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Vol. XXV No. 21, February 16-29, 2016

Archives: Vol. XXV No. 21, February 16-29, 2016


Heritage Watch

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Listed as being of Grade 2 a (significant historic, cultural and architectural merit) by the High Court of ­Madras, D’Angeli’s ­hotel was the site where Spencer’s ­began life as Durrant’s in 1863. The space was acquired by Giocomo D’Angeli and his hotel came up in 1908.

Our old (top) shows it in all its glory. Our not-so-new (above) is from the 1960s when it was still a hotel and after being Bosotto’s became the Airline’s Hotel, owned by the Indian Express Group. It then suffered several changes of hands and eventually wound up as a warren of shops of which Bata was the most famous. It was ­demolished two years ago and the site remains empty as of now. Our New was taken while the demolition was in progress.

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The civic body in overdrive

by The Editor

Suddenly it would seem, our city’s Corporation has gone into a frenzy of action. Just count the number of ‘achievements’ in the past two weeks and you will get the general idea – the civic body upgraded itself by the simple expedient of adding a ‘Greater’ to the Chennai it is supposed to govern, it launched an enquiry into the tardy pace of desilting works in water bodies, 65 new mini bus routes were inaugurated, pavement projects at NSC Bose Road and Mylapore have gone into overdrive (see report below), a programme has been announced to see how areas around metro railway stations can be developed, several illegal buildings have been sealed in Sowcarpet (approximately 0.00001 per cent of the total number of such structures), work has begun on drainage projects and the installation of LED lights on roads has received a boost. Chances are that if you open your newspaper of a morning, you will get to read a lot of Corporation news these days.

While it does leave you with the wistful thought that the same dynamism if displayed over the past several years would have transformed our city, a moment’s cold reflection will also give you the reason for this newfound fondness for ­action and achievement – elections to the State Assembly can be announced at any moment thereby binding the civic body to electoral conduct rules that would mean a blanket ban on any new schemes being launch­ed.

While it must be said that all of these initiatives are beneficial to our city, the bringing on board of so many automatically means very few will see the light of the day. Given our civic body’s track record of seeing projects to fruition and its usual lament of lack of manpower and resources, many of these seem to be empty announcements with an eye on the election ­results.

Ours is a State where all civic bodies look to the State exchequer for funding. That means the same political party needs to be in power both at the State Government and the Corporation Council. True, on paper, all administrations need to be neutral once they are in office and rise above such petty considerations, but reality has always been different here. What if a different political dispensation makes it to power? Next, we also have elections to the Corporation shortly falling due. And what if there is an upset result with another political party coming to power? Or even worse, what if the Assembly and the city council have two opposing parties in power? We can be fairly sure that none of these ideas will take off.


Are pavements making a comeback?

by A Special Correspondent

nsc-bose-roadThe pavement at NSC Bose Road with a vendor hawking wares to two policewomen.

The good news is that pavements are returning to the city. After the Corporation famously dragged its feet over the implementation of a High Court order and got rapped on the knuckles for it, work has begun in right earnest on constructing one at NSC Bose Road. The civic body has also managed to get one of its (and most residents’) favourite schemes going – building a walkway that will double up as a heritage corridor in Mylapore. Coming as all this does after the Corporation’s success with pavement reclamation on Sir Thea­ga­roya Road in T’Nagar, these steps make for some commendable effort. The question is how long will these walkways last?


Know your Fort better

by Sriram V.

middle-aka-north-streetMiddle aka North Street.

St George’s Street leads you from the eponymous gate to Parade Square. We have already seen the important thoroughfares on the southern side of the Fort, namely St Thomas, Charles, Palace and Church Streets. Now it is time to examine those on the northern side. Of these there are four – Choultry Street is the westernmost, following which is Middle Street. You have two minor thoroughfares – James and Gloucester Streets – close to the eastern end of the Fort but of these there is not much history.

The Choultry Street once led to an eponymous gate on the northern wall of the Fort. This was bricked up by the French in 1746 and for some reason was never opened again.


Entrepreneur’s progress?

From a blog by Girish Mathrubootham founded a technology company, Freshdesk, five years ago. He loves Chennai and is one of the most successful technology entrepreneurs from the city. His company delivers customer relationship management.

On a hot summer day in 1996, I landed in Chennai as a freshly minted BE graduate who did not have a job — not even a Y2K mainframe job that almost everyone seemed to ­easily get in those days.