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    Chennai may have proliferating waste, sewer rats, mosquitoes and bad traffic but it is an intellectual city, which does not fake. Its people are real


    I would like to invite the new graduates and post-graduates [of Madras University], to journey with me, briefly, on a survey of life around us, of the scene here, in our very own city of Chennai and in our beloved state of Tamil Nadu. You belong, as I do, to Chennai, most of you, and to Tamil Nadu. So what I describe is what you and I are witness to, complicit in, and part of.

    Let me start with three things that are good and great about Chennai, famous for having the largest number of temples, medical shops and posters to a street.

    First, it is a real city. Its people are real. Their problems are real, their poverty, their misery is real. As are their joys and their sense of fun. Their creativity, their improvisations are real too. Chennai does not fake, does not pretend. And above all, Chennai handles real life, in a real way, making of that reality what it can. You could say India is like that and so it is but, in being true to itself, Chennai can be said to be India’s teacher.

    Second, Chennai is a metropolis with a mind of its own. It can, alongside Kolkata, be described as an intellectual metro. ‘Metro,’ incidentally, comes from ‘mother’. A metropolis is ‘Mother City’. This intellectual mother city has corner shops and stalls that sell every variety of newspaper, superb journals, well-brought out magazines — including, I must say a lot of rubbish — with unflagging speed. If you see in a Chennai newspaper the list of that day’s happenings, you will see meetings being organised by study circles ranging from Gandhi to Ambedkar, Periyar to J. Krishnamurti, Marx to Einstein. No wonder a person like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, born to a Telugu-speaking mother, chose this mother city as his home.

    Third, Chennai is a city with the most extraordinary cultural resources. No other place in the world has as many music halls that double up as meeting halls, small or big, five star or zero star, as Chennai does. ‘All Are Welcome’ is surely a Chennai phrase, signifying the bandwidth of the city’s cultural life. No wonder Tanjore Balasaraswati and Madurai Subbulakshmi became so comfortable in Madras, as the city was then called.

    We can be proud to be Chennaivasi.

    But pride becomes conceit if it is unaccompanied by honesty. So, let me now turn to three things that are not so good or great and are, in fact, positively wrong about our city and therefore about us.

    Ours is a city where unknown and unnamed diseases incubate in uncountable measure because we are callous, short-sighted and downright irresponsible—Photo: M. Karunakaran

    Ours is a city where unknown and unnamed diseases incubate in uncountable measure because we are callous, short-sighted and downright irresponsible—Photo: M. Karunakaran

    First, our civic sense. Chennai’s civic sense is an affront to the senses. Of what self-purifying or uplifting use, what earthly or heavenly use, can the temple-at-every possible step be if the Chennai male spits and urinates at every possible corner, crevice and culvert? It is utterly hypocritical on our part to blame the civic authorities, our Corporation, of not keeping the city streets clean, if we maltreat our surroundings 24×7 as we do. The conservancy staff that clears the mounds upon mounds of garbage we generate deserves not just our gratitude but our apology for doing its work without our help. Believe me, they are more important and more deserving of respect than the temple chariots that block our paths every so often in futile repetitiveness.

    Ours may be the city where Tiruvalluvar is believed many centuries ago to have lived, where Mudarignar Rajaji, Thanthai Periyar, Perunthalaivar Kamaraj, Arignar Anna and Sangita Kalanidhi M.S. Subbulakshmi lived, but the fact is that ours is also the city where sewage rats proliferate in their millions, mosquitoes breed in their billions and unknown and unnamed diseases incubate in uncountable measure not because the so-called ‘authorities’ are neglectful but because we are callous, short-sighted and downright irresponsible. Make no mistake, dengue and chikunguniya today and — who knows — plague and rabies tomorrow will not be caused by an inefficient administration but by our own cynical lifestyles.

    Second, our road sense, by which I mean the way we negotiate our movement on roads, is scandalous. And the biggest offender, I might even say ‘culprit,’ is the motorcyclist. No one is above the law except the motorcyclist. I take it that many if not most of you graduating students of MU are motorcyclists. So please take this as addressed to you. The poor pedestrian is the biggest victim of the motorcyclist’s dizzying hurry.

