Click here for more...

Click here for more...

VOL. XXIV NO. 23, March 16-31, 2015
An open letter
The Fort at 375 deserves better


The Chief Secretary
Government of Tamil Nadu
Fort St George
Chennai 600 009

Dear Sir,

Re: Fort St George at 375

This is to greet you on the occasion of our beloved Fort turning 375 years which landmark date will be on April 23rd of this year. We are sure that several celebrations and commemorative events are being planned by the Government to mark this historic milestone. It is heartening that at the time this anniversary has come about, the seat of government is once again where it ought to be, namely within the Fort, which is where much of what we call modern India had its origins.

The following facts may not be new to you but we are once again bringing them to your kind attention as they are worth recalling and establish the greatness of our Fort – this was where the Indian army was born, this was where modern India's first bank (the Madras Bank) was set up, this was the birthplace of one of the oldest civic bodies of the world, the Corporation of Madras, now Chennai. It was also where the health facility that we recognise as the General Hospital was set up in 1644, leading to our city today being an acknowledged capital of medical tourism. Of course, it goes without saying that modern governance as we know of it, and of which you and the Government are in charge, took shape here as did the oldest archive in the world for Governmental records, today the Tamil Nadu Archives. The list of the Fort's claims to greatness is practically inexhaustible. It is a record that behoves the Government to work at getting the Fort recognised as an UNESCO-listed World Heritage Precinct. A welcome attempt to achieve this was led by the Government a couple of years ago, and though that failed there is no reason why it should not be campaigned for with even greater vigour now.

Given this context, we also feel it is our bounden duty to bring to your notice that there are several aspects of the Fort's present condition that call for immediate action. The general level of upkeep has fallen over the years, especially in parts that are directly under the Government's purview. The car parking facilities within the Fort are completely haphazard and there are very few clearly marked pedestrian areas. With a huge parking lot in front of the Fort itself, and which lies unused for most of the year, it is indeed a pity that so many vehicles need to come into the Fort itself. It is time Government vehicles too used that lot, and made the Fort only a drop or pick-up area.

Secondly, the number of posters and hoardings that have come up within this heritage precinct in recent years is truly alarming. These have been indiscriminately put up on all available surfaces and greatly detract from what is a unique historic enclave. We are sure you agree with us that the Fort's dignity as a seat of governance is much impaired by these.

We are also deeply concerned with the proliferation of snack bars and kiosks vending tea and coffee. You will agree with us that the presence of a live kitchen with minimum fire safety measures poses a threat not only to the built heritage but also to the people milling around it. In addition, such eateries are not maintained well and are surrounded by garbage. We also bring to your attention that a full-fledged vegetable and flower bazaar springs up each evening near the North Gate of the Fort. This may be a convenience for the employees of the Government, but it could also be a security hazard. It would be far better if a fair price shop is opened somewhere within the premises.

The Namakkal Kavignar Maligai has recently been refurbished and inaugurated. What distresses us is that construction debris has still not been cleared from its rear. We felt strongly about the presence of a highrise inside a heritage precinct, but now that it is there, can we at least hope that debris from it will be cleared forthwith?

While we are highlighting these issues with the parts that fall under the Government's direct scrutiny, we are by no means stating that the parts under the control of the Army or the Archaeological Survey of India do not have issues of their own. We will be highlighting these problems to them separately.

We are addressing these thoughts of ours to you not with any intention to criticise but with the hope that the Fort, which is dear to all of us, can be restored to its full glory and celebrated this year. We trust this communication will be received in the right spirit and lead to a cleaning up and conservation exercise as well as a celebration.

Thanking you
Yours faithfully
For Chennai Heritage
S. Muthiah
Editor, Madras Musings

Please click here to support the Heritage Act

In this issue

The Fort at 375 deserves better
Madras Landmarks - 50 years ago
Lessons for & from Pondy Festival
The best of Indian architecture
The men who built Mylapore's temple
Making T'Nagar world class?
The Auroville dream
Birds in our backyards

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Readers Write
Quizzin' With Ram'nan
Dates for Your Diary


Download PDF