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Vol. XXXI No. 5, June 16-31, 2021

Archives: Vol. XXXI No. 5, June 16-31, 2021


Déjà vu on Tamil Nadu Heritage

by The Editor

Matters have come full circle as far as the State’s management of its heritage is concerned. Last week the High Court pulled up the TN Government for its masterly inactivity in this regard and directed it to form a Heritage Commission comprising among others ‘historians, archaeologists and anthropologists.’ This will be the advisory body to a newly constituted Mamallapuram World Heritage Management Authority. To those of us who have been following the (in)actions of the Government when it comes to heritage, all this sounds dreadfully familiar. After all, this will be the third such Heritage Commission to be formed and like its illustrious predecessors, it will be able to do very little.

But before we go into that, we must bring our readers abreast with what necessitated this pronouncement by the High Court. A letter to The Hindu dated Jan 8, 2015 had lamented about the pitiable condition of a tomb in Kanyakumari district for the renovation of which the 12th Finance Commission had allotted Rs 38 lakhs. The question was not the money the correspondent wrote, but the sheer inability of the State Archaeology Department (SAD) and the Public Works Department (PWD) to execute such renovation. And given the number of structures under the ASI and the SAD, it is very unlikely that they will be able to pay due attention to any. The Court took suo motu notice of this and following a public interest litigation that lasted till this year, issued a series of 75 directives to the State Government chiefly concerning temples and other heritage structures.

One among these is the directive regarding the formation of the Heritage Commission. The first such order came from the court in 2010 (eleven years ago) and the Commission came under the purview of the CMDA. Its mandate was to look into the heritage buildings in the city. The body which was so formed was conveniently populated with members from Government departments and institutions run by the state. The only outsider was a lone representative from the Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage. The decisions of the commission were therefore a foregone conclusion. Several heritage buildings were allowed to be demolished and despite the Court giving an exhaustive list of structures to be notified the Commission began a fresh such exercise, to be conducted by history and architecture students of various colleges. This is as far as we know, still a project in progress. In the meanwhile, the Commission sent out a letter to the owners of all the heritage structures listed by the Court, expressly forbidding them from carrying out any repairs, changes or renovations until further notice. Many heritage property owners were delighted. They just neglected the buildings under their control so that they could fall apart thereby necessitating removal and construction of high rise in their place.


Lock, unlock, repeat: Breaking the lockdown cycle

by our Special Correspondent

The covid numbers for June indicate a hopeful downtrend. Test positivity rates have dipped across the state and the number of fresh cases is seeing a decline. On June 12, for the first time in months, the number of new cases reported in Chennai dropped below 1,000. The city’s recovery rate also rose to 97 percent, slightly higher than the overall figure for the state. The credit goes to the lockdown, which slowed down transmission by curbing public interaction.

However, a lockdown is a double-edged sword. The barriers that it puts up to restrict virus transmission also impede socio-economic, educational and cultural activities. According to a Times of India report released in May, the then 15-day lockdown was estimated to cost the state around Rs. 2,900 crores.


Heritage Watch

Platinum Jubilee of a Venerable Institution


The Vivekananda College is one of the educational landmarks of our city. Its alumni have left their mark in various fields, which apart from their chosen professions has also included politics, theatre, cinema, sport and music. It is a matter of pride for Chennai that this institution celebrates 75 this year. For a more detailed article by Karthik Bhatt on the subject, please refer to the article Seventy-five years of a landmark.


Our OLD, taken from the 1st issue of Viveka, the in-house magazine of the college, shows the main block, known as the Nattukottai Nagarathar Vidyalaya, as it was in 1946 on the day of the inauguration – just a single-storied structure.


Luz Corner memories

by Rags Raghavan

During the 1960s, schooling at Vidya Mandir Mylapore and walking back to C.V. Raman Road where home was meant a wonderful time spent soaking in the sights and sounds of hyperactive Luz Corner.

The stretch of shops on Royapettah High Road on the western side began with Shikar Armoury, arms and ammunition dealers, in a niche property owned and run by an eminent royal family. The father, a highly respected person and a leading authority in India on arms, ammunition and ballistics, handed down every subtlety and nuance of that niche sport to his son (with him whom I am in touch with till today, by virtue of the fact that we are both members of the Chennai Rifle Club).


Pavithra’s Perspective

The Rattle and the Blare


I’ve never seen a tram in my life.

Not directly, that is. I’ve seen them rattling along lines in movies and glimpsed static pictures in magazines.