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My first impressions of the Corporation of Chennai

February 25, 2013

On our third day with Transparent Chennai, we got to see the Corporation of Chennai – the local government office. It was really interesting for us to have a glance of how local policies work here, as well as to see such an old colonial building which was constructed in 1913.

It seems that Transparent Chennai is quite welcome there, as they can meet a lot of officials, sometimes without any appointment. We did not understand how this administration works, and unfortunately we did not understand any of the conversation in Tamil. However, with the explanations of Transparent Chennai’s team, we got to see how complicated it gets to work on issues of municipal governance.

For example, we got to know how working on public toilets is complicated, as there are several departments concerned with this issue: the Buildings department, the Electrical department, the agency for waste, but also the Chennai Metro Water agency which answers to the state government and not to the Chennai Corporation, which complicates things even more. If we understood well, it seems that coordination between the different departments and offices is not so good. So Transparent Chennai tries to improve communication and information sharing between the departments, to improve efficiency on the field. It was really interesting to me to see how even collecting one piece of information is so difficult in the labyrinths of Chennai city policies.

We also attended a meeting with the Public Relation Officer who explained (in Tamil ) where the Corporation of Chennai stands in term of public toilets and water distribution. It was strange for me to be in an office like that and wait for the explanations because in France, we would have got it by e-mail or internet; it is more complicated there to have an appointment with a public officer. It was also interesting to see so much paper everywhere, because in the French administration we are used to seeing only computers. I am very curious to understand how the Corporation of Chennai really functions day to day.

While we there we also got to see school children rehearsing for the Republic Day at the Corporation Office. It was really funny for us to see all these dances and army parade. The funniest thing was to see children disguised in Gandhi and Nehru in order to retrace India’s history!

Written by Judith Sebo, intern at Transparent Chennai