    There is another hurry around us. The hurry to build, which is accompanied by the hurry to destroy. The sharp-toothed bulldozers of destruction which can reduce a building to pulp in a matter of hours and the large cones of cement which can build on the destroyed site within days, are about hurry as well, a hurry to reap in profits as quickly as possible. And the result? Roadsides that are permanently dug-up, footpaths with heaps of sand and cement bags on them.

    This brings me to the third wrong, our sense of right and wrong. Chennai is overlooking some human tragedies being enacted right under its gaze. Simply put, this is the huge and widening divide between the very rich and the destitute in our city. If the number of cars and motorcycles has risen dizzyingly, the number of vagrants is also rising at an alarming rate. And they symbolise the great divide.

    It is utterly wrong that sky-scraping buildings should rise in our city, both for residential and professional purposes that will pull out ground water in profligate quantities, when thousands of people in the city have to pump up water physically from derelict, broken down hand-pumps at street corners.

    Let us not again blame the authorities for giving permissions, clearances. Who asks for them? Who facilitates them? Is there any clearance without an applicant?You, products of Madras University, can choose to be part of the greatness of Chennai or part of its problems. I hope you will choose right.

    Tamil Nadu’s tradition

    We are rightly proud to belong to this State. Speaking for myself, being a resident of Tamil Nadu, and descended from Tamil ancestors is an identity I cherish. Let me quickly enumerate three things that make our State great.

    The first is its breaking the back of caste discrimination. The battle is not over yet but it has achieved phenomenal success. For this we have no one more to thank than Thanthai Periyar and the self-respect movement that he started. We cannot also forget the pioneering role played by the Congress prior to independence against untouchability.

    The second is its tradition of religious accord. There is a dangerous wave of religious intolerance that is being set afloat. Tamil Nadu can be sure to rebuff, stoutly and spontaneously, any attempts to introduce religious and communal majoritarianism on the wings of electoral majorities.

    The third is the remarkable improvement in the status of its women, be it in the matter of the age of marriage, health or education. The curse of dowry is still with us and in pockets, child marriages still take place, but the woman in Tamil Nadu is no longer the undernourished, under-educated and abused woman of some decades ago.

    But let me now list three factors or three characteristics of ours as a people that should cause us to worry.

    The first is our proneness to glorify success, success in politics, in commerce, in any field. It is not unconnected to our devotionalism. The glorification of success leads to worship of the successful and the powerful who are, by definition, successful. It is one thing to admire, to support and even to adore. It is quite another to make of anyone we admire, a cult.

    The second is our preoccupation with our regional, linguistic and cultural identity. This is self-depriving. We are looked upon — let us be aware of it — as a people who are wrapped up in our own self-importance. This is a very unfortunate image to have for our tradition is far from being that. Take the number of Tamils or residents of Tamil Nadu who have become Bharat Ratnas — Rajaji, Sir C.V. Raman, Radhakrishnan, V.V. Giri, Perunthalaivar Kamaraj, MGR, the author of the green revolution C. Subramaniam, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Sangita Kalanidhi M.S. Subbulakshmi. They were national personalities and I take this opportunity to say that it is a thousand pities that Periyar and Arignar Anna were not awarded the Bharat Ratna in their lifetimes.

    The third is our relationship with money. It is the most passionate. But in the case of the vast majority of us, the passion is also honest. But it is a fact that we are too easily dazzled by wealth, be it the wealth of persons, corporates, or of temples. Money is blinding us. We may want to earn big, we should not let that desire blind us.

    Remember what has made us great and that which keeps our great heritage from rising higher.

    Remember too that Tamil Nadu has as much to offer to India today and tomorrow as it did in the decades gone by. You have as yet reputations to make, none to lose. Make them with not just your minds but your consciences wide awake.

    (Excerpts from Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s address delivered at Madras University’s 158th annual convocation on Monday. Former Governor of West Bengal, Mr. Gandhi is Distinguished Professor of History and Politics, Ashoka University.)

