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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XXI No. 9, August 16-31, 2011

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Come, be a part of Madras Day/Week

He promoted experimental botany in an inter-disciplinary manner

Getting about Madras

Can we develop walkable communities?

Madras Week Programmes 2011

Come, be a part of Madras Day/Week
(By Vincent D'Souza)

If you live in Adyar or in Besant Nagar, would you like to organise a Heritage Walk on Besant Avenue?

If you own a restaurant in Egmore with space to accommodate at least 40 people, would you lend this space for a talk on the Gujaratis of Madras?

Welcome to Madras Day. Welcome to the spirit of this celebration of the city. It is all about people to people, this Madras Day thing that comes up every year during late August (August 21 to 28 this year). And we as the catalysts are amazed at the manner in which this event grows.

Dr. S.N. Nageswara Rao is Associate Professor of the P.G. and Research Department of Historical Studies at Sir Theagaraya College in North Chennai. His email says it all –

“A few years ago I participated in a small way. This time, we at the college are eager to participate. We would like to support you with volunteers and also borrow exhibition material and display the same in our college library so that more students will become aware of their own heritage.

“On our part the Department is planning to host talks and walks focussing more on North Madras. We have asked our students to collect old photographs from their relatives and friends featuring old buildings and famous personalities.”

Arjun Ranganathan from Infosys has been in touch. And his e-mail reflects the enthusiasm that corporates are showing in this unique celebration.

Writes Arjun: “We would wish to organise the Madras Week celebration in our company. The idea is to make our fellow employees from northern states to understand the spirit of this city and appreciate it and also bring a sense of pride for the people from the state and this city.”

Banu is doing her Master’s programme in Arts Management at DakshinaChitra. This is her support: “I wish to volunteer for the events, especially Heritage Walks.”

Wrote T.S. Padmapriya who blogs at http://aalayam – “I am a great fan of Madras and would love to volunteer in some way in the Madras Day events – ­especially heritage walks.”

Wrote Reena Rajan, a manager at the Residency Towers Hotel: “It gives me immense pleasure to invite your association with our hotel. We confirm our venue availability for the meet... this would be accompanied by a hi-tea session.”

Come, be a part of Madras Day. You have to start now. has all the details. (Courtesy: Mylapore Times)

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He promoted experimental botany in an inter-disciplinary manner
Masters of 20th Century Madras science
(An occasional article in a series by Dr. A. Raman)

Toppur Seethapathy Sadasivan was born in Madras on May 22, 1913, the son of Toppur Seethapathy, a Mylapore medical practitioner and also the first Indian director of the King Institute for Preventive Medicine. After his undergraduate degree from the Madras Presidency College and Master’s from Lucknow University (when the famous palaeobotanist Birbal Sahni was the Professor), Sadasivan went to England to do his doctorate with Frederick Charles Bawden at the Agricultural Experimental Station in Rothamsted. He returned to India in 1940. After short stints in the Punjab and Lucknow, he joined the University of Madras as a Reader in the newly started University Botany Laboratory under the leadership of Mandayam Osuri Parthasarathi Iyengar.

Sadasivan pioneered in investigating the physiology of crop diseases caused by soil-borne fungi and bacteria. He earned the degree of Doctor of Science of the University of London in 1955. Sadasivan and his research team investigated host–pathogen interactions at physiological and biochemical levels and was the first to demonstrate fusaric acid, a metabolite produced by Fusarium in wilting cotton plants. Studies made by Sadasivan and his team have been published as more than 600 articles in world journals of class. In spite of his close association and involvement in the execution of research work by his students, Sadasivan never insisted on having his name included as an author when his students published their findings.

Sadasivan strived to promote experimental botany in an interdisciplinary manner. His team included botanists, agricultural scientists, organic- and bio-chemists, and biophysicists. In spite of his high standing as a university academic and leading scientist, he was enthusiastic in improving quality in school education; he led NCERT teams reforming school curricula. He gifted a substantial part of his family estate in Kodaikanal to establish Gandhiji Vidyasram (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan) and served as its chairman for nearly a decade and a half to shape the school. In the 1990s, he helped start the Madras Science Foundation in Madras, which harnessed the power and talents of recently retired scientists and enabled them to pursue their research interests and write books on complex scientific themes in plain English.

Recognising his immense contributions to Indian and world science, the Government of India awarded him the Padma Bhushan in 1974. Sadasivan was decorated with the Bhatnagar Award for Biology (1960), the Birbal Sahni Medal (1962), the Jubilee Medal of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany (1971), and the Sunderlal Hora Medal of the Indian National Science Academy (1973). He was the Birbal Sahni Professor at Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow, from 1977 to 1980.

The 50-odd PhD students of Sadasivan remember him as a profound teacher, who radiated grace and simplicity. An elegant aura of academic aristocracy surrounded his personality. His leadership and the scientific contributions to applied botany he marshalled enabled the Madras University Botany Laboratory to be recognised as a Centre of Advanced Study in Botany, matched only by those of Banares Hindu University and University of Delhi in the 1960s. He died in Madras in 2001.

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Getting about Madras
Back to buses – but will it work?
(By A Special Correspondent)

With traffic congestion only increasing, Government, which rarely moves unless forced to, has begun mulling over alternative proposals to enable activate mass rapid transport. While the Metro Rail is developing fast and there is talk of reviving the Monorail, another idea, long on the back-burner, has also been dusted and put up for consideration: exclusive corridors, also known as Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS). While this is to the good, it must not be forgotten the BRTS has been mooted several times and each time bus lanes have been sacrificed to enable cars to speed along. So will it translate into reality this time?

