Tag Archives: Chennai

Was the Indian Railways Born on April 16, 1853?


.

Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

.

It is generally believed that the railways were first introduced to India on April 16th, 1853. The Bori Bunder to Thane line is customarily seen as the birth of the world’s largest railway systems, but the plan for the first rail system was drawn in 1832. The laying of an experimental track began in 1836 near Chintadripet, in Madras (now Chennai). When the experiment proved successful, a 3.5 mile (5.6 km) rail track was laid between Red Hills and St. Thomas Mount in Chennai.

On December 22, 1851, the first steam locomotive in India was used during the construction of the Solani canal near Roorkee, a city in Haridwar district, Uttarakhand. Bengal Sappers of the Indian Army built the railway line to carry soil for the construction of the canal from Piran Kaliyar, 6.2 miles (10 km) from the city.

It is commonly believed that the two-wagon train was hauled by a Jenny Lind class locomotive built by E.B. Wilson and Company at their Railway Foundry in Hunslet, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England or something very similar in design, by the name of “Thomason“. However, surviving work records do not substantiate this fact.

The engine had a short life. A boiler explosion destroyed it a few months after it started operating. It might have been a secondhand engine. Nonetheless, it pioneered a new era in the transportation history of India.

The locomotive rail paths are still intact.

Replica of Jenny Lind in Roorkee (Courtesy of Kota Shivaranjan/Flickr gallery of travel photos)
Replica of Jenny Lind in Roorkee (Courtesy of Kota Shivaranjan/Flickr gallery of travel photos)

A replica of what the locomotive might have looked like is exhibited at Roorkee Railway Station in original LB&SCR (London, Brighton and South Coast Railway) livery as a monument to the historic moment.

The National Railway Museum in Delhi also has illustrations of a Jenny Lind with the name “Thomason” the shop.

 

On April 16th, 1853, at 3.35pm, the first train in India left Bori Bunder, in Bombay (now Mumbai), for its destination Thane, 34 kilometres away. (Source: oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in)
On April 16th, 1853, at 3.35pm, the first train in India left Bori Bunder, in Bombay (now Mumbai), for its destination Thane, 34 kilometres away. (Source: oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in)

Although the first rails were laid at Chintadripet in Madras, the first train flagged off was on April 16, 1853, between Bori Bunder (later Victoria Terminus, now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) in Bombay (now Mumbai) and Thane. It travelled 21 miles (34 Km) with the aid of three locomotives: Sahib, Sindh, and Sultan. 400 invited guests in 14 carriages enjoyed the historic ride. This journey set a milestone in passenger train service. The governor, Lord John Elphinstone flagged off the train at 3:30 pm.

Robert Maitland Brereton (2 January 1834 – 7 December 1911) was an English railway engineer in India. (source: en.wikipedia.org)
Robert Maitland Brereton (2 January 1834 – 7 December 1911) was an English railway engineer in India. (source: en.wikipedia.org)

A British engineer, Robert Maitland Brereton, was responsible for the expansion of the railways from 1857 onwards. The Allahabad-Jabalpur branch line of the East Indian Railway was opened in June 1867. Brereton linked this track with the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, resulting in a combined network of 4,000 miles (6,400 km). And, from March 7, 1870, onwards, it became possible to travel directly from Bombay to Calcutta. “Around the World in Eighty Days,” the classic adventure novel written by the French writer Jules Verne was partly inspired by this railway.

At the opening ceremony, the Viceroy Lord Mayo concluded:

“… it was thought desirable that, if possible, at the earliest possible moment, the whole country should be covered with a network of lines in a uniform system.

An  Indian train (Source - dhankedeshme.blogspot.in)
An Indian train (Source – dhankedeshme.blogspot.in)

In 1951, the various railway systems were nationalized and brought under the banner of the Indian Railways becoming the world’s largest railway network. It covers more than 71,000 miles (115,000 km) of multi-gauge track – broad, metre and narrow gauges – over a route of more than 40,000 miles (65,000 km) and 7,500 stations. Its operations cover all the states and seven union territories in India. It also provides limited international services to Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Indian Railways have roughly over 200,000 (freight) wagons, 50,000 passenger coaches and 8,000 locomotives. Indian Railways also own locomotive and coach production facilities at several places in India.

On April 16th, 1853, at 3.35pm, the first train in India leaves Bombay for Thane (Source: oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in)
On April 16th, 1853, at 3.35pm, the first train in India leaves Bombay for Thane (Source: oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in)

In 2011, Indian railways transported more than 24 million passengers daily, roughly half of which were suburban passengers, amounting to 8,900 million passengers annually (not counting the ticketless travellers), and over 2 million tonnes of goods daily.

In 2011–2012, the Indian Railways had revenues of: ₹1119849 million (US$19 billion) consisting of ₹696760 million (US$12 billion) from the freight and ₹286455 million (US$4.8 billion) from tickets issued to passengers.

.

Advertisements

The Pallikaranai Wetland: Part 2 – The Once Pristine Idyllic Wetland Is Now a Wasteland cum Concrete Jungle!


.
Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
.

Why am I interested in wetlands? Because I am concerned. My home in Jalladianpet is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai wetland in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India.

.

 My home in Jalladianpet is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai marsh.
My home in Jalladianpet is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai marsh.

.

Pallikaranai marshland (Photo : T.V. Antony Raj)
Pallikaranai marshland (Photo : T.V. Antony Raj)

.

Four decades ago, this pristine idyllic wetland had a water spread of approximately 5,500 hectares estimated on the basis of the Survey of India toposheets (1972) and CORONA aerial photographs (1965). It serves as nature’s primary aquifer recharge system for Chennai city. It harvests rain water and the flood water during monsoons and thereby mitigates the desolation and suffering that floods could cause in low-lying areas in Chennai.

.

A large area of the Pallikaranai marshland is now a dump yard (Photo:  anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)
A large area of the Pallikaranai marshland is now a dump yard (Photo: anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)

.

Lamentably, over the years, the Chennai Metropolitan authorities without giving any thought to the future recklessly chose to dump over one-third of the garbage, almost 2,600 tonnes per day, of the ever-growing metropolis here in this climactic wetland.

.

Pallikaranai marsh (Photo: Simply CVR)
Pallikaranai marsh (Photo: Simply CVR)

.

At present the water spread has shrunk to one-tenth its size due to indiscriminate dumping of city refuse; discharging of sewage; disgorging toxic waste products, etc.

Many nature lovers have photographed the current palpable and saddening state of the Pallikