July 12, 2010

Chennai or Madras

Should Chennai Corporation create a space for citizens to discuss, debate and discourse on issues that affect our city?
It should.
It does.
It does by way of providing space, time and funds to councillors who are elected in 155 wards of this city. Councillors who are supposed to speak for the community they represent.
But do the real issues come up?
Take the case of the proposal to change the names of streets and roads.
A city’s civic body should have opened up the issue for discussion and debate, sought ideas and suggestions.
These would have enlightened all of us, the councillors and the Mayor.
‘Madras Musings’, the fortnightly devoted to all that is Madras and Chennai ran columns on the history behind the names of prominent street and road names. In a way, it gave all of us the hint that the names of people who had contributed to this city should be retained.
Chennai Corporation oftentimes takes its people for granted. Or sidelines them.
This week, a small group of residents of the Leith Castle area in San Thome said they visited the city Mayor to impress upon him the need to retain the name and gave him a bit of the history behind it.
They returned disappointed because the Mayor dismissed their contention and said so coldly.
I was amused when I read that the Corporation had even asked two new hotels to change their names because Mount Road was part of their names.
The reasoning - since Mount Road was renamed Anna Salai years ago, the former could not be used.
These are proper names and I don’t see how a civic body can keep ordering people and exceeds its powers.
It is a form of extremism. And it should be challenged.
It is up to citizens to get the Corporation to open up, to provide it a space for debate and to respect its views.
So speak up when you need to.

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