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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XVIII No. 25, april 16-30, 2009
Our Readers Write

When violations become the norm!

Unplanned developments have long been a cause of concern for the residents of Chennai. Those who have followed the problem closely know that Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) has fought for almost three decades now to ensure that the city does not become unliveable due to improper planning. The Government, on the other hand, has devised several schemes which compound the problem.

The first of these schemes was the ‘regularisation scheme’ that sought to legitimise illegal buildings by the payment of a fee. The continuance of this scheme was disallowed by the Courts, which ordered the demolition of all violations and the formation of a Monitoring Committee to oversee this process.

Instead of taking steps to enforce this order, Government devised its second scheme. It enacted a law that provided protection to unauthorised constructions for a year. This move was also successfully challenged by CAG in the High Court. The law was quashed. This Order of the High Court has been challenged by the Government in the Supreme Court of India.

The Government followed this up with three completely bizarre acts:

1. It passed another law renewing the one-year amnesty to violators even while the case lies pending in the Supreme Court.

2. It moved the High Court seeking review of the Order that calls for the demolition of ­illegal buildings. Government justified this by stating that the demolition of illegal buildings would cause chaos in the city resulting in a law and order problem.

3. It has also independently amended the ­planning law to empower Authorities to seal premises which are in violation of building legislations.

Those who have followed this tug of war ­between Government and civil society raise three main questions:

1. Why did Government go ahead and enact laws when the Supreme Court is yet to ­decide on their legal validity?

2. Can the High Court review an Order that has been attested by the Apex Court of India?

3. Who is Government looking to penalise, and who is it seeking to protect?

Even while the answers to these questions lie pending before the Courts of the country, it is time that Government rea­lises the error in its ways. Namely that colluding with people who repeatedly break the law will create larger safety problems than those caused by the enforcement of the law.

(Courtesy: Public Newsense, the journal of CAG)

Waste oil disposal

Every day thousands of motor vehicles in all shapes and sizes are being added to our already congested roads. A consequent issue which has never attracted much attention but is a potentially dangerous environmental hazard is the seemingly simple act of disposing of waste automotive oil.

A large number of people do their own oil changes and do other maintenance on their vehicles. A large amount of waste automotive oil is produced each year from these do-it-yourself activities and much of it is improperly discarded.

When garages and service stations dispose of waste oil, they generally sell it for recycling. Many individuals, however, simply put it in the trash bin, or pour it down sewers. Many others totally ignorant of disposal of such automotive oil pour it on the ground.

If automobile oil is not properly disposed of, it can cause irreparable damage to our waterways, canals, sewage systems and pollute groundwater, rivers and streams.

The Government of India and the oil companies are spend­ing crores of rupees on advertisements of the various oils they sell. They give absolutely no scientific information on waste oil disposal.

I would suggest a simple solution to this problem. To begin with, petrol stations could be provided with separate waste oil collection facilities. A special monetary incentive should be given both to the individual disposer and the collection facility centre. This, along with daily advertisements, will go a long way towards ensuring proper collection of waste automotive oil. Will the oil companies react, please?

Dr. S. Shanker Dev
“Kylas”, 13, Giri Road
T. Nagar, Chennai 600 017

A clock in need

Similar to the defunct clock in the tower situated at the traffic intersection of Roya­pettah (MM, January 16th), another heritage tower clock, in the Ayanavaram Railway Joint Office, is also left in the lurch now. It is a beautiful clock installed by the then Madras and Southern Maratha Railway in 1927 and is part of a huge and admirable building on Porteous Road, Ayanavaram, with a first of its kind underground accommodation that even now is functioning well. The Southern Railway has been showing great interest in its heritage in recent years. Will it restore the lost sheen of the heritage tower clock?

K. Ramadoss
4/1, PE Koil West Mada Street
Chennai 600 023

Dravidian Proof’

Readers of K.R.A. Narasiah’s article about F.W. Ellis (MM, March 1st) might like to know how to find Ellis’s “Dravidian proof”, which is a fine piece of scholarly argumentation and well worth reading. It was published by the College Press of Fort St. George in A.D. Campbell’s Grammar of the Teloogoo language, as a note to the introduction. A photographic reprint of this book was published by Asia Educational Services in 1991. The Dravidian proof of Ellis is also reproduced in my book, as an appendix: Languages and nations: the Dravidian proof in colonial Madras (New Delhi, Yoda Press, 2006) and the Tamil version, Diravidacchanru: Ellisum Diravida mozhikalum (Nager­coil: Kaalachuvadu Pathip­pakam, 2007).

Thomas R. Trautmann

More on Dugong

Apropos a recent letter in these columns, Dugong’s gestation period is one year or 13 months. Only one calf is born, rarely twins. The Tamil name is Aavulia. For more information on this fast disappearing mammal, readers are directed to the book Marine Mammals of India by Chennai-based naturalist Kumaran Sathasivam (Universities Press, 2004).

S.Theodore Baskaran
202, Sterling East
16, Pottery Road
Bangalore 560 005

Seniors’ woes

Senior citizens of Chennai like me face insurmountable problems with public utility ­services in South Chennai.

The Electricity Board office in Besant Nagar is on the 2nd floor. No lifts to it. After many complaints they started an ­office downstairs which does not function most of the time. ­Either the computer is out of ­order, or the printer is out of ­order, or the person concerned is simply not there. And on the rare occasion he is there, he does not have answers to simple questions. He directs us to climb two stairs. Telling him we are not able to only gets the ­reply “Ask someone else to come”. There is no point arguing with him. No wonder the Electricity Board is saddled with such a huge loss.

The LIC office in Adyar is on the 3rd floor. The lift is eerie and dark and does not function properly. When we approach the manager with the problem, his answer is, “You can pay online”. There is no point in telling him we don’t understand the medium. And at 60 years it is not possible to start learning.

The Aavin office is also on the 2nd floor. The lift rarely works and you are frightened to get into it alone. You get more frightened by the people inside. If you complain you will not get your milk cards.

What takes the cake is the Adyar Post Office. It is on the first floor. No lifts. There is no point mentioning our problems to the staff. When I did, the reply I got was, “We cannot have the post office on the ground floor just for a few old people like you. You can ask someone else to come to help you.”

All this when the government talks of being customer-friendly and doing so much for the disabled. Only when the service providers reach our age will they realise what we went through.

Fortunately, the temples are still on the ground floor. Equally fortunately, they have not yet been taken over by the government. Maybe then we will have temples on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

Chandrasekhar Viswanathan


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