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Vol. XXXII No. 4, June 1-15, 2022

Our Readers Write

Special Issue on N. Sankar

Thanks a million for the very nice MM issue covering N. Sankar’s achievements. As a fellow alumni of AC Tech and subsequently Sr. Manager in Chemplast, I had the privilege of knowing him well. He was one of a kind. I am sad that he is no more with us. I recall that he was also a great doubles tennis player in college. He partnered with his classmate N. Srinivasan (Chairman, India Cements and Owner, CSK) and won many, many tournaments. My heartfelt condolences to his family and vast admirers and employees of Sanmar Group.
R. Santhanam

Col. R.D. Ayyar – A gentle giant

This is with reference to the article on Dr. Krishnamoorthy Srinivas. There are some glowing passages on Col. Dr. R.D. Ayyar whom I had known quite well. Here is a piece on Ayyar:

Col. Ayyar was a surgeon by training. He was taken into the then Indian Medical Service and had seen action in Burma. He had held high positions in the Central Government, including those of Superintendent of Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi and Director General of Health Services. Earlier, he was a senior surgeon in the Armed Medical Services Corps. There was almost no President or Prime Minister in Delhi whom the Colonel had not treated. Because of this, he was privy to many doings and misdoings of the high and mighty. He was a repository of anecdotes on them and would relate them to his visitors.

I had not known him in Delhi, but I came to be rather well acquainted with him after his retirement in Madras. He lived not far from our home and was a frequent visitor. He was our go-to doctor in times of need. He would not prescribe unnecessary drugs, including antibiotics. Though a famed surgeon, he did not believe in wielding the scalpel unless it was a question of life and death, since every surgery, according to him, carried an element of risk. In this and many other respects, he was a true representative of the old world school of doctors, an almost vanished tribe.

Once, I went to him and asked him whether I should get my heart tested since I was past 60. He looked me in the eye and asked whether I went for morning walks. Yes, I replied. Was I a fast walker? Yes, I replied. Did I have shortness of breath and had to keep my mouth open during such walks? No, I replied. He said, “Don’t go anywhere near a hospital. They will put you through unnecessary tests and mulct you of hard-earned money!” I considered that sage advice from a sage Doctor.

Once, I had a fever for a couple of days. Col. Ayyar gave me some mild medication. I was all right in a couple of days but where I erred was in not reporting back to him about my recovery. He came to our home, as he was frequently wont to, and rebuked me roundly: “Once you are all right, you think you need not keep your doctor informed?” I said, “Sorry, mea culpa.” He was a true family doctor, an extinct breed.

He used to spend a substantial portion of his pension on feeding the stray cows and dogs that assembled in numbers in front of his house every single day, around five in the evening, He gave them bananas and biscuits.

When Col. R.D. Ayyar passed away well into his nineties, a crowd of people gathered in his house to mourn the demise of a gentle giant. Truly, they don’t make doctors like Col. R. D.Ayyar anymore. A great pity!

G. Sankaran
T43A, 7th Avenue
Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090

Taxes and postmasters

The report under the caption ‘Taxing job waits Chennai’s postmasters’ appeared in the issue of The New Indian Express dated May 16, 2022, has prompted me to write this. The report stated that since the tax collectors of the Greater Chennai Corporation [GCC] are overburdened with the work they are supposed to accomplish and that they find it difficult to locate the address of some of the property owners because of wrong door number or absence of the owners, the civic body, has hit upon a pilot initiative whereby it will seek the help of the postmen to locate the property holders and collect the tax.

The GCC has zeroed in on postmen as they are conversant with the areas they operate due to their daily visits. The initiative will be put to test in Ward 34 of Tondiarpet and if it succeeds, then the same will be replicated in other areas.

Even when it resorts to revision in the property tax every now and then, the GCC has not been able to meet the target and this results in tax remaining in arrears for years. It, therefore, becomes imperative for the GCC to reverse the situation and it is in this context that the new initiative of seeking the help of postmen assumes significance.

One does not know the ‘quid pro quo’ of the deal between the GCC and the Post Office. Though the pilot initiative will be of help to the civic body to some extent, it, in effect, amounts to submitting itself to the untenable demands of the tax collectors. That said, in so entrusting the task to the postmen, the GCC cannot, at the same time, abdicate its responsibility on this score.

