Chennai: Smart city funds diverted for 2009 works

Deccan Chronicle.  | c s kotteswaran

Nation, Current Affairs

Engineers plan to spend Rs 33 crore on installing rooftop solar panels in non-corporation buildings.

The much-hyped Smart City projects from the centre is turning out to be a farce in Tamil Nadu, with the state, local body officials diverting the funds for the pending civic works dating back to 2009.

Chennai: The much-hyped Smart City projects from the centre is turning out to be a farce in Tamil Nadu, with the state, local body officials diverting the funds for the pending civic works dating back to 2009. State officials are now on a spree diverting smart city funds for regular works and christen the projects as smart roads, smart drains and smart lights.

For instance, in Chennai, the former mayors tabled the annual budgets allocating funds for rooftop solar panels for all corporation buildings, but this half completed project is now thriving with the engineers happily diverting the smart city funds. Left with the adequate corpus, the senior engineers are also looking out for non-corporation buildings like ration shops, police booths and other government buildings to install rooftop panels.

A decision was recently taken by the corporation engineers and a few junior engineers during their interaction with DC revealed that the seniors are keen on installing rooftop solar panels in buildings that do not have staircases and some buildings are really old, admitted Ripon Building insiders. In 2013, the Union ministry of renewable energy promised `9.16 crore to support green energy and thereby install rooftop panels, but there is no clarity on this project and rooftop panels were installed in the corporation buildings attached to four zones of the total 15 zones, sources added. “The engineers are in a hurry they want around 1,400 buildings in Chennai to be installed with solar panels and spend Rs  33 crore using smart city funds, but who is to maintain these structures, the provision of solar panel for a small Anganwadi structures that consumes less than 100 units of power per month are all issues, exposing the poor planning and the nexus to benefit contractors”, said informed official sources with Chennai corporation sharing the recent papers submitted by private firms expressing interest.

 When contacted, a city corporation engineer who is also the implementing officer of the project, said, “the decisions on the budget are taken up by the local body ministry at the state level. I cannot comment on this as only the state officials can respond over budget matter”, the engineer quipped directing to contact the state minister's office. Efforts to reach out to local administration minister S.P. Velumani proved futile. According to highly placed state official sources, “TN local bodies are under a severe financial crunch and they are diverting the central funds for basic works like road relaying and development of canals. The recent tenders called by the Tuticorin corporation on January 19 talks about smart roads for Tuticorin smart city, but this is just another road relaying tender work. The same corporation on Friday invited tenders to develop Buckle Canal under the smart city project. Usually, the canal works are carried by PWD or the local civic authorities under their capital funds.” It may be noted that the minister Velumani last month called on the union government ministers and officials seeking a relaxation of rules for TN smart city projects.

“Tamil Nadu solar energy policy 2012 targeted to achieve a 2,000 MW solar power by 2015, but who stopped authorities back then and now why solar panels had to be installed under smart city funds”, asked former Chennai Mayor M. Subramanian. The Chennai Corporation is just doing the regular job, but they use the banner of a smart city. What new smart projects as the state recorded in the recent three years, nothing. The state has already delayed the metro rail project and the restoration of historical buildings like Victoria public hall and Ripon Buildings. Both the Centre and the state are clueless about this smart city concept and till now there are no new innovations or new schemes under the concept, he alleged.