Letters to the Editor

Published : Dec 23, 2015 12:30 IST

Deluge of the century

FL Cover deluge
The floods that devastated Chennai and its suburbs for more than a week in December can be described as the deluge of century (Cover Story, December, 25). However, the State disaster management machinery failed to rise to the occasion. If the authorities had heeded the timely forecast of the impending torrential rains and opened the reservoir in advance, the destruction could have been considerably mitigated.

The efforts of the defence forces in rescuing marooned people, including the airlifting of a pregnant woman, are commendable.


The Cover Story gave a vivid account of the grim situation in Chennai. It was a result of the negligence of successive rulers who allowed indiscriminate reclamation of land for construction and neglected waterbodies and the drainage system in the city. The Chief Minister’s absence when thousands of people were experiencing untold misery added insult to injury. Her partymen were more interested in sticking her photographs on relief material supplied by volunteer groups than in helping the people. The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s quick action under similar circumstances highlighted his commitment to his people.


Excessive rain has devastated life and property in Tamil Nadu. The pictures of rain-affected areas and suffering people were heart-rending. The defence forces deserve a word of praise for their rescue operations. Rehabilitation is the need of the hour. The government should also take up proper maintenance of waterbodies so that such tragedies do not recur.


The articles in the Cover Story feature brought out clearly nature’s ferocity in Chennai and its adjoining areas. Looking back on the tragedy, one can see that it brought out the good and the bad in people. There were the public-spirited individuals and good Samaritan volunteer groups that harnessed digital technology to tackle the disaster and provide all possible help to the victims. Nobody should forget the services of the 55-year-old milk vendor Radha in Ashok Nagar, the volunteer John in MKB Nagar and the Muslim volunteers who served food to victims in the Sri Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane, and other organisations such as the Ramakrishna Mission. Shame on the unscrupulous traders who exploited the misery of people to make a profit.

On top of all this, the apathy of the State administration stands out. It is time for it to introspect and learn lessons. A consultation with all the stakeholders on the immediate and long-term issues must form the basis of the State’s political discourse now, and all the political parties must remember that good politics starts with understanding the basic problems faced by the poor and the lower middle classes and devising ways to empower them in such terrible moments of life,

As a senior citizen and an ardent admirer of the south, I feel the pain of the city but am optimistic that with better policies and programmes, a Singara Chennai can be created again. But it is only possible through a holistic integration of good economics and politics, and a renewal of people’s ties with nature.


As the unprecedented and continuous rain flooded Chennai and power cuts made the lives of people miserable, what stood out were the inadequacies in the civic infrastructure and the disaster management system. Rain on this scale brings even the best of cities to a halt, but one cannot deny that the collapse of Chennai was partly man-made. Successive governments and the corporation authorities failed to the check unplanned constructions on marshy lands and low-lying areas. The authorities woke up late to the seriousness of the disaster. They could have controlled the damage to the city if they had acted earlier. One should also appreciate the defence forces and the National Disaster Response Force for evacuating many senior citizens, women and children to places of safety. The drainage system in the city should be overhauled on a war footing. The government should check haphazard growth and ensure that rules are not flouted to favour realtors.


Chennai has developed haphazardly over many decades and has created problems such as slums, substandard housing conditions, narrow lanes and inadequate infrastructure. Although there are town planning experts, engineers and good administrators in bodies such as the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority, the Directorate of Town and Country Planning and the Local Planning Authority, their “free-for-all” mentality has led to serious problems such as the current flooding.

The mushrooming growth of cities in violation of master plans and regularisation of illegal constructions are the main reasons for the chaotic conditions after the recent rain. Most of the responses to the disaster came from volunteer groups. Hence, there is a need for the government to be better prepared in the future.


Denationalising banks

The government’s attempt to privatise IDBI Bank is part of its crude move to hand over the reins of public sector banks (PSBs) to private players in the country (“The door to denationalisation”, December 25).

Ever since it came to power, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been trying to tinker with public sector banking, with its brazenly partisan appeasement of the corporate sector. The seven-point programme christened “Indradhanush” by the Finance Minister, with its claim to put the PSBs back on track, is actually intended to destroy public sector participation in banking.

