Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXI No. 23, March 16-31, 2022
A new Mayor and Council are in place at Ripon Buildings. And in keeping with that there is plenty of hope. The Worshipful Mayor, in keeping with the ideology of her party, has resurrected the Singara Chennai slogan. A new plan had earlier been unveiled by the Chief Minister under the name Singara Chennai 2.0. There is no doubt that the Mayor and Council will focus on making that vision a reality, given that she is from the same political party. And there is no doubt the opposition will protest, chiefly because it is the ruling party’s idea. The interests of the city always pale before party loyalties. While we wish the new Mayor and her team all success in this, we feel that this is an appropriate time to look back and see what happened to Singara Chennai 1.0. It is necessary to point out here that 2.0 has a lot of 1.0 in it, thereby pointing to an unfinished agenda.
It was in 1996, when the present CM was then newly elected as Mayor of the city, that Singara Chennai was first coined as a slogan and a plan. Aiming to make the metropolis another Singapore, the concept was quite comprehensive in its coverage. It looked at mitigating traffic problems by building grade separators, allotting designated zones for vendors, waging war on posters and defacement of public walls, maintaining parks and green zones, reviving the city’s waterbodies, ensuring proper drainage, and beautifying public spaces. Among all of these, the grade separators or flyovers as they are better known, are perhaps the only surviving evidence of Singara Chennai 1.0. Yes, it is true that parks have been better maintained ever since but if we consider that some parks have also vanished either in part or in full to make way for the Metro, we cannot assign much of a score on that count. As for the rest, we are pretty much back at square one and our journey to becoming Singapore has not yet got off to a start. Sometime in 2010, the present CM, then the Dy CM, claimed that Singara Chennai 1.0 had achieved 50 per cent of its objectives. Unfortunately, the exact details behind such a claim where never publicised.
It was just in January that a Government Order was issued for the construction of three new flyovers for the city at a cost of Rs. 335 crores. Now, Chennai’s new mayor Ms. Priya Rajan has signalled the administration’s intent to focus on a new batch of flyover projects as part of a roster of key civic solutions. Flyovers are touted to be essential infrastructure to decongest traffic snarls, but whether the benefits are commensurate with the steep price tags is a matter of some debate.
A 2016 piece in The Hindu states that Chennai has spent around Rs. 1,144 crores in erecting new flyovers. The sweeping project of the late 1990s saw the installation of nine new flyovers,
Considering that ours is the oldest city corporation in the country, we do have many interesting records apart from being the first of course. The mayors themselves would each merit a detailed study, considering that most of them were outstanding, one way or the other. Some were very colourful characters as well.
But this year what is of interest is that we have a mayor who has set a record by way of being the youngest to assume this office. She also happens to be only the third woman to hold this office.
Lady Elizabeth Gwillim was unique. Arriving in Madras in 1801, she till her death in the city in December 1807, proved an indefatigable chronicler. As per the estimate of Dr. Patrick Wheeler, in his book A Tale of Two Sisters, which focuses on the writings of Lady Elizabeth and her sister Mary Symonds during their tenure in the city, a total of 150,000 words was written documenting life here. While Lady Elizabeth’s paintings of birds are relatively well known, thereby qualifying her as one of the modern world’s earliest ornithologists, not so are her writings which form a valuable documentation of Madras of the early 1800s.
“His name was Singaravelu but was known as Singam, because he was a conscientious and bold police officer who believed in the power of innovative reforms. A lion both inside and outside his den.” This description appearing on the back cover of a book of memoirs of Mr. Singaravelu IPS, a popular police officer of his time, sums up the essence of the man. The book has been compiled by his sons Shivaram and Suresh, based on a number of articles and notes that their father had left behind. The book portrays policing issues in the decades prior to and post Independence and, in some cases, the novel methods adopted in those days.
Born on 17th March, 1915, Singam graduated from Madras University and joined the