    Click here to read the full text of Mr. Gandhi’s speech

    source: / The Hindu / Home> National> TamilNadu / by Gopalkrishna Gandhi / September 29th, 2015

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    The Department of Posts will celebrate Gandhi Jayanthi by organising a philatelic exhibition at Gandhi Museum in Hasthampatti Post Office in the city from October 2 – 15.

    A sales counter will be opened at the exhibition to facilitate the public to collect latest stamps, to place ‘My Stamp’ order and to open philatelic deposit accounts, B. Arumugam, Senior Superintendent of Post Officer, Salem East Postal Division, told presspersons here on Monday.

    Post Shoppe

    The Postal Department has also proposed to launch ‘Post Shoppe’, a new channel for business development activity, at Salem Head Post Office on October 3.

    The general public can purchase stationery items and books from ‘Post Shoppe’. Manju P. Pillai, Postmaster General, Western Region, Coimbatore, will inaugurate the philatelic exhibition on October 2.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> National> TamilNadu / by Special Correspondent / Salem – September 30th, 2015

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    September 30th, 2015adminSports

    Udhagamandalam  :

    A three-day event, Inter Command Sport Climbing Championship, concluded at Thangaraj Stadium in the Madras Regimental Centre (MRC) in Wellington near Coonoor, on Sunday. The event, in which six teams from various commands of the Indian Army participated, was held under the aegis of Army Adventure Wing, Delhi.

    It began on September 25, with six climbers participating in speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering events respectively, at the Army Adventure Nodal Centre in Wellington, demonstrating exceptional spirit of sportsmanship and courage.

    Southern Command bagged the trophy with 90 points. NK Jaskaran Singh of Southern Command clocked the best timing in speed climbing while LNK Palanisamy of Southern Command topped lead climbing and HAV Somnath Sindhe of Southern Command was the winner in the bouldering event.

    Colonel SS Sahi, Director, Army Adventure Wing, Delhi, inaugurated the event. On Sunday, Brigadier SK Sangwan, VSM, Commandant, MRC gave away the championship trophy and prizes to the winners and runners up.

    source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Coimbatore / TNN / September 28th, 2015

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    September 29th, 2015adminScience & Technologies

    Chennai :

    The National Hub for Healthcare Instrumentation Development (NHHID) funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has developed a portable ‘antibiogram’ device that will help doctors determine whether a specific antibiotic will be suitable for a patient at a nominal cost of Rs 20-30. DST had allocated Rs 70 lakh in the past three years for this project and once commercialised, the manufacturing cost of one device will be around Rs 10,000.


    Since doctors in India have used the same group of antibiotics for years, disease-causing agents have developed resistance to antibiotics, turning the treatment ineffective. A study was conducted by NHHID in 400 government and private hospitals across the state to study antibiotic resistance patterns. The study suggests that penicillin-related antibiotics generally have very little effect on bacteria causing urinary tract infections.

    Researchers from NHHID Centre in Anna University say this device will enable doctors view lab results on their mobile phones, tablets or laptops to chart out an effective antibiotic treatment for a patient.

    According to S Muttan, the head of Electronics and Communication department at Anna University who is involved with the NHHID project, all that the doctor needs to do is to place samples of biological fluid (blood, urine, saliva, eye and ear discharge), and the antibiotics mixed with biochemicals in the vial trays. Around 8 to 10 samples of antibiotics can be tested simultaneously. The antiobiogram kit will determine whether an antibiotic will help the patient fight the bacteria or not within four to seven hours.

    Researchers from NHHID say that the resulting images are processed and sent to the doctor’s mobile, tab or system connected to the viewfinder of the device. This will be of great help to rural healthcare professionals as it is portable and battery-charged, K Sankaran, Coordinator of NHHID, told Express.

    Sankaran said that doctors in Tamil Nadu, particularly in rural areas, are concerned about what antibiotics can be prescribed for effective treatment. Based on an idea proposed by NHHID for an antibiogram, the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, came up with a prototype which was later developed into a portable gadget by the NHHID, he added.