Indira Gandhi’s bold move to nationalise banks in 1969 literally transformed the country in myriad ways. The fillip given to priority sector lending by the PSBs boosted the economy and elevated the standard of living of a vast majority in the country. The arguments put forth for private participation lack conviction and are based on conjectures.

While compliance to Basel III norms requires huge recapitalisation, it is not incumbent upon the country to accept and implement the same. Sadly, the present government has not learned from history and is trying to tread a treacherous path. The need of the hour is the recovery of its non-performing assets from the corporate sector and giving more teeth to loan recovery laws.


The nationalisation of banks in 1969 did achieve its objective. It dramatically transformed the banking industry, improving its performance in terms of reach and credit provision and allocation to hitherto neglected sectors such as agriculture and small-scale industry. But, I do not agree with the apprehension of the author that the decision to privatise IDBI Bank may lead to the denationalisation of the industry. In fact, no one can stop the government from privatising the banking system citing reasons such as low profitability, high level of non-performing assets and poor quality of service.

However, providing capital funds to nationalised banks seems to be the main concern of the government. That is why it wants to reduce its shareholding to 52 per cent and still retain control. It knows very well that if banks are privatised, the development of the country will come to a standstill. The government has already seen the disinterest of private banks in schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Jandhan Yojana. At the most, the government may go for mergers and acquisitions rather than privatise the industry.


Liberalism under threat

India is becoming a nation of curbs and controls, bans and prohibitions, and regulations and restrictions (“The tolerance test”, December 25). Free will is getting throttled. Freethinkers are being hunted, hounded and killed. Writers and artistes bear the brunt of this intolerance, and show their disillusionment and frustration by returning prestigious awards and quitting the Sahitya Akademi. The actor Aamir Khan’s statement on intolerance reflects this atmosphere. These developments do not augur well for the world’s largest democracy.


I fully agree with the author of the column that our country is passing through a tough period of intolerance which threatens religious and linguistic minority communities. The untoward incidents witnessed over the last year are examples of majoritarian rule and the high-handedness of fundamental forces. As a popular actor in the Hindi film industry, Aamir Khan has every right and the freedom to express his personal views about the growing intolerance. It is a fundamental right enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

He only quoted what his wife personally shared with him. He did not even say that he wanted to leave the country for reasons of safety and security. But the way popular media jumped on him was totally unacceptable. Some newspapers carried a series of centre-spread articles portraying Aamir Khan as an anti-national. All this happened to him because he happens to be a Muslim. The government should ask itself why it has turned a blind eye to such incidents of hatred and intolerance.


Speech in Parliament

Thank you for reproducing the thought-provoking speech made by Sitaram Yechuri in Parliament. Members of the ruling establishment could have learned a lot from the speech, but it looked like the treasury benches were, unfortunately, empty when the learned MP was speaking.


Noboru Karashima


CHENNAI, 29/11/2010: Dr. Noboru Karashima, Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo at an interview with 'The Hindu', in Chennai on November 29, 2010. Photo : M_Vedhan.

Truly, Noboru Karashima was an inspirational genius (“Inspirational genius”, December 25).

I sent a doctoral dissertation to Dr Karashima, who was designated as an external examiner by the then Vice-Chancellor of the Madras University, Dr Malcolm Adiseshaiah, and within one month Karashima sent a successful report.

After the era of scholars like K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, Prof. R. Sathianathaier and others, Karashima emerged on the horizon of historical research, focussing on Tamil sources and highlighting the value of epigraphy, thus bringing about a revolutionary change in the field. The methodological changes he introduced enabled historians to shape new theories. The Indian Council for Historical Research should publish the nearly 6,000 Chola inscriptions so that scholars can study these source materials.


Noboru Karashima has left behind a rich legacy of analytical writings on south India. He was unique in many respects, including his choice of the study of the Cholas for his academic dissertation, his proposition of hypotheses in research methodology, his amazing collection of epigraphic data and his interest in historical research even after retirement.

Compared with some current practices in historiography, where history is manipulated in the service of propaganda, Karashima’s adherence to irrefutable deduction from facts is quite a rare trait. His constructive contributions to the International Association of Tamil Research will be long remembered. He set the template for legitimate research forays. His dissociation from activities coloured by politics confirmed his real love for the Tamil language.

The sincere views he expressed in his interview to Malini Parthasarathy characterised his personality and are topical even today.


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