On September 4th, when civil rights and advocacy group Arappor Iyakkam Secretary Chandra Mohan parked his car at Marina Beach, the parking attendant initially gave him a token for Rs 20, which is the rate that you pay for parking your car for more than 6 hours.
It was only after a long argument that the attendant accepted and issued a receipt for the 5 rupee token. Infuriated by the experience, Chandra Mohan went on to file a complaint in the nearest police station and shared the entire experience in a Facebook post. His pledge now is to ensure that action is initiated against the authorities for cheating thousands of common citizens daily by overcharging them for parking.
It is not just one stray incident. According to a report in The Hindu, complaints of exorbitant parking charges have led the Greater Chennai Corporation to look for new operators for managing 186 parking lots, which include 93 lots that are already in operation. Currently TEXCO, the Tamil Nadu Ex-Servicemen’s Corporation Ltd, manages these 93 parking lots.
There have been reports of many attendants at these parking lots collecting fees in excess of what has been laid down by the government. Some of the personnel manning these lots have been found to be collecting Rs 20 per hour whereas the rates are as follows:
Parking fee rates
Source: Greater Chennai Corporation
Who collects the parking fees?
The increase in use of personalized modes of transport including two wheelers and four-wheelers have caused the demand for parking facility to rise manifold in the city of Chennai. Parking deserves immediate attention and calls for the formulation of a comprehensive policy which is in keeping with the larger goals of development that the city has set for itself. In the absence of such a policy and given the acute shortage of parking space, the situation leads to an escalation of the woes of city drivers. This circumstance is being thoroughly exploited by the parking space regulators.
In line with the dictates of the constitution and the principle of decentralization, Tamil Nadu had delegated powers to the Municipal Corporation for determination of parking spaces, for both on-street and off-street parking.
As per the provisions of the Chennai City Municipal Corporation Act 1919, the Chennai Corporation has regularly enforced and promulgated various notifications for identifying parking spaces, managing parking and building parking infrastructure.
The Corporation’s pay-and-park lots are administered through tickets by appointing attendees. Tamil Nadu Ex-Servicemen’s Corporation Limited (TEXCO), a state owned Corporation with the aim of providing necessary assistance for rehabilitation of Ex-servicemen belonging to Tamil Nadu, has been given the contract to manage 93 slots on a 70:30 percent sharing basis as per agreement.
According to the contract, TEXCO can appoint parking attendants, publish tickets/receipts and manage parking slots, earning 30 percent of the amount collected. The remaining 70 percent of revenue proceeds is to be shared with the Corporation every month.
On interviewing some parking lot attendants and persons concerned with TEXCO, Citizen Matters found that the attendants were given a target amount of Rs 500 on an average to be collected as parking fees everyday and whatever is in excess is kept by them as incentive.
According to a 2011 report from Chennai-based NGO City Connect, pay and park slots are not managed properly and the attendants charge illegally or do not issue parking receipts to customers who have parked their car. Considering the total space provided for parking and the land value in these areas, the expected return for the Corporation of Chennai turns out to be far less than actual.
For example, the report draws attention to a study on the parking slots conducted by the Corporation of Chennai, according to which the new parking slots had the potential to earn Rs.3.71 crore for the Corporation while TEXCO‘s annual collection reportedly stood at Rs.2.01 crore. This mismatch needs to be understood and suitable steps taken to improve the situation.
A more recent report by The Times of India mentions that the Corporation has been unable to find any new bidders for the parking fee collection contract so that TEXCO will continue to manage the slots. Revenue department officials in the Corporation say that all complaints related to exorbitant fee collection should be addressed to the TEXCO.
TEXCO officials when contacted said that they have instructed the attendants to charge as per rules. While they did not comment specifically on the FIR filed by Arappor, they did say that if any specific complaint is received they would definitely take action. The attendants were appointed only on temporary contract basis.
Besides, to avoid the menace of overcharging, they are now introducing a digitised tab-based method of collection; one such parking slot is already operational in T Nagar.
Meanwhile, as Chandra Mohan exhorts in his post, common citizens should also educate and empower themselves and spread the information so that it reaches those in power as well as all those who have been paying excessive parking fees, ignorant of the official charges to be rightfully levied.