    Unlike current methods which consumes two to three days to produce a 70 perc ent accurate result, this antibiogram produced 93.9 per cent accurate results in less than four-seven hours. It costs around Rs 10 to perform a test in NHHID laboratory setup, where as the same test using conventional methods would cost around Rs 300-Rs 1000 in private labs.

    Chennai-based Trivion Healthcare is looking to sign a MoU with NHHID to get the rights and market it. GSK Velu, founder of the company said that it need not only be used for urinary tract infections, but also for several other diseases including dengue, malaria, tuberculosis, common fever.

    source: / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Chennai / by Ram M Sundaram / ENS / September 28th, 2015

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    Sivakami, a writer, took VRS from civil service to join politics.

    Sivakami, a writer, took VRS from civil service to join politics.

    P. Sivakami’s novel has incidents that a Dalit officer may face in her career

    The story of Neela, a fictional IAS officer, may find resonance among civil servants, especially Dalits, who feel they are under undue pressure.

     At a time when the State is concerned about the plight of officers such as DSP Vishupriya, whose recent suicide is suspected to be under pressure from various quarters , Unmaikku Munnum Pinnum , a work of fiction, seeks to unmask the attitude of the administration towards Dalit officers.

    However, Neela, the protagonist in former IAS officer P. Sivakami’s novel, shows steely determination in the face of humiliation, discrimination and agonising moments.

    Ms. Sivakami, who took voluntary retirement some years ago to take the plunge into politics, seems to contend that such problems are faced more by Dalits, as other employees are protected by their caste status.

    The novel also gives insights into the functioning of civil servants and how IAS and IPS officers tend to identify themselves with one party or other to reap personal benefits.

    Pressure from politicians

    “More often than not, officials succumb to pressure from politicians; and caste affinity seems to decide their conduct while in service. They are ready to do anything to please their political masters,” says Ms. Sivakami.

    In the case of Vishnupriya, she says, her superiors chose to view her investigation into a murder case from a caste angle only because she was a Dalit, even though she commanded credibility as an officer.

    “Would it have happened to an officer from another caste,” asks Ms. Sivakami, whose heroine Neela is slapped with memo after memo in the novel, and is put on compulsory wait for helping the oppressed section of society.

    The novel was serialised in Tamil magazine ‘Pudhiya Kodangi’ when Ms Sivakami was in service.

    It has many incidents that seem close to real life events that a Dalit officer may face in her career. For instance, Neela is punished for overzealousness in her duties as secretary of the Adi Dravidar Welfare Department.

    She is pressurised by the administration to apologise for her activities, and even a senior Dalit officer on extension is roped in to persuade her to “abide by the rules.” But, she refuses to give it in writing regretting her social activities.

    Neela is portrayed as a sportsperson, well-read and with an independent mind. Her aim to become a public servant is driven by the desire to serve her people and not by the privileges that civil service offers.

    This probably is the first novel on the functioning of bureaucracy in the State

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by B. Kolappan / Chennai – September 28th, 2015

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    Coimbatore :

    City boy bags a $1000 grant from a US based NGO, Pollination Project, after public voting chose his project – Nofoodwaste – as the best initiative among many others nominated from across the world. Padmanaban Gopalan and his two friends, Sudhakar and Dinesh have been actively working for over a year since October, 2014 to collect excess food at weddings and hotels that could be packed and given to the hungry in Coimbatore.

    His competitors included Mark Devries from New York whose project was Citizen Drone Project in which he uses drones to gather information about factory farming methods, Maria Maneos from Eagleville, Pennysylvania, for project Prison Arts programme and Samantha N Ngcolomba from Johannesburg, South Africa for the project Lady Liberty in which attorneys were given a platform to help abused women.

