Talk of new capital of TN surfaces after Chennai floods

Lack of civic amenities makes some people to raise the issue of relocation

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Shivani Chaturvedi | January 5, 2016 | Chennai



Last month’s floods have revived the subject of relocation of administrative capital of Tamil Nadu from Chennai to somewhere in centre of the state.

Though some feel that the idea is outdated, the debate refuses to fade away. Why? The “Cultural Capital of South India” is failing to provide civic amenities to its inhabitants. The problems faced by the people of Chennai include drinking water shortage, garbage accumulation, sewage and drainage blocks, plus, overcrowding. Had the capital been more towards south or located in the centre of the state, these problems would not have become so acute, argues state’s former chief secretary P Sabanayagam.

The city is located in north-east corner of the state.  The distance of southern districts of Tamil Nadu is more than 500 miles from Chennai while Andhra is only 40 miles from Chennai. Logistically, the capital being in Chennai is not the best location, says Sabanayagam. In 1974 Sabanayagam had led a team for discussions with the Planning Commission in Delhi. He says that Chennai can continue to be the commercial hub whereas judiciary and administrative capital can be relocated.

A city-based expert points out that in Chennai drinking water is a major problem and that is why there are lakes. “Inflow of people in the city and occupying houses on water bodies is one of the main reasons that led to the recent floods. It is time that the government and the people should seriously consider to decongest the city.”

However, M G Devasahayam, a retired bureaucrat and an expert in urban development and governance, says that shifting of administrative headquarters is a meaningless activity and is not the solution to decongest the city. “The idea is invalid now. It is not the administrative headquarters that is attracting migrants now. Service industries, construction industry and other commercial activities are attracting people to Chennai.”

“I am not in favour of relocating capital. No state in the country has twin capital. The need of the hour is, establish regional administrative centres, and decentralise and distribute powers and authority. That is what good governance is,” Devasahayam suggests.

The demand for shifting the capital is not new. It began in 1983 when M G Ramachandran was the chief minister. He mooted the idea of shifting the capital to Tiruchirappalli district, right in the middle of the state, when Chennai city faced severe water shortage. But the idea could not be implemented.

On coming to power in 2001, J Jayalalithaa came up with the scheme of building the state secretariat on a sprawling 2,000 acre site near Mamallapuram off east coast.

Later, she announced that the city would come up in Thiruvidanthai and Thaiyur villages, about 40 km south of the city. In January 2003, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) had even signed an agreement with the Construction Industry Development Board of Malaysia for a feasibility study of the secretariat project. But, after the elections, the idea was abandoned.

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