Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVII No. 9, August 16-31, 2017
The Corporation of Greater Chennai falls back on certain repeat activities whenever it finds time hanging heavy on its hands. One is the beautification of the Marina and the other is the renaming of roads that commemorate the colonial masters. The latest to suffer from this are Montieth and Fraser’s Bridge Roads, which are to now become Red Cross and Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission Roads respectively.
William Montieth entered the Madras Engineers in 1809, became Lt Col in 1826 and Lt Gen in 1854. Fraser’s Bridge gets its name from John Fraser who designed the municipal waterworks. Not undistinguished names certainly, one working for the army and the other ensuring water supply. Both noble professions. And certainly, these men can at best be local heroes, which means once their names are removed, they stand forgotten. This is not likely with the Red Cross and the TNPSC, both of which are very well known institutions that really do not need commemoration by way of street names.
There is also the question of tampering with local history. A street name that has been around for two hundred years lends a certain gravitas and character to a place. A colonial name in Egmore or George Town speaks of the area’s colonial history. What imagery does naming after the Red Cross or TNPSC evoke? Generations in future may just assume that these streets had no history before these two institutions came to occupy them.
The next question: What happens when TNPSC and Red Cross move out of these roads? Will the new locations be named after them too? Will that not cause problems of multiple roads having the same name?
As it is, Chennai suffers from having the same political heroes lending their names to road after road, colony after colony, and place after place. If these are new creations and those who occupy them genuinely want these names nobody can object. But what is the purpose in renaming existing roads? Why cannot newer areas of the city sport these names?
The timing and the process followed in the present name change too are not correct. An elected council is not yet in place. The polls are imminent. A name change is to be ratified by the Corporation council and then passed on to the Legislative Assembly which, too, has to approve it. In the present instance, the Special Officer has simply arrogated to himself to change the name. Officialdom may quote precedent from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s when the Special Officer in charge of the Corporation authorised changes in name. But there was no Corporation council functioning then, the civic body having been suspended following the muster roll scandal. That example does not hold good now.
Lastly, do the residents of the streets thus renamed not have any say in the matter? Both Montieth and Fraser’s Bridge roads have a number of residents other than the Red Cross and TNPSC. Have they been consulted? It does not appear to be so.
It is high time our civic body begins focusing on matters beyond the cosmetic. It could clean up Fraser’s Bridge Road, or present a filthy stretch. It is also time for it to bury this renaming activity for good. No earthly purpose is served by such activities. Changing Madras to Chennai achieved nothing beyond some short-lived parochial posturing. The city has not improved in any way since. Changing street names is going to mean even less. It is only the local resident who will have to go through the pain of notifying banks, couriers and others of a change in address details.
The recent flurry of announcements of schemes being contemplated by the Tamil Nadu government should gladden the hearts of Chennai residents. When completed, and if done so on time, these schemes should make a noticeable difference to the quality of life in greater Chennai. Closer study of the information provided on the projects and our experience of the track record of public agencies in project execution suggest that celebration must wait till we feel assured, by actual prompt follow-up action, that transformation of announcements into tangible facilities and services is going to be different this time.
The most important of these schemes is the Rs. 1,442 crore proposal to shut down the vast dump yards in Kodungaiyur and Perungudi. The scheme envisages stoppage of further dumping, remediation of the existing accumulated dump over time, revamping the present conservancy process and setting up two plants to convert waste to energy, thereby absorbing, we presume, the current incoming waste as well as gradual conversion of the accumulated heap. It is expected that in a period of 15 months the waste heaps would be fully degraded, biologically and chemically.
More excerpts from a talk given by N.L. Rajah, Senior Advocate, at a function organised by the Madras Bar Association on 12.7.17 to “celebrate the 125th anniversary of this epic building”.
(Continued from last fortnight)
Of the four reasons that provide justification for celebrating this building, the third is that it is an institution where many important and sensational cases have been decided. The list is too long for me to do justice to them, but I will highlight a few here.
V.O. Chidambaram was a member of our bar and a member of the Madras Bar Association as he was a barrister. He was sentenced to 40 years rigorous imprisonment on charges of sedition. The charges against him were flimsy and evidence scant, but he had put the commercial interests of the British empire on the back foot by starting the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company. This annoyed the British no end and through Collector Winch they, quite successfully, managed to fabricate a case of sedition against him and have him convicted.
The Indian Review, a monthly periodical “devoted to the discussion of all topics of interest” was founded in 1900. Over the course of the next fifty years, it gained renown as one of India’s leading intellectual journals thanks in no small measure to the fact that its contributors included the best of names from across the legal, political and literary spectrums. That it was able to attract a stellar list was due to the tireless efforts of the founder, the well-known publisher and nationalist G.A. Natesan.
Born in 1879 in Kumbakonam, Natesan graduated with a B.A. degree from Presidency College. A keen debater and thinker on social issues, he was the Secretary of the College’s Literary Society. Advertising as “G.A. Natesan, Student, Presidency College” in his search for lecturers and chairpersons, he was instrumental in organising lectures by several eminent personalities of the time.
Despite being offered a job in Government Service, Natesan chose to train as a journalist and joined the offices of the Madras Times as an apprentice under Glyn Barlow, its longstanding editor. Having learnt the ropes of journalism, he quit the newspaper when it was time to be employed, as important positions,