Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXIX No. 20 , February 1-15, 2020

The Lord Mayor of Madras

- by Sriram V

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T.V. Antony as Special Officer of the Madras Corporation interacting with slum dwellers in the 1970s.

One of the significant positions among many that T.V. Antony held was that of Special Officer in charge of the Madras Corporation. It came to him in a dramatic fashion when following the Muster Roll Scandal, the Corporation Council was suspended, several officers were dismissed and the administration of the city was taken over directly by the State Government.

A few years ago I was working on a book on the Corporation of Chennai, which never saw the light of day. But during the course of the research I met TV Antony and enjoyed the interactions with him. “I was merrily coasting along in the IAS when the then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi called me to his chamber and declared that I was the Lord Mayor of Madras,” he remembered with amusement.

In 1973, the Corporation was superseded by Government due to what became called the “Muster Roll Scandal”. This happened following disclosures of serious financial and administrative irregularities and misappropriation of large sums of civic funds, in which members of the Council, former Mayors and officials were all involved. Many of them were charge sheeted and convictions followed. As a senior IAS officer TV Antony, was appointed as Special Officer to exercise the functions of the Council, the Mayor and the Standing Committees (except the Taxation Appeals Committee) – in effect he became the Corporation itself. The Executive Officer (Commissioner) continued to function.
The Administration Report of the following years (1973-74) records the then Commissioner V.Karuppan’s remarks, “A significant fact of this year is that the oldest Corporation of the Country was superseded from December 1, 1973 on the grounds that the council, the Civic body failed to safeguard the interest of public money and came under the Administrative Control of the Special Officer who replaced the Mayor, Standing Committee and Council…….. His correctional methods brought out a good deal of discipline in the rank and file of the staff and the financial control was very effective”. A High-level Committee instituted in 1977 sought to further improve efficiency and reform the structure of the Madras Corporation.

In the event Antony’s record as Special Officer was to lead to a series of successor officers under whom the Corporation was administered till 1996. It then got an elected body but that too is now a matter of the past. The city is once again administered by bureaucrats.

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