Whilst on the above, it may be pertinent to point out that in the year 2020-21, the GCC effected an increase in the property tax in respect of some properties in wards under Zone 10. This unannounced and arbitrary increase was noticed by the residents following a casual perusal of tax dues in the GCC website. When it was brought to the notice of the GCC, and questioned why had the revision taken place without any intimation to the taxpayers, the officials stated that the revision was effected on under-assessed properties and that the under-assessment was detected following the survey conducted through Geographical Information System [GIS] mapping and use of drones. When the GCC can dig out the details of under-assessed properties using such systems, why should it not use the same system to locate the properties as well? Why should it seek the help of postmen and thus expose its incapacity? Since the major defaulters of tax are commercial complexes, marriage halls, cinemas and other business establishments, tracing them will not be a major task. Besides fixing collection targets, the tax collectors should be told in no uncertain terms that they should collect the arrears as well. A concerted effort will definitely yield good results. The fund-starved GCC must lay stress on the collection of arrears and set up weekly campaigns at every street in each ward to achieve the target. The revision of property tax and its collection should go hand in hand to make the exercise meaningful. A mere revision in the tax does not boost the revenue, until the revised tax with arrears is collected.

V.S. Jayaraman
31, Motilal Street
Chennai 600 017

Website comments

Our website had quite a few comments, which we are publishing below:

Special Issue on N. Sankar

(Vol. XXXII No. 2, May 1-15, 2022)

Great coverage. Mr. Sankar’s contributions and significant achievements in various fields well researched and presented. His was a life worth celebrating and following by all sections in society. This issue is worth preserving for coming generations.


N. Sankar – beyond business

(Vol. XXXII No. 2, May 1-15, 2022)

The death of well-known industrialist N. Sankar last month is an apt occasion to talk of one small geographical belt that has thrown up pioneering entrepreneurs from TN: Kallidaikurichi.

The most well-known is, of course, S.N.N. Sankaralinga Iyer – the founder of Sanmar and India Cements Group and the grandfather of N. Sankar. It is after Sankaralinga Iyer that India Cements sold its products under the brand name Sankar Cements. Its first plant in TN is located at what was named Sankar Nagar.

From Kallidaikurichi too came K.R. Sundaram Iyer, who along with nephew Easwara Iyer, began as a trader in bicycles and later founded the Easun Group. The duo also set up the Royal Enfield company in 1955 to manufacture motorcycles. K.S. Vaidyanathan of Paterson & Co was also from Kallidaikurichi. Paterson, a stock broking firm, was responsible for the first public issue in Independent India in 1948. As it happens, the IPO was India Cements.

Not too far from Kallidaikurichi is Alwarkurichi, which is the hometown of S. Anantharamakrishnan, founder of the Amalgamations Group, which is into automobiles, plantation and trading, among others. And around 50 kms from Kallidaikurichi is Thirukurungudi, the birthplace of Sundaram Iyengar of the eponymous TVS Group about which nothing new needs to be said.

When you talk of industries in TN, you talk of Coimbatore-Erode belt. Of course, Chennai, being the capital city, has plenty of names to boast. But do remember, Tirunelveli district has contributed a lot and deserves to be acknowledged for the same.

P.S: Kallidaikurichi is equally well-known for appalams and the quaint ‘rettai appalams’ (a kind of a cousin to papadams, but now looks to be sadly defunct). To add, little away from Kallidaikuruchi, there is a town called, Elathur. From here came H.D. Rajah, the freedom fighter and MP. He also founded Vanguard Insurance and was a friend of Ganapathy Iyer, the founder of the Rane Group. A school he has founded is still functioning at Elathur.

Calicut Krishnan Subramaniam

Veteran 1960s cricketer ‘Alley’ Sridhar departs

(Vol. XXXII No. 1, April 16-30, 2022)

I was also in the Presidency college cricket team during 1966-1967 season and vividly remember the matches we played at the AM Jain college grounds against the Guindy Engineering college as well as the match against the Annamalai University played in Chidambaram, when the late Sridhar captained our team that won the matches.

Although both Sridhar and I were in different graduation streams, we used to meet during lunch intervals in the large quadrangle behind the main building of Presidency College. We had a great time during the period 1964-67. A recent attempt at a rendezvous with him by Ramnarayan, Brigadier Bala and myself at Madras failed as Sridhar could not make it due to his illness.


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