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VOL. XXII NO. 4, June 1-15, 2012
Our Readers Write

Coins that confuse

Who are the people responsible for designing our coins? They only cause headaches to users!

The new one rupee and two rupee coin are of same size and shapes. They are identical except for the lettering.

Similarly, the new 50 paise coin and one rupee coin are of same size and shape. Only the lettering is different. Further, the new five rupee coin is very similar, being only very slightly bigger and thicker.

Interestingly, there are several 'new' coins with variations between coins of the same denomination.

Imagine the confusion, inconvenience and hardship caused to one and all, especially people who deal with coins as part of their job – shopkeepers, bus conductors, cashiers and others.

Sadly, such issues are not raised in any forum.

B. Gautham
137, Wallajah Road
Chennai 600 002

Meter podu

'Meter podu' (MM, May 1st) seeks a solution by arriving at the most prevailing fare which commuters have been paying between two points while travelling by auto. This assumes that meters are now "dead" (which is true) and that they will be so in future too. When meters for autos work in many other cities, as vouched by some letters in your previous issues, and work well to the satisfaction of both the users and the service providers, our aim should be to devise a system which is fair to all. Without belittling the commendable efforts of the tech-savvy group, a few suggestions are offered:

1. Every auto should be owned only by its driver (land for tiller analogy). Only that driver and one more blood relation of his – say, father, son or brother – can be authorised to drive it.

All existing owners will have to sell their autos to the actual drivers within a month. To enable the drivers to purchase the autos, banks can lend money on the mortgage of the autos. A registered Association of Auto Drivers can give collateral guarantee.

2. Photos, addresses, etc of the two authorised drivers should be prominently displayed in the auto along with the registration number of the auto. This should also show the designation, address and telephone numbers of the authority to whom complaints from users could be made.

3. The meter must show very clearly the distance travelled in kilometres and fractions. The fare to be paid should be seen from a validated Fare Card showing the actual fare to be paid for various distances, the waiting charges and the surcharge, if any, for late night travel.

4. Overcharging or refusal to ply should be treated as a serious violation and three proven violations should result in revocation of the driving licence.

5. An Empowered Fare Fixing Board consisting of an Economist, a Financial Specialist, a representation of Transport Department, an Automobile Engineer, a representative of the Auto Drivers and a representative of the Auto passengers / public should be set up for revising the Fare Card whenever it becomes necessary due to increase in fuel prices, etc.

6. Passengers can also be requested to show their appreciation of the condition of the auto, the courtesy and civility of the driver by 'voting' and the highest vote-winner every year could be declared the Auto Driver of the Year with some appropriate rewards.

If such a scheme is agreed to in principle, a more detailed, practical scheme can be worked out for the benefit of all, avoiding the "negotiating" of fares with much bickering as is the practice now.

K.R. Baliga
2B, Parkland Apartments
Harrington Road
Chennai 600 031

Why European focus?

This is with reference to the article on Heritage laws. I am surprised that the Heritage activists only talk about the legacy of the European invaders and never about the temples dating back one thousand years and more. Citing the model of London Heritage is very unfair because we are poles apart, both in terms of culture and resources. When the city is bursting at the seams, what good does it do to say Col. Munro visited the place exactly 200 years ago to this day? After all, they were representatives of a colonial power and not missionaries keen to spread the message of love! Some of them were entrepreneurs and the locals associated with them to make money and not with any altruistic motive!

When the Victoria Public Hall or the Senate Hall of the University of Madras is restored, we are happy but should they not be put to regular use all round the year? I wish the authorities wake up and expand the VP Hall and see that it is put to good use for the cultural functions of the City and not locked paving way for some conservationist to do it all over again fifty years later. The Ripon Building, now being restored, is also a case in point.

I have no claims to being a conservation or civil engineering expert but why should the lime and mortar combination be used when the more durable cement mix is cheaper? Why do we always wax nostalgic about the good old days and miss the lessons of history? Can we bring back everything lost to time? If at all, we can preserve the memorabilia in a museum. In any country, utility and people should gain precedence over sentiment, though if the two can be sustained, well and good. Heritage, just for the sake of nostalgia about a few self-serving merchants of yore, is hard to digest.

Dr. Panchaksharam Selvarajan
5050/1, Ponni Colony
Anna Nagar West
Chennai 600 040

EDITOR'S NOTE: 1) Temples are protected and looked after by the HR & CE Department and, in some cases, by National or State Archaeological Departments. The call for heritage laws is to protect other historic constructions not covered by these departments.

2) Cement mix is less durable than lime mortar, we are told.

The hills of Salem

The reference to Salem (MM, April 1st) suggests a link to the Cheras, but it lacks historical corroboration. The local Uttamacholapuram temple (besides its copperplate grant) and the temples of Sukhavaneswara and Soundararaja contain more than a dozen inscriptions pertaining to the Chola and Pandya kingdoms in the period 10th-13th Century C.E. Incidentally, the Brahmin settlement of Pandya times in Salem was known as Rajasrayachaturvedimangalam.

The name Sela Naadu going back to those times is said to be derived from 'saila' or hill range and is stretched to mean "surrounded by hills" which is typical of the landscape of the region.

The tribal Malayalis inhabiting the Shevaroys or Servarayan hills (the most prominent geographical boundary of Salem) trace the name of their territory to Sedhirayars, their erstwhile rulers. The Sedhirayars and their counterparts, the Malaiyamans, are attested to in the historical sources of the medieval period. The transition from Sedhirayars to Servarayan poses no philological problem.

Above all, Salem was strategically situated to act as a buffer zone between Ganga, Pallava and Chola domains about a millennium ago.

Rev. Philip K. Mulley
St. Luke's Church
Kotagiri 643 217, The Nilgiris

Salem from Sailam?

Regarding the origin of the name Salem, my family lived there for a few months in 1957. The town of Salem and its vicinities are surrounded by several hills, such as Yercaud, on one side. The town is situated in the bowl of these hills. Pointing to the hills, my Tamil tutor said that the name 'Salem' is derived from Sailam in Sanskrit, which means 'mountain.'

Sujatha Vijayaraghavan

Where are they?

The Mail would have been 143 years old now had it been allowed to run. Another Madras daily, Swadesamitran, would have completed over 122 years had it been allowed to run.

Many Malayalam, Marathi, and Gujarati dailies have completed over 100 years. In Tamil there are no 100-years-old newspapers. What has happened to the old issues of The Mail and Swadesamitran, which needed to have been preserved for posterity and would be of heritage importance.

'Sai Prasad', Kharghar
Navi Mumbai 410 210

Using the sun

Reader R. Janakiraman (MM, April 1st) has suggested that future civil engineering plans go back in time and build houses with open central courtyards allowing sunlight to fall into the house. It is not advisable these days, with the crime graph going up. While the benefits of sunlight will come in the day time, criminals will have a field day helped by moonlight.

Under the circumstances, solar power should be tapped. Why are the authorities not so enthusiastic about promoting solar energy use?

C.G. Prasad
9, C.S. Mudali Street
Chennai 600 079

Please click here to support the Heritage Act

In this issue

A good act, but could be better!
Integrating the City's transport
It's time to manage transport in the City
Elephants over the centuries
Vivekananda's Chicago visit
The day the Don had us nearly run out
Our cars, 1962-2011
Sounds you do not hear

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan


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