Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXX No. 8, August 16-31, 2020
You have to hand it to our city’s Corporation. It is forever in the process of launching some mega scheme or the other. The last few years saw much noise over the Smart City initiatives and you had consultants literally popping out of every second building in the city. One of the most visible outcomes of this was a very wide footpath on Sir Theyagaroya Road in T. Nagar, which narrowed the space for vehicles considerably. Since then not much has been heard, presumably because attention has been diverted owing to the pandemic. But that has not deterred our civic body, which is now busying itself with the Mega Streets project.
This is to make sure that our roadways and streets are obstruction free for a seamless commute by pedestrians, non-motorised vehicles and of course cars, buses, autos and two-wheelers. On the anvil is a plan to invite consultant architects to submit proposals on an area-wise basis. Phase 1 will focus on 110 km of roads in Tondiarpet, Anna Nagar, Velachery, Nungambakkam, Adyar and Mylapore. As part of this grand scheme, Mylapore has been taken up as pilot and the project has been awarded to an architectural firm in Ahmedabad.
While this is in no way a comment on the abilities of the selected entity and we are sure due process has been followed by the civic body, it does come as a surprise that no local firm was considered suitable for executing a project in an area that is viewed as a cultural heartland by many residents of Chennai. Many local architects have over the years developed expertise and knowledge as far as Mylapore is concerned and it is a wonder that the award had to go to someone in Ahmedabad. Handling a space like Mylapore demands being aware of the local idiom and culture and this may be hugely absent when outstation architects are chosen.
A brief interaction with the team did not reveal anything out of the ordinary. There were the usual plans – to clear the space of hawkers, create broad footpaths, parking spaces, repositioning of the hurdles people normally face while walking, and regulated shopping zones. Of course, it may still be early days and a plan that is satisfactory to all may eventually surface, for which much will depend on how much weight the local representatives of the architects carry. Will their voices be heard? And in what way is this initiative any different from the Smart City plan? If this project is indeed under the umbrella of that latter scheme, it did not appear so in the consultations that happened.
The consultation process also revealed the fundamental weakness in such discussions. While those called in were all of the same ilk – upper-class, English speaking and forever dreaming of an Acropolis like solution for Mylapore, none of those who eventually will have power to make or mar the project were visible. And in this we include the elected Member of the Legislative Assembly, officials of the civic body, local residents, the temple administrators, representatives of the shops and establishments in the area and above all, the hawkers. If these people do not get to see what is being proposed, to what effect then such consultations?
(Continued from last fortnight)
When the lockdown descended on the city in March, Raju* felt the economic pinch immediately. An auto driver, he suddenly found himself without any patronage. With savings quickly dissolving to meet living expenses, he faced an unprecedented situation – he didn’t have enough in the kitty to pay his childrens’ school fees. Raju isn’t alone; many working class parents are struggling through the same state of affairs.
In the passing last fortnight of N. Venkataramani, Vice Chairman of the Amalgamations Group, India and more importantly, Chennai and Tamil Nadu, lost a corporate chief who in his quiet way did considerable work to help the city and the State remain an industrial hub.
Born on December 9, 1939 at New Delhi as the fourth son of Sarada and R. Narayanaswami Iyer, a senior civil servant, Venkataramani graduated with a Maths (Hons) degree from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi before securing admission at the Imperial College, London, from where he qualified with an Engineering degree. The early 1960’s was when the TVS Group was getting into manufacturing and R. Ratnam, one of the senior members of the TVS family was in England recruiting engineering graduates for the automobile electricals company Lucas TVS. Venkataramani was among those selected and after training at Lucas Birmingham, came to Madras, where he joined the Sales Engineering department of the Indian company. In 1966, he married Sita, the youngest daughter of S. Anantharamakrishnan, founder of the Amalgamations Group. A few months later, he joined the conglomerate and returned to the UK, where he enrolled at the Imperial College for his master’s degree.
The old man in the Kamaraj khadi shirt and veshti, a fading namam on his forehead (with no air conditioning in the sweltering newsroom, the red mark lasted no more than a couple of hours), and wisps of grey hair making a token presence on his otherwise bald head, looked forbiddingly at me as I handed him my resume and tried to impress him with the sterling attributes I was offering the newspaper under his watch. ‘Sorry we have no openings,” Mr. C.P. Seshadri, the news editor, said quite firmly, dashing my hopes.
Even World War II couldn’t put a stop to sport altogether. Yes, international events obviously could not be held but the domestic cricket calendar for example in India, South Africa, Australia and West Indies was gone through and in fact Ceylon and India exchanged tours in 1940-41 and 1944-45. The coronavirus, however, is something else, says Partab Ramchand, explaining how it has impacted sport.