Chennai Corporation likely to be trifurcated


-Does it mean the end for a historic entity?


Recent pronouncements from the Government of Tamil Nadu appear to indicate that there is a move afoot to divide the city’s corporation into three separate entities. The reason given is that the city has become too large for being managed by one body and so each region will receive individual attention if the proposed division takes place. The division envisages a North Chennai corporation headquartered probably in Ambattur and a South Chennai corporation likely to be based in Tambaram. The rest of the city will no doubt fall under what is Chennai Corporation, formerly the Corporation of Madras. The idea has apparently come out of a study by a special committee set up by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and headed by its Vice-Chairman. The move, government sources indicate, will mean more focus on the IT Sector which is rapidly expanding in the southern part of the city. The government, it is learnt, is mulling over the idea and is likely to implement it before the next local body elections which fall due in 2011.


The population of the city has also gone up from five lakh in 1921 to approximately 42 lakh now, the Corporation website said. Similarly, the area has increased from 27.6 sq miles in 1921 to 174 sq km now, it said. This is the reason for the above proposal which also finds mention on the web site. Worldwide, cities have grown and population has increased. Large metropolises such as New York and London have single civic bodies that cover the entire city limits. The secret to their success has been the increase in representation in the city’s councils when areas and populations have increased. A single body which functions effectively is far better when it comes to taking decisions and more importantly, implementation. Chennai has witnessed severe problems in coordination when it comes to multiple agencies being involved in civic projects. The most recent example is the Adyar Riverfront Development which as has been reported in these columns has had many ideas and plans mooted by several authorities the net result of which has been no action. The presence of three city corporations where there was one will only result in more confusion and conflicts.


There is also likely to be a bias towards the Corporation in the South. Even without a distinct identity this area today receives far more attention and funds mainly because it is the showcase of the city. The rest of the city has either been forgotten or left to lie as it was. With an independent corporation in the south it is likely that all development will take place there. With more sunrise industries located in that area, funds generation for development will also be easier and depressed areas such as the north will be neglected. A common entity would ensure an even spread of funds.


The historicity of Chennai Corporation also needs to be taken into account. It is the first in Asia having grown out of early Company administration of Fort and Town. The Charter for the Corporation was issued on December 30th, 1687 and came into force on September 29th, 1688. The institution’s Ripon Building is a landmark in the city and many leading personalities of the city have held the office of Mayor. Cities all across the world take pride in their civic identity and Chennai ought to do so as well.


A better solution would be to create upgrade Tambaram to the status of a municipal corporation and give it an independent identity and not carve areas out of Chennai and allot them to it. A similar solution for areas north of George Town and Royapuram may not be a bad idea.