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Vol. XXXI No. 10, September 1-15, 2021
It is the best of times and the worst of times, to paraphrase from a famed beginning of a work spanning two cities. That line would apply to our Madras that is Chennai too, especially during this time of Madras Day. You would have expected that given the pandemic there would not have been much festivity and you could not have been more wrong. Barring the educational institutions, and you cannot blame them for their absence, practically all the other usual celebrants of Madras Day turned out in strength. In short, Madras Day has come to stay.
And what was most heartening, there were others as well. The Chief Minister, no less, tweeted his greetings on the occasion, which was a marked departure from the previous incumbents who chose to ignore the event. To be fair to him, he had made it a habit of greeting people on Madras Day even while he was in the Opposition. Taking a leaf from his book, the Corporation of Chennai too released a greeting to people on the occasion and unveiled a slew of competitions that included among other things the painting of public spaces and the taking of selfies. There were besides tree plantation drives, beautification of public spaces and mass vaccination programmes on that day. These are significant departures from past non-participation. The only disadvantage we see is that the present Opposition, as and when it comes to power, may choose to associate Madras Day with the current regime and so stay away from it. This has been a trait of Tamil Nadu politics for years and we hope Madras Day will not fall prey to such petty consideration should there be a change in regime in the future.
In short there was no dearth of positivity associated with Madras/Chennai Day, call it what you will. Even the usual naysayers who go to great lengths to prove that the city was not founded on August 22 (we agree, it wasn’t) have remained silent – probably realising at long last that you don’t really need a reason to celebrate. And moreover, what is it that the organisers of Madras Day events really gain from putting together such events? Nothing. In fact, it takes away significant time that could be spent on other and more profitable pursuits. All programmes are put together without a commercial motive – it is therefore nothing but an exercise in positivity.
What amazes us therefore is the way some people choose to make Madras Day an occasion for lament. What is there to celebrate asks one writer. The city is full of problems – there are infrastructural issues, there is pollution, there is overcrowding, and the heritage structures are all pictures of neglect runs the same tract. It also goes on to suggest that Madras was a pristine town that was ruined by the onset of Chennai.
Earlier this month, the Chennai Corporation levied a fine of Rs. 25,000 on Indigo Airlines for using single-use plastic to package covid-preventive kits for its flyers. It was Dr. Manish Narnaware, the city’s Deputy Commissioner of Health, who noticed the single-use plastic envelopes during his frequent flights with the airlines. He had the material tested with the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board who confirmed that it was in violation of the plastic ban. Dr. Manish also recently led an inspection on several shops in the city to monitor compliance, as a result of which fines ranging from Rs. 100 to Rs. 500 were imposed on violators and banned materials were seized. The Corporation has confirmed that the drive against plastic would pick up pace in the coming days.
(Also refer to Vol. XXX No. 21, March 1-15, 2021 for a similar article by the author.)
The gruelling peak of Chennai summer is over. While the temperature dips a little bit by the third week of June, it is still hot and humid. However, by the end of June and early July, our city has received significant rains. The citizens heave a sigh of relief.
When the times demand a change, Chennai has always changed. That accounts for the growth and continued relevance of this city. It is not one of those metros that forever live in past glory and at the same time it is not of the kind that abandons its past to get on with the future. Madras Day 2021 was perhaps the best illustration of this unique trait of Chennai. The pandemic did not deter the celebrants and at the same time, there was a judicious mix of the real and virtual. The events were by and large online, but not so the return gifts to the city, which were in reality hybrid. We give below a few examples:
Chennai can create satellite cities to address the burden of infrastructure, mobility and manage densification
Over the last 150 years the world has significantly transformed into an urban society. While in 1900 one out of every six inhabitants of the world was urban, it grew to 4 out of every 6 during mid-century. This phenomenal growth persuaded people, irrespective of the continent, to agglomerate and therefore migrate to urban centres. India, which is still an agrarian economy, is increasingly becoming urbanised.