Achieve by Honesty
In the year 2003, Govt sanctioned the proposal for the construction of four overhead tanks at a cost of Rs.137 lakhs. The council resolution was passed on 24-08-2003. The TWAD board engineers selected the sites for the tanks. Three tanks at Kattukudalur Road, Vayalur and Budhamur were nearing completion. For the fourth tank the site at Alichikkudi road which was already in the possession of the municipality as cattle shed was selected with a view to benefit the people in the bazaar street. In January 2005 foundation ceremony was conducted. When, following this, foundation digging work was started some trouble makers objected to the construction of the OHT at that location without any valid reason. But majority of the councilors were firm that the tank should be constructed only in the proposed place. The JD of municipal administration had planned to visit the site in question. The municipal commissioner informed him that an alternative location had been selected which was against the council resolution. Obviously he had acted at the behest of some mischievous elements. The TWAD board was informed of the decision. The chairman asked for an enquiry for the delay in the completion of the above work. Where upon the work was pushed through and completed and brought to beneficial use. Even though the scheme was subjected to small hiccups because of the blocks put up by certain evil elements, the ultimate victory was on the side of honesty.
There were a number of residential extensions in Virudhachalam town. People were continuously representing and indulging in dharna to provide basic amenities to these areas. The stock reply by the elected representatives and officials was that these areas were not approved and therefore were not eligible for development work. Dr.Valluvan took up the issue .He found out that the people in these areas were included in the voters’ list. Dr.Valluvan felt that this was quite ironical. He announced to go on a hunger strike on 13-7-2000 in front of the tahsildar’s office. He argued that when these people have not got the right to live why should they be given the right to vote? There was a meeting with the tahsildar, municipal chairman, residents’ associations, inspector of police and municipal councilors. It was decided that orders regarding approval of house sites would be issued and communicated within 45 days. Having achieved his goal Dr.Valluvan called off the fast. By this special effort of Dr.Valluvan people in unapproved layouts became conscious of the necessity for approval of house sites. Dr.Valluvan arranged for discussions to explain the procedure for approval through the municipal staff.
Municipal council resolution No.1144 of 19-09-2003, provided for the introduction of e-governance in full, in running the affairs of the municipality with complete transparency for the benefit of the public. This was decided on Dr.Valluvan’s initiative and enthusiasm.
Even though it was proposed to introduce on line service from 2-10-2003, nothing has been done so far after a lapse of so many years. Dr.Valluvan sought to know the stage of the matter through RTI Act. With poor response, he had to go on appeal to the State Information commission. The Commission directed the Commissioner of Municipal Administration to furnish the correct information, fixing a dead line. It was revealed that out of 21 items, action was taken only on 10 items. After Dr.Valluvan’s enquiry through the RTI Act, it was learnt that action has been taken on 19 more items, which included, property tax, professional tax, and water charges.
This was a tremendous success for Dr.Valluvan’s persistant efforts using the provisions of the RTI Act.
Solid waste management, involves separating wastes into perishable and non perishable types and using perishable waste for processing into manure and the nonperishable to be recycled for further suitable use.
The council resolution No.1446 dated 26-06-2005 provided for the purchase of certain vehicles, equipment and baskets for the implementation of solid waste management.
As per the information from the Commissioner of municipal administration an amount of Rs.148.98 lakhs was given principle clearance, but the wok was not done obviously because the forces inimical to Dr,Valluvan were against Dr,Valluvan. cornering the credit for the project.
Dr.Valluvan sought to know the stage of execution of the above project from the PIO of the commissionerate of municipal administration. As the information given was incomplete, Dr.Valluvan appealed to the state commission. After enquiry, the commission ordered to provide the information within 15 days. This prompted the municipality to immediately go in for the purchase of the vehicles and equipment and put the project track.
Even now people, little know that the resolution was passed during the chairmanship of Dr.Valluvan, who also got it executed by resorting to the use of the RTI Act-2005. Nevertheless Dr.Valluvan has the satisfaction that he has been able to be of some service to the people of the town.
Dr. Valluvan resorted to street corner meetings to create awareness among the people against corruption and bribery. He also undertook ‘tax retrieval’ crusades in order to bring to light as to how people’s hard earned money collected as taxes was not being put to proper use by corruptive elements.
Dr. Valluvan unearthed quite a number of irregularities committed in the municipality, and reported to the vigilance directorate. He made repeated pleas to the authorities to post a honest and hard working commissioner for the municipality. He went on a hunger strike calling for District Collector’s intervention.
A number of council resolutions were not carried out. Dr. Valluvan collected a token contribution of Re. one each from the public and filed a case in the high court seeking direction to carry out the resolutions. He also sat on a hunger strike demanding more autonomous powers for the municipalities.
