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Vol. XXIX No. 6, July 1-16, 2019

Our Readers Write

More on matters life and death

This has reference to MMM’s article in the Madras Musings issue of June 16th, 2019. Every new incumbent of the Government Pensions seat at the Madras Main Branch of State Bank of India was handed down this story and I received it with a word of caution. Once every year the pensioner had to provide a Life Certificate attested by a gazetted officer to confirm that the pensioner was alive. Reminders were sent to the pensioner if the certificate was not provided, as the next month’s pension would not be disbursed by the Treasury. A hapless clerk had once prepared a reminder and a careless official had signed and mailed it. Promptly the Chief Manager of the branch received a terse note from the pensioner that if he passed away the bank would certainly know about it. The pensioner was Rajaji. Whether the story was true or not it conveyed an advice to the official to exercise care while signing such reminders.

There was never a dull moment in the bank, particularly in the Pensions seat. A few helpless old men would come with the request for attestation by the bank official. “You can see that I am alive. Can’t you attest? Where am I to find a gazetted officer?” We had to apologise that the bank official was not empowered to do so.

Then there was the requirement for Non-Remarriage Certificate for widows, who received pensions after the demise of their husbands, who had been government employees. Most of the women who came were senior citizens. The absurdity of the situation was at once funny and poignant.

An old man arrived one day with the certificate. He was the recipient of the Widower’s pension as his wife, a government employee, had passed away. “I am seventy-five. Do you think I will marry at this age? And how do I go about convincing the gazetted officer that I have not married again?”

We found ourselves on the other side of the table when my mother had to put in her application for her pension at another nationalised bank after my father passed away. My brother had gone earlier to check the documents we had to submit and had meticulously brought every conceivable paper required. Plus, he had all his identification papers including his passport and so did I. And we imagined that we had the advantage of my first- hand knowledge of the procedures. My father had his pension account at the branch for which my mother was the nominee.

After making her sign all the papers in front of the clerk and officer, which took a couple of hours, the clerk straightened and piped, “But her photo is not there in the pension passbook. How can we identify her?” I reminded him that the practice of including the wife’s photo in the passbook was recently introduced while my father’s passbook had been issued more than two decades ago. The clerk would not yield, and the officer threw up his hands. Our mother who was in her seventies, was getting exhausted.

Driven to his wit’s end my brother had a brainwave. Our father had served as the Commissioner of Income tax in Chennai and everybody in the department knew him. A wing of the Income tax department occupied the upper floors of the same building. Without losing a moment my brother bounded up the stairs and met the Commissioner to seek his help. Immediately a lady deputy commissioner was sent down, armed with a handful of stamps and seals and she attested all the papers. The clerk and the officer could not think of any more objections. Still we were in suspense until the pension was credited to my mother’s account the next month.

Sujatha Vijayaraghavan

An addendum

With regard to the article on E.K. Janaki Ammal (MM, June 1st), I wish to add a few points.

1. Her full name needs to be known to readers of MM: Edavalath Kakkat Janaki Ammal.

2. In the period between 1921 (the year she won her Honours degree from the Madras Presidency College) and 1924, the year she went to Michigan for her Masters, she taught Botany at the Women’s Christian College (WCC), Nungambakkam. Soon after her return, she resumed teaching at WCC.

Dr. A. Raman

E.K. Janaki Ammal

I was delighted to read the well-written tribute to the great botanist, E.K. Janakiammal. It was in Coimbatore Sugarcane Breeding Institute that she worked under another eminent scientist Sir T.S.Venkataraman as a breeder of new varieties of sugarcane and not under Sir C.V. Raman as stated. The co-variety of sugarcane was introduced in Cuba to make that country the sugar bowl of the world. In a recent book Fifty Great Women Scientists, which has recorded only the white-skinned women scientists of Europe, EKJ is also mentioned.

* * *

The death of Rtn S.L. Chitale leaves a great void in service-minded citizens. His two projects, namely The Child’s Trust Hospital, Nungambakkam, now taken over by Kanchi Mutt and anti-measles vaccine bear witness to his total devotion for the welfare of children. It was with the help of Canadian Rotarians that these two projects came up.

S. Rajagopalan
30, Kamarajar Street
Chennai 600093

Benefitting from storm water drains

Building Storm Water Drains (SWD) small, medium, large and XL is the biggest money spinner for politicians and their benamis. In most areas, particularly in the suburbs, these SWDs are not even given the right slope. And they lead to nowhere. A lot of people let out all their washing water into the SWD through big pipes, because the space inside the compound is usually paved with cement. This is one main reason the ground water in houses doesn’t get recharged at all in residential areas. All the water that a household uses should be let inside their compound, to water some big trees like bananas. The waste water also stagnates in SWDs throughout the year breeding mosquitoes and creating a stench. Secondly, the floor of the SWDs should be made of mud, sand and gravel only. The concrete floor should be removed with the help of JCBs wherever it is already in place. Only the side walls of SWDs should be built of brick and plastered. Once this is done, a large percentage of rain water and waste water shall seep into the earth, filtering it as it goes down,thus recharging the ground water.

Usha Sundar
Plot 43, 24th Cross Street
Padmavathi Nagar
Chennai 600126

Homer nods!

In the previous issue of MM, we had, in the tribute to Crazy Mohan published the playwright Marina’s name as C.V. Sridhar. It ought to have been T.S. Sridhar. We thank Kalpakam Srinivasamurti for pointing this out. The error is regretted.

– Editor

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