    “Out of 150 applications, we selected four outstanding finalists working on human rights, social justice, animal advocacy, environment, arts activism, and women’s rights,” wrote Ari Nessel, founder and director of Pollination Project. The voting closed on July 17 and he won by a margin of over 4000 votes. The grant was received recently. Padmanaban who won only based on the public voting said he was delighted by the news. “I got to know about this funding through a friend and applied for it. Generally, there is no voting system. They scrutinize the project and grant it. But since this was their 1000th grant, they launched the public voting system,” he said. He has now launched a Zero Hunger Hour campaign that would be marked on October 16 on World Food Day between 12:30pm to 1:30pm when they would feed several hungry people. “We will use this grant to mobilize people into the campaign. We have already written to various international NGOs to make it a global phenomenon and have received positive responses,” he said.

    Ask him how this grant has changed his life and he says people who hardly noticed him have also begun offering help. “Earlier, when we were scouting for sponsors, nobody took us seriously. We used our own funds and packaged and transported the food,” he said. But after the award, the Rotary Club of Coimbatore gifted them a that has made their task simpler. The team plans to expand it to Tirupur, Erode, Salem, Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri.

    He will soon launch a mobile application that would help people look for locations close by where extra food could be donated. They would be guided with a map and GPS system that would show 100 spots where excess food could be delivered. “On October 2, we will launch the application and the Zero Food Hour campaign,” he said. “The idea is to promote this concept of not wasting food by feeding the poor,” said Padmanaban. Meanwhile, the team is in talks with the city corporation to extend it to all the wards and zones. “If the civic body provides us with land, where food could be collected and saved in cold storage, transporting food could be easier. Moreover, people would know where to give excess food and this would help create more awareness,” he said.

    source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Coimbatore / by Komal Gautham / Septemeber 26th, 2015

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    Minister for Handlooms and Textiles S. Gokula Indira inaugurating a weavers’ training centre at Paramakudi on Thursdy. Minister for Sports and Youth Welfare S. Sundararaj and Principal Secretary, Handlooms and Textiles, Harmander Singh are seen.

    Minister for Handlooms and Textiles S. Gokula Indira inaugurating a weavers’ training centre at Paramakudi on Thursdy. Minister for Sports and Youth Welfare S. Sundararaj and Principal Secretary, Handlooms and Textiles, Harmander Singh are seen.

    Move to help them meet changing market needs

    The Ministry of Handlooms and Textiles has offered to train 100 weavers under the Integrated Skill Development Scheme (ISDS) and help them come out with diversified products with new designs and improved quality to meet changing market needs.

    Inaugurating the training centre at Emaneswaram near here on Thursday, Tamil Nadu Minister for Handlooms and Textiles S. Gokula Indira said that 100 handloom weavers in Paramakudi, Virudhunagar, Nagercoil and Tirunelveli circles would be trained for 50 days and they would be given a daily stipend of Rs. 150 each.

    The training imparted to the weavers in the centre would help them develop new designs, add value to their products and enhance their earnings, she said.

    In the first batch, 20 weavers, including eight women, from Paramakudi circle would be trained and all the 100 weavers would be covered in the next 10 months, she said.

    The Minister said that 89 weavers’ cooperative societies were functioning in Ramanathapuram (86) and Sivanganga (three) circles with more than 12,000 weavers attached to them. They produced about Rs. 36 crore-worth products, mainly cotton saris, per year, and Co-optex procured 40 per cent of themshe added.

    The training centre was equipped with all necessary infrastructure facilities, including looms, motorised jacquard boxes, computerised design machine, computerised card punching machine, and motorised pirn winding machine to help the weavers upgrade their skills and familiarise with emerging technologies, R.P. Gowthaman, Assistant Director of Handlooms and Textiles, Parakamudi circle, said.

    He said that 30 weavers each from Paramakudi and Virudhunagar circles and 20 each from Nagercoil and Tirunelveli circles would be trained in the centre.

    Besides, the Tamil Nadu Cooperative Union was also imparting 15-day training to weavers in technology upgradation on a regular basis. Twenty weavers were trained every month with a daily stipend of Rs. 150 each, he added.

    Minister for Sports and Youth Welfare S. Sundararaj, Principal Secretary of Handlooms and Textiles Harmander Singh, Collector K. Nanthakumar and local MP A. Anwar Raza were among the others present at the function.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> National> Tamil Nadu / by Special Correspondent / Paramakudi – September 26th, 2015

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