On 28-11-2003 Dr.Valluvan filed a writ appeal in
the Madras High Court of 2004 praying for issue of
directions to the authorities for implementing the council
resolutions numbering more than 100, relating to water supply and
electrification works which were not taken up in spite of his
knocking at all doors. He explained in detail, how due to this
lapse, Govt and the municipality were made to suffer revenue loss
running into lakhs of rupees. The Secretary to Govt MAWS dept, the
commissioner of municipal administration, the RDMA Chengleput, the
commissioner Virudhachalam municipality were all cited as
respondents in the case. He printed pamphlets listing some of the
works not taken up and sought the cooperation of the people. He
requested the people to be part of the fight by contributing Re.1/-
each as donation for the case expenses.
In Virudhachalam town, the Palakkarai zone is notorious for frequent road accidents, with loss of human lives. There are a number of encroachments by traders who have put up shops. Because of the market in the temple lands near Palakkarai, there are heavy moving crowds. The problem is compounded by the haphazard parking of vehicles. This called for immediate remedial action.
In a meeting held at Cuddalore on 27-1-2001 under the chairmanship of the Collector it was decided to block the roadside entry to the market by putting up a wall, and providing a cycle stand after removing the encroachments. For some reason the follow up action was delayed. This was pointed out with adverse comments in the newspapers like ‘Dinamalar’. With Collector’s orders the work was taken up on 8-3-2002. By about 2-00PM, removal of encroachments, construction of wall, putting up wire fence etc were all taken up smultaneouslyin the presence of the RDO, DSP, Dr.Valluvan, about 15 municipal councilors, the municipal commissioner, and over hundred municipal staff and more than 100 policemen. The traders objected to the construction of the wall and wanted entry points in three places. The talks continued till late in the night. Dr.Valluvan stood to his stand and stating that the people’s welfare was paramount he stoutly refused to provide any pathway in the wall. The work was finally resumed at 11-45 PM. and was completed by 4 AM. About 65 persons who had protested to the wall construction were taken in to custody. Dr.Valluvan stayed at the site throughout the night until the work was completed.
There were more interesting things to follow in this episode.
The temple management filed a writ in the High Court for removal of the wall. The court refused to comply. The petitioners went on appeal. On the other side the traders resorted to all means to get the wall demolished. 26 councilors asked the Chairman, Dr. Valluvan to convene a council meeting immediately to discuss the issue of removing the wall. As the matter was in court Dr.Valluvan refused to convene the meeting. On some advice that the meeting could be convened without the Chairman the councilors conducted the council meeting. This meeting had the support of the municipal commissioner which is unfortunate and deplorable. The meeting resolved to remove the wall and provide access to the market. The temple administration produced a copy of this resolution in the high court. Of the two respondents viz the Chairman and the municipal commissioner only the chairman objected to the resolution on the ground that it was passed without the chairman. The court directed the District collector to enquire the matter. The Collector summoned the Municipal chairman, the municipal commissioner, and the temple representative for an oral enquiry.
It became apparent to Dr.Valluvan that the municipal commissioner and some of the councilors had been purchased by the other side and that he had to wage a lone fight. He, however, was certain that justice and the people were on his side and he was determined to carry the fight to the end. He collected as many documentary evidences as possible and produced before the Collector. In the period from 1993 to 2002 there were 62 accidents at this location and as many as 12 deaths where as in the one year since the construction of the wall there was not a single accident. Besides the Tamilnadu municipalities Act expressly required that the municipality should abstain from doing anything detrimental to human life. The Police also vouchsafed to the fact of frequent accidents at the site in question. Where upon the district collector Thiru Gagandeep Singh Bedi ruled that the resolution of the council passed in the absence of the Chairman was not tenable and cancelled it.
It is a matter of grave concern that in a democracy elected people’s representatives and an employee of the state, drawing salary from people’s tax revenue, could collude with vested private interests and act against the interest of the Govt. and more so against the very people whom they are bound to serve. That they are able to go scot free without any action being taken against them by the Govt is another matter for debate, to ensure the triumph of people’s will in a democracy. All credit to Dr.Valluvan for his relentless and fearless fight against injustice. The people of Virudhachalam owe him aplenty for this effort alone.
A complaint was made by a councilor that in Periyar nagar area
there were many unauthorized water supply house connections. On
verification this was found to be true and as many as 114 such
connections were identified which included two councilors’
residences also. Two engineers were suspended for this irregularity
and one plumber’s license was cancelled.
Immediate disconnection on detecting the irregularity
Imposing a penalty of Rs.5000/-
Obtaining fresh application for
Disconnecting the supply immediately on detection
Forfeiting the pump motor
Imposing a penalty of s.7000/-
Examine restoration of connection
Fitting flow control valve
The G.O. delegated powers to the Director of municipal administration and the Director of Town panchayats to take appropriate action and issue suitable orders. The G.O. was recorded in the municipal records by suitable council resolutions. But no action was taken as per the G.O. Dr.Valluvan took up the issue with the directorate of vigilance and anticorruption.
Similarly DrValluvan wanted to put an end to the prevailing corruption in the sanction of new water supply connections. He printed and distributed notice to the public appealing to them not to pay any bribe money for the HSC and if any one made a demand, to report the matter to the DSP vigilance whose address and telephone number were also given. Thus the practice of collecting heavy amount as bribe by the municipal staff for sanctioning water supply connection was put an end to.
