Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol XXIX No. 7, July 16-31, 2019
It is now around five years since the Central Government announced its Smart City project, under the auspices of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. The mission, aimed at 100 cities of India, was meant to make them function better under various heads such as Mobility, Energy, Water, Technology and Environment. It was expected that these initiatives would improve the quality of life, get people to participate in governance, bring about transparency in the functioning of those in authority and promote public consultation. It is a moot point as to whether any of this has been achieved.
The Short and Snappy column in MM, (June 1st (The Isthmus of T’Nagar) featured a write up on the inordinate expansion of footpaths at the expense of carriageway at Sir Theagaroya Road. The subsequent week, a prominent business daily of the city carried a photograph of the same thoroughfare that showed cars parked on the broad sidewalk. The caption below asked if Chennai was really ready for such smart city solutions. The implied message was that it was not. We would readily agree with that sentiment.
A year back, we had the much-publicised launch of a bike-sharing initiative, promoted by a worldwide company. Chennai was one of seven Indian cities where this was taken up. The operations were wound up within six months. It was rumoured that continued theft of bicycles hit the company hard. This year the Corporation of Chennai has reintroduced the same scheme, under its auspices, thereby becoming the first civic body in the country to promote cycling in a big way. It is still early days to comment on how the plan has fared but we need to only look at our roads to wonder if cycling safely is at all feasible.
Our Then is a picture of Sir R.K. Shanmukham Chetty (from the RKS Commemoration Volume, 1952) first Union Finance Minister of India getting ready to present the budget. Our Now, is of Nirmala Seetharaman, the present Finance Minister arriving in Parliament to present the latest budget (from The Hindu). Both are people with Madras connects. We have, of course, had several men of Madras who have served as Union Finance Ministers – T.T. Krishnamachari, R. Venkataraman and P. Chidambaram. We can stretch a little and include C.D. Deshmukh as well, for after all, did he not marry ‘our very own’ Durgabai?
Leaving aside the debate on the political and constitutional implications of the One Nation One Poll idea, synchronising 32 State assembly elections with that of the Lok Sabha in 2024, in such a manner that the combined cycle is kept rolling in the future, is an interesting exercise in itself. It calls for the transition from the current situation of multiple elections occurring at different times to be smooth, and have a minimal impact on the duration of office conferred on the State governments by the electorate.
The history of most of the famous hospitals of the city that follow the allopathic discipline is well documented. But what of the institutions that provided healthcare the Indian way through the three principal streams of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani? Not much is known about these and their histories can only be reconstructed through scattered references. One among such hospitals was the Sri Kanyaka Parameswari Devasthana Dharma Ayurveda Vaidyashala. It functioned in the first decades of the 20th century and faded away thereafter, though it did leave behind some very famous successor institutions in its wake.
It was, as the name suggests, a charitable Ayurvedic hospital, more of dispensary, attached to the Sri Kanyaka Parameswari Devasthanam (SKPD) located in the Kothwal Chawadi area of George Town. As per the reminiscences of Dr. K.N. Kesari, the well-known Ayurvedic practitioner of later years, this was begun by the priests of the temple together with Paluri Rajan Chetty, a prominent businessman of the Arya Vaisya community.