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Vol. XXXII No. 5, June 16-30, 2022

Our Readers Write

Growing beyond renaming of Roads

This refers to Can we grow beyond renaming roads? (MM, May 16-31, 2022).  The penchant for renaming the roads does not seem to have diminished a wee-bit among the political parties, no matter  even if they come to power after a long hiatus, promising good governance.  As far as the present ruling party is concerned, it has an incorrigible  liking to  building flyovers too even at places where there are no traffic snarls.

In the first place, what is the need for renaming the roads which are already in existence and whose  names  are so very familiar with the people? If the intention is to name the arterial roads after the political leaders for posterity, the efforts will not pass muster as such roads will continue to be  referred to and known by their old names. Further, it becomes incumbent upon the rulers to ensure that such renamed roads after the leaders should be kept in top notch condition as otherwise it would only amount to discrediting them.

Since the  exercise of rechristening roads, which is politically motivated, mainly serves the interest of the political parties, and not that of the public in any manner, why should it be thrust upon the people forcefully? How can a government which vehemently dislikes things which are ‘imposed’ upon it, expect the people to accept such things which are of no interest to them? 

* * *

This refers to the new legislation introduced by the Government of Tamil Nadu, under the name and style of Tamil Nadu Apartment  Ownership Act, 2022 which will set aside the previous Act, 1994 [Tamil Nadu Act 7/1995].  The press release issued in this regard states that the new legislation is the need of the hour, considering the vast changes and to safeguard interest of the apartment owners and improve the administration of common areas/facilities.

In the said Act, with regard to re-development of apartments, it is stated that:

Any work pertaining to re-development of a project may be carried out on such terms and conditions, as may be prescribed, after obtaining consent of minimum two-thirds of the apartment owners of such project, provided that, in respect of such project:

1. a period of thirty years must have been completed from the date of completion of construction of the project; or

2. the appropriate authority has certified that such a building is in ruinous condition, or likely to fall, or in any way dangerous to any person occupying, resorting to or passing by such a structure or any other structure or place in the neighbourhood thereof.

As could be seen, the two-third majority comes into play only if any one of the above conditions viz, completion of 30 years or if the building is found dangerous to live,  is met. Further, even if a building is much older than the prescribed period of 30 years to qualify for re-development, and, if the appropriate authority certifies that the building is strong and can withstand the vagaries of the nature for a few more years, then such apartments do not have to face the axe. It must be stated that  most of the  apartments constructed decades ago are so strong that one does not find any signs of major withering.  This is primarily because of the material used for the construction and the way  they are built.  The same cannot be said of the present day buildings.  The collapse of an under-construction tenement at Chennai’s Moulivakkam in the year 2014 is still fresh in memory.

That said, due to the age of the building, there could be damages and this again is caused due to poor upkeep and maintenance by the apartment owners. While such damages need to be repaired as and when they crop up, it, however, does not signal that all is not well with structure. Further, re-development does not necessarily mean demolition of the whole structure and putting up a new one.  The building can always be refurbished. 

If one were to, per se,  reckon with the 30-year period, as mentioned in the Act, then many buildings, such as the State Secretariat and Ripon Building, to mention a few, will have to be  demolished.  But these buildings are still strong, safe  and are  capable  of  weathering  many storms. 

In view of the above, the apartment owners cannot take refuge under the redevelopment clause to browbeat the co-owners, who may have different opinions on re-development.

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

Reg. renaming of roads

The Ex-Service Men community living around Tambaram had earlier taken up a case with the then Tambaram Municipality and Govt. of Tamil Nadu to rename the road joining the Tambaram Velacherry road and Air Force Station, Tambaram as Major Mukund Varadarajan Road. It was meant to be in memory of the late officer who was once a resident of this very road. He had sacrificed his life in Kashmir in a terrorist encounter, in the course of which he had bravely taken down three terrorists himself. He was posthumously awarded the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest Peacetime Gallantry Award.

We were given to understand by the local MLAs and even by Ministers of the previous governments, that the necessary government orders have been issued in this regard. Sadly, the road is still known as Air Force Station road even almost a decade after the request was made. I only hope that the Tambaram Corporation and the present Government of Tamil Nadu will take some action in this matter.

Gp. Capt. J.R. Arunachalam VSM (Retd),
62, Jal Vayu Vihar
Madambakkam
Chennai 600126

Remembering one more Anglo-Indian

Reading the article referring to ‘Ms Alice Suares – representing the Anglo-Indians in the State Legislative Assembly three times’ (Madras Musings, June 1st, 2022), brought the name of a distinguished Anglo-Indian of Madras, John Shortt of the Madras Medical Service, to my mind. For many years, we – the late S. Muthiah and myself – thought that Shortt was of British roots, until we found a remark by Mary Ann Dacomb Scharlieb (Reminiscences, 1924, Williams & Norgate, London, 239 pp), reproduced below, which clarifies that Shortt was an Anglo-Indian (see ‘East Indian’):

‘John Shortt was a gifted man who possessed a remarkable personality. He was an East Indian, and when in the subordinate ranks of the Indian medical service, he was able to save the life of a  young officer of good family and much wealth. This young man was very grateful, and when he recovered from his attack of cholera, he told young Shortt that he would give him anything he asked for. The young man asked to be sent home to obtain a good degree, and with it admission to the upper ranks of the service. This was willingly promised, but it was felt that his great service was not yet adequately acknowledged. Therefore Mr. Shortt asked for a similar chance to be given to a young friend of his. The two men were sent to Edinburgh and maintained there until they obtained the M.D., Edin. Then they returned to Madras, and Dr. Shortt at any rate had a long and distinguished career. When I knew him he was Superintendent-General of Vaccination, and, as an amusement, was enthusiastically investigating Cobra poison and its antidotes. …’.

In the recent past, I could identify the site where Shortt is buried in Yercaud, with help from a friend of mine then living there. This was announced in an earlier issue of the Madras Musings.

It is notable that Shortt was the first Indian to travel overseas (Scotland) to obtain higher degrees in medicine. I once thought Senjee Pulney Ãndy, also of Madras, was the first Indian to travel overseas for higher medical titles; but after my research on the life and work of Shortt (see my article Surgeon John Shortt on Native Cattle Breeds of Southern India in 1889, Asian Agri-History, 2016, Volume 20, 93–105; www.asianagrihistory.org), this was established otherwise and I had to revise my previous understanding.

The Anglo-Indian community in Madras, as a whole, has done yeoman service to the growth and development of Madras and many narratives could be said in that context. Hereby I remind the present-day Anglo-Indian residents of Madras the need to celebrate the life and achievements of John Shortt of Madras, who was, further to being an illustrious medical person, was a highly acclaimed veterinarian and a dentist as well.

A. Raman
anant@raman.id.au

PS: There was a mention of the Arathoon Road, Royapuram in passing in the Alice Suares article. I had the pleasant surprise of meeting a person in a Mitsubishi Car Showroom in Perth, named David Arathoon. I talked about the Arathoon Road to David, who was thoroughly oblivious of the said street in Madras and the Armenian connexions of the city. It was fun to fill in some fragmentary details of this fascinating connexion to David Arathoon!

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