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Councillors Debate on Removing Conran Smith Statue from Ripon Building !!

Posted on the 01 September 2015 by Sampathkumar Sampath
I have recently posted on the decision of New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC)  to rename  Aurangzeb Road in Lutyens’ Delhi as Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Road in honour of the late President. :
Body language is a kind of nonverbal communication, where thoughts, intentions, or feelings are expressed by physical behaviours.  Legs are interesting in the field of non-verbal body language as the may say a lot without us really realizing.  In Indian context, in many places, sitting with legs crossed is perceived ‘arrogant’ and not providing the required respect ! The Chennai Municipal Corporation (officially the Corporation of Chennai), formerly known as the Corporation of Madras, is the civic body that governs the city of Chennai. Inaugurated on 29th Sept. 1688, under a Royal Charter issued by King James II, it is the oldest municipal body of the Commonwealth of Nations outside Great Britain.  It is headed by a mayor, who presides over 200 councillors each of whom represents one of the200 wards of the city. The Corporation’s history dates back to 1688 under the Governor of Madras, Elihu Yale.  The Parliamentary Act of 1792 conferred the new Corporation power to levy municipal taxes in the city.  The present office  - Ripon Building, is a fine example of the Neoclassical style of architecture, a combination of Gothic, Ionic and Corinthian. The Ripon Building is an all-white structure and is located near the Chennai Central railway station.  Commissioned in 1913, Ripon Building was designed by G.S.T. Harris, built by Loganatha Mudaliar, and took four years to build. Councillors debate on removing Conran Smith statue from Ripon Building !! Before the present modifications have seen the statues of George Frederic Samuel Marquess of Ripon KG; Diwan Bahadur Sir Pitty ThegarayaChetty [first non-official President 1920-23]; Sri S Sathyamurthi [Mayor 1939-40] inside its premises.  There is another one, which is the subject matter of this post.   Peters Road branches off Anna Salai nearer Thousand lights.  There is SaravanaBhavan restaurant and a bridge that takes off to New College.  Under the flyover – left leads to Sathyam theater complex and on right is Conran Smith Road having MV Diabetes, Gopalapuram ground, DAV school and more – that road is known as ‘Conran Smith Road’. Conran Smith was the first ICS Commissioner of Madras Corporation.  Today’s Dinamalar reports that there was some discussions in the meeting of councillors at Corporation of Chennai.  It is reported that a decision to demolish some older buildings in the premises and have natural landscaping.  Councillor Srinivasan welcoming the decision spoke : there is the statue of Conran Smith [who was the commissioner from 1928 – 1931] sitting with crossed legs looks demeaning.  He felt that this statue too should be removed when older buildings are demolished. The speech reportedly was welcomed  by other councillors too.  Here is the report as published in Dinamalar, Chennai edition. Councillors debate on removing Conran Smith statue from Ripon Building !!
There is a reference to Conran Smith Nagar in the book titled ‘City of Madras’- written for the Tercentenary Celebration Committee, 1939 by Rao Sahib CS Srinivasachari, MA, Professor of History, Annamalai University [scattered reference] ……..  Since 1932, the Madras Corporation has been pursuing a definite policy of effective slum improvement, ……..theresult has been a recognition of the necessity for the public ownership of the sites which require reconstruction. The homeless people of the city have been described in the Census report of Madras of 1931.  A considerable element of city’s population consists of persons who have no dwelling other than the sidewalk and want none.  The Committee of 1933 made remarks about their unfortunate condition : the persons enumerated were found sleeping on roadside or platforms, pials of vacant houses, choultries, plank projections infront of shops etc.,  These unfortunate people generally make their abodes near the places where they find some means of living.  The working coolies in the harbour were found sleeping on platforms on the sides of North Beach Road, verandahs of godowns and offices in Moors Street, NarayanappaNaick Street and Krishnan Koil Street. The coolies working in the Kotwal Bazaar were found mostly in Loane Square, pials and verandahs of offices and godowns in Malayaperumal Street. Similarly, large numbers of the homeless were found sleeping in front of godowns and shops in Bunder Street, Godown Street, China Bazaar Road and on roadside platforms ………. In the area adjoining the Ripon Buildings were found large numbers of beggars sleeping on the pavements and on both sides of the General Hospital Road." (Report of the Special Housing Committee, 1934, Madras Corporation, Appendix M. pp. 174-5). * "The Corporation undertook the complete reconstruction of a few fairly large slums and quite a number of smaller ones. The old huts and houses were demolished and the sites cleared for the erection of new houses, the municipality making itself responsible for the entire reconstruction. The largest of these schemes was at Cemetery Road, where 178 houses were erected, others were at Vasamode where there were 147 houses, at Conran Smith Nagar where there were 106, and at Bogipalayam where there were 75. ………."Another large project which has been under discussion for several years and to which the Corporation is definitely committed is the reconstruction of the large fishing village of Parthasarathykuppam in the 26th Division (Triplicane). With regards – S. Sampathkumar
1st Sept. 2015.

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