September 24, 2011

Chennai Corporation Poll 2011: Want to Contest?

It is over four months since Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) were elected. But the man who represents the Velachery Assembly constituency still has not opened an office this side of the area, in Adyar.
M. K. Ashok of the AIADMK has his base in Velachery. A few local associations there were quick to invite him over for a meet, share their woes and get some assurances.
To be fair to Ashok, he has also toured the leeward side of his zone but only when some civic-minded residents badgered him.
He promised to open an office in Thiruvanmiyur two months ago. That has not happened. The Assembly sessions must have kept him busy. Crossing the chaotic Vijayanagar terminus is also a bother!
However, his party colleague who got elected from Mylapore, R. Rajalakshmi not only carved an office space at a local Corporation complex but also publicised her new e-mail address.
Is some one out there maintaining a MLA Report Card?
The process of elections to local civic bodies has just begun.
You and I will be called to choose our local councillors, the men and women who can talk for us on local issues at the Corporation's Council and get things done.
Political parties have already got into the act and their caravans will soon be criss-crossing our neighbourhoods.
This time, with Greater Chennai a reality, urban panchayats/municipalities have been brought under the civic body and hence, residents of these areas (like the ECR) will also vote for their councillors.
Are we thinking of encouraging civic-minded people, elders and activists to stand in this grassroot -level poll?
They say there is no space for candidates who are not backed by or are from political parties?
Should this discourage young people and seniors who have been at the forefront of activism on issues like waste disposal, water harvesting, beach restoration and law and order?
Projects worth many crores of rupees are suggested by a councillor during the five-year tenure. Much of this is actually 'advised' by the civic body and is not the choice of residents of that ward.
In some cases, the councillor is hardly seen in the ward.
This is the time for committed people of the area to stand up and throw the cap in the ring.
By the way, your ward number has changed. Info is available at the Chennai Corporation's web site.

September 17, 2011

Chennai Traffic Police on Facebook

Chennai City Traffic Police became Facebook-y recently.
There are posts on traffic snarls, bus breakdowns and diversion alerts.
And there are leads to data on fines, new initiatives and what the CTTP is thinking of doing in future.
Stern, stiff and critical messages of the public are also allowed.
But the most welcome feature is to invite the public to shoot a picture of a traffic violation or a related problem and post it here and I am told the men in khaki and white are acting on the reported violations.
On Sept.14, Ramanathan Srinivasan posted a photo to record a ‘No Parking’ violation near Sutherland in Velachery at peak hour time.
J. P. Benoy Paul of Adyar posted a picture of the pavement alongside Ambika Appalam and Nilgiris stores in Kasturba Nagar to demonstrate the conditions pedestrians have to face in our city.
There is a very serious problem that Mylaporeans are enduring the past months. A problem created by the now ‘one-way’, now ‘two-way’ and ok, now ‘one-way’ systems of the CTTP.
These policies affected Alwarpet, Abhiramapuram, Raja Annamalaipuram, Luz and Mylapore.
Today, all ‘one way’ rules in the neighbourhood are generally flouted at every junction.
More serious, many people have been brushed, knocked down or injured for no fault of theirs by cyclists, bikers and cars who care a damn. The worst affected are our seniors.
So we at ‘Mylapore Times’ are mulling over an idea that should help bring to book the violators and lead to some order in these zones.
We will shoot photos of the violators, jot down their vehicle registration numbers and publish them online and in the newspaper.
The first step has been taken in this issue of ‘Mylapore Times’, in the ‘Letters’ column.
Local newspapers in the West do just this. It helps a thin police team haul up violators.
We want your comments and ideas on this move. Meanwhile, I have posted this idea on the CTTP Facebook page. I am hoping Sanjay Arora, the Addl. Commissioner will also comment.

September 10, 2011

Use public spaces!

He took out a Givency box from his cotton bag, opened it to take out five photo albums and began to take me through his travels in the United States.
Vasanth is a nationally-recognised cinematographer but he belongs to the era of Padmarajan, Bharathan and Sethumadhavan, famed Malayalam and Tamil film directors.
So, given a camera of whatever make or size, Vasanth is bound to shoot. But the pictures are differently shot and we know why. "It's a very intuitive thing," he says.
There were a few hundred photos of the outdoors in New Orleans, New Jersey and New York.
The unsaid but evident line that ran through almost all the pictures were that they were shots of people in public spaces - in parks and zoos, avenues and beaches.
So much was happening here - buskers in the act, a music band of three entertaining people, teams of two playing a local and simple game, women sunning themselves . . .
Vasanth seemed pleased with the pictures he had taken and wondered if the material he had would make for a good photo exhibition.
That night, I chanced on a short film on BBC World. On the move of civic agencies to restrain buskers and musicians from playing in Central Park, New York.
Musicians said that the move was an infringement of their basic rights, some people said the acts could be restrained and some others, that such shows spoilt the quiet of the open spaces.
In our own neighbourhoods, Chennai Corporation has created lots of open spaces in the past few years but communities do not seem keen to make good use of them.
Whenever amateur musicians of a band seek help, I direct them to these places. The hiring fee is small, the basic facility is okay and if the acts are regular, residents are bound to sit around and enjoy the music or the theatre.
The trend set at Nageswara Rao Park in Luz and the Corporation Park in CIT Colony of holding kutcheris must inspire many others 'take over' public spaces.

September 03, 2011

Walks can teach us a lot!

Can we have a Walk of the haunted houses of Adyar?, asks Binita Sashi.
Binita is part of the 'Namma Arcot Road' initiative whose main aim is to organise unique events for the Arcot Road neighbourhoods to liven up its social life.

Haunted houses of Adyar?
I hadn't heard of them until a daily newspaper published a feature on some of them.

Deep inside sprawling, hidden estates of Adyar are dilapidated bungalows which appear to be surviving in a different time but are some of these really haunted?
Stories are key to a successful Walk and we may have to do some spadework before an enterprising person launches this Walk.

Uma Vangal teaches film students at the L. V. Prasad Academy in Saligramam. She has lived in Perambur. Now, she says she would like to launch a Walk which can showcase the Anglo-Indians, their lives, hangouts and all.
All she will need is some encouragement.

These are positive responses following Madras Day 2011.
To me though, the growing interest and keeness shown by school students this year is food for thought.
The initiatives must come from the people who educate the young minds.

At least three schools in Adyar are said to have Heritage Clubs. With the help of resource people - dance gurus, officers, businessmen and the rest - who are long-time residents of the Adyar neighbourhood we could create at least half a dozen Walks which last for 45 minutes.

A Walk down Gandhi Nagar's 4th Main Road would be fascinating if it touched on three aspects - the creation and growth of this 'Co-op' colony, the great people who lived here and the changing face of the area.

Actor Mohan Raman ran a Walk on the Old Studios of Kollywood, restricted to people who paid for this Madras Day event.

Now, if groups like 'Namma Arcot Road' could get a few resource people and invite Raman to educate them on this Walk, we could have a dozen guides who could educate the students of this area.

Cinema is core to our lives today and Walks can be educative too.