A BRTS proposal was made as early as in 1967 and the most recent proposal was in 2009 when such a system was planned along the Lighthouse-Adyar-IT corridor-Kund­rathur-Madhuravoyal-Ennore-Vyasar­padi-Chennai Port-Light­house route, a distance of 70 km. It was expected to be extended to cover 110 km in its final phase. The plan was opposed on several counts, not the least being the problem of those who were likely to be displaced. Somewhere along the line, the BRTS was transformed into an elevated road corridor (read, meant to benefit private vehicles) and a feasibility study was initiated in 2010. It is not clear if a final report was ever produced.

With over 50 per cent of the city’s passenger traffic on arterial roads being catered to by the buses of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation, it has become clear to the powers-that-be that the interests of those using buses cannot be overlooked. Hence this sudden revival of interest in buses. With bus speeds now down to 6 kmph, ways and means are being looked at to improve their standing as suitable transport alternatives. And it has been proposed that a BRTS service ought to be implemented along the IT Expressway aka Rajiv Gandhi Salai, a road that incidentally lives up to its promise of providing a world-class travel experience only in the first 3 km of its length. Interestingly, a study has revealed that a good BRTS could cater to the same number of passengers as a Metro Rail network, with much less difficulty and investment in setting it up. The mayor of Bogota, a city that has made a success of its BRTS, said in a speech in Chennai a couple of years ago that buses were any day preferable to an underground Metro network. Closer home, Ahmadabad has already successfully implemented the BRTS.

In a related development, the State Government has also come out in favour of operating minibuses on 100 different routes in the city, especially covering the outlying areas, which are not well served by the MTC. Anna University has been entrusted with the task of preparing a feasibility study. Red Hills, Tiruvot­tri­yur, Tambaram and Kelam­bakkam are a few areas that are expected to benefit. These minibuses will be operated by the MTC. However, it must be pointed out that minibuses are notorious for lane violations and their introduction can only mean added chaos.

For that matter, none of these solutions is going to reduce congestion in any way. For one, the rank indiscipline that prevails on the roads (and this includes everyone from the pedestrian upwards) is a major cause. Secondly, with no curbs being placed on the addition of vehicles to the city’s roads, any solution will soon come face to face with a saturation point. What after that?

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Can we develop walkable communities?

Sixtyfive-year-old Chokkalingam was killed on the spot on the Grand Southern Trunk Road in Pallavaram when he was knocked down by an unknown vehicle in a hit-and-run accident. Such reports are published in the newspapers all over the country everyday. About 55 per cent of the persons killed on the road in the country are pedestrians. Unfortunately, the problems of pedestrians are not considered seriously by the authorities concerned. On the other hand, pedestrians also tend to be a careless lot; they do not follow traffic rules, they are always in a hurry, and though it is dangerous, they swerve in and out through the traffic.

Though belated, there is a growing realisation that much of the planning work at present is ‘vehicle oriented’ and is at the expense of pedestrians, who are reduced to a suffering majority. This situation would not have arisen if the practice of regarding the pedestrian as a ‘traffic unit’ was followed. It is, therefore, imperative to evolve suitable measures based on systematic surveys of both inventory of facilities and pedestrian counts in order to ensure efficiency, comfort and safety in pedestrian movements and also smooth and safe flow of vehicular traffic.

There is an inspiring trend in The Netherlands and a few other countries to improve overall walkable conditions in selected areas, and thus develop walkable communities. A walkable community makes a residential area or a neighbourhood a place where many people may walk, ride bicycles and use the transit facilities, and also where drivers of cars and other vehicles moderate their behaviour in such a way that it does not affect the environment and safety of the area concerned. Thus, it encourages people to walk safely and in peace. Some of the ways of improving the walkability of an area include:

i) Reallocation of road space to increase the part of the right-of-way allocated to pedestrians.

ii) Design shorter blocks and narrower streets and develop minimum infrastructure in a pedestrian scale.

iii) Provide street furniture and pedestrian facilities such as benches, lawns, flower beds, pedestrian-oriented street lighting, areas protected from rain, and other such facilities.

iv) Create more pedestrian-oriented streetscapes and, thus, encourage livable communities.

v) Traffic calming, vehicle restrictions and speed reductions.

vi) Develop walkable shopping areas and recreational places.

vii)Improve overall the quantity, quality and connectivity of sidewalks, cross-walks and paths.

It is stressed that the pedestrian should be given a place of eminence in planning at city-level similar to that of motor vehicular traffic. This can be achieved not only by increasingly fitting the whole mechanism of pedestrian facilities into the overall pattern of traffic circulation, but also by a series of intensive education and enforcement measures. On the other hand, at the level of residential areas, neighbourhoods, recreational areas and environmental areas, there is an urgent need to have a bold approach of giving priority to pedestrians over motor vehicles, and develop facilities in a human scale to encourage the development of ‘walkable communities’. Such a compact, fresh and invigorating community will help people enjoy their streets, parks, shopping areas, plazas and other physical spaces. Is it possible to develop such a community in our country? Or will it remain a dream?

Dr. N.S. Srinivasan
Chairman, Transport Advisory Forum, Chennai

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Madras Week Programmes 2011

Madras Week Programmes 2011

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Sign to save City's heritage
A no-man's land beside the IT Corridor
Sowing the seeds of change
Lil Madras Girl midst well-behaved animals...
The Tree of Life
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