different taxes. That is additionally the division that ought to be approached for issues in regards to the change of identify of possession of properties.

Learn extra: A information to understanding the income and bills of Chennai Company

Works Division

Issues similar to city planning, which incorporates sanctioning and approval of constructing plans, points associated to electrical energy like upkeep of avenue lights, laying of cables, Strong Waste Administration, building of public infrastructure and issues regarding stormwater drains all fall beneath the Works Division. Every of those points even have an assigned Superintending Engineer who’s a specialist in that individual area.

Well being Division

Underneath the supervision of a Metropolis Well being/Medical officer, that is the division that appears after the administration of dispensaries, public well being, sanitation, prevention of meals adulteration, subject of beginning & dying certificates and so forth.

Schooling Division

This division takes care of the administration of faculties — from elementary to larger secondary ranges, group schools and nutritious meals centres. It’s headed by an Schooling Officer. 

Within the presence of an elected council, there was a Standing Committee for every of those departments. These Standing Committees have been headed by a md elected by the councillors. These committees used to convene a gathering each month and move a decision which was despatched to the Council for approval.

The necessity for an elected council

In a system of native self authorities, individuals’s representatives, or within the case of a Municipal Company, the elected councillors act as a hyperlink between the residents of a specific ward and the Company officers. So the responsibility of the councillor is to deal with the problems of the residents residing in his ward on the Company council or take it to the required official and get it sorted. 

Nonetheless, within the case of Chennai, the place there has not been an elected council, the residents have needed to instantly strategy the company officers to search out options for varied issues of their locality. This type of a system, in keeping with citizen activists, lacks accountability, because the authorities are usually not instantly elected by the individuals and therefore not answerable to them.

“For instance, if there is a matter with regard to street repairs taking place in a sure space and the residents wish to increase a criticism concerning it or carry it to the eye of the officers, they discover it troublesome to take action as a result of those that are coming to work are the contractors and never Company officers. They can not query the contractors, who’re solely finishing up directions as per senior officers. And the individuals additionally do not need the time and power to search out out who these officers are and go after them. That’s the place there’s a want for an elected consultant. The individuals can go and complain to their councillor, who will in flip take the difficulty to the respective officers,” says Charu.

Learn extra: With no elected councillors in workplace, how will Chennai tackle the monsoon?

One other subject is with regard to the transparency of functioning. Residents typically come to find out about big quantities of funds allotted for varied initiatives like pavements and roads of their wards by the media, although they could even have a extra urgent and pressing requirement for one thing else. 

For instance, the residents of a locality may urgently want a website for decentralised strong waste processing or they could want the street to be relaid, however they might get up one positive morning to search out the cash being spent on pointless or extraneous initiatives similar to portray of partitions, altering of identify boards and many others.

“There isn’t a clear system to search out out concerning the funds of the wards and the way it’s getting used. There isn’t a participatory budgeting,” says Charu, who additionally provides {that a} individuals’s consultant won’t make every little thing excellent however no less than there could be a system to carry the representatives accountable and query them after they come again to the individuals asking for votes. 

The identical ideas have been reiterated by Radhakrishnan, an activist with Arappor Iyakkam. “In terms of varied civic points, we have now to strategy the Assistant Engineers in command of our ward. However they might not have the ability to tackle our considerations since they’ve a number of operational duties to take care of. But when we are able to inform the councillor, he/she might put strain on the company officers to make sure that the citizen’s considerations are sorted,” says Radhakrishnan.

‘Completely alright with out an elected council’

Whereas many have raised their considerations about not having an elected native physique, some residents have acknowledged that they discover it simpler to get their grievances heard by the Company officers. “Getting the councillors to unravel an issue is unimaginable. With out their interference now, we’re capable of instantly attain out to the officers and tackle our points,” says VS  Jayaraman, president of the T Nagar Residents Welfare Affiliation.

Jayaraman says that the system of native self authorities is ideally effectively suited in a democracy however for that he additionally provides that, “for that, the Councillors also needs to make sure that they do their job effectively, seek the advice of residents usually, discover out the issues they face and tackle it within the council, which most of them fail to do.”

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