A complaint was received from one Ravichandran of Periyar nagar (South) that he had paid Rs.2000/- to the Junior Assistant Ammasi of the municipal office and he did not get the receipt nor the service connection. After detailed enquiry Ammasi was suspended. Another person from Vayalur who tried to give unauthorised connection was reported to the police.
In the past, no action was taken for planning water supply schemes with a long term perspective. Dr.Valluvan initiated schemes with 15 years projection and proposed construction of 4 OHTs to cater to a future population of 95000. He also improved the efficiency of distribution by increasing the number of fillings of the OHTs by adding another pump motor. By this measure the construction of an additional OHT was avoided resulting in considerable savings in the cost of construction and maintenance.
The municipality passed resolution no. 714 for taking action in respect of unauthorized connections. But no action was taken by the municipal commissioner, as he was not bothered to carry out any public welfare measure. Dr Valluvan wrote to the district collector informing of his intention to keep the non performing commissioner locked up in his room. All this go to expose the fact that the local bodies have no powers to take any kind of action against delinquent officials of the municipality be it the commissioner or even a lowly placed office assistant. It required the guts and determination of a honest and service minded Chairman to come down and fight with the support of the people to set the administration of the municipality in order. As a result the people got awakened and came to know of their rights and responsibilities. Corruption was eradicated to a very great extent in water supply and in other sectors also. In this scenario, the nefarious activities of corrupt officials were effectively curbed.
Property tax is the
back bone of a municipality. People are not aware that this is the
major source of revenue. Staff in the municipalities who are
responsible for the fixation and collection of property tax adopt
all dubious means to make a few fast bucks for themselves rather
than care for the municipality’s coffers. Innocent public are also
in complete dark about how to approach and who to contact when they
have matters to be got done in the government offices. Procedures
are kept so secretive and murky. Delays are purposely made with the
sole intention of harassing and keeping the public at bay ultimately
driving them to the inevitable point of paying speed money better
known as bribe. Dr.Valluvan put an end to this practice. He caused
the adoption of Patna model for the fixing and collection of
property tax. This procedure introduced by one Mr.S.K.Singh and
internationally acclaimed required the classification of the
municipal area into different categories and fixing a standard rate
of tax per square foot of built up area.In Virudhachalam
municipality the following rates were prescribed.
B zone Rs.0.55 /sft
C Zone rs.0.40 /sft
Even though this system was in vogue from October 1998, no effort was taken to give effect to it and the people were kept in the dark. Dr.Valluvan took the initiative to educate the people and resorted to a door to door campaign with the help of the members of the Anticorruption Movement and various Residents’ welfare Associations. He made the people understand that at the expense of both the people and the Govt, some intermediary people were getting illegally benefited by improper assessment of property tax. It was found that more than 1000 buildings were not assessed for property tax, resulting in a loss of Rs 5 lakhs per year for the municipality. The plain reason that could be deduced is that the staff in charge stalled of the regular collection of property tax but lured the people to pay them instead. There were also instances of wrong assessment with ulterior motive as in the case of a doctor’s house in Krishnan nagar for which the amount of tax communicated was exorbitant and disproportionate. All these irregularities were eliminated and correct taxing ensured which prompted the people to voluntarily come forward to pay the tax, thus enhancing the revenue for the municipality. Dr.Valluvan made a comparison of the number of buildings given electrical service connection by the EB and the number of buildings tax assessed by the municipality. This revealed that as many as 5000 buildings remained untaxed. The reason is not far to seek.
In the past the public services of the municipality were made so cumbersome that people dreaded to approach it for any service. Matters like issue of birth and death certificates, approval for building plans, name change, new water supply service connections all carried a price by way of bribe at various levels. Dr.Valluvan utilized the local private TV net work to inform the people the procedures involved and the time limit for issue of such certificates making it clear that NO bribe money need to be paid and in case any one demanded it should be reported. He also telecast the information on the assessment and collection of property tax. All this closed the doors for the bribe mongers. They tried to stop the telecast by falsely using the name of a minister, but by then people had become fully aware and were in no mood to listen. These were the clear indicators of the enormous success of the honest efforts taken by Dr Valluvan. The following is a case in point.
One Thiru Ramasami residing in Tashkant nagar 3rd street, had paid Rs.1360/- to a municipal bill collector. For three months he did not give the receipt, and on 17-10-2003 he gave a receipt for Rs.351 only, which again was three days post dated. Thiru Ramasami reported this to Dr.Valluvan the next day.Dr.Valluvan made a complaint to the police which was not aced upon. He approached the Madras High Court with whose orders the bill collector was placed under suspension.
The municipal commissioner for his part did not cooperate with the Chairman. He did not help to convene the tax appeal committee meting.
Achieve By Honesty : Dr.M.Valluvan No. 88 mariyamman kovil street Vriddhachalam - 606 001 - Email : drmvalluvan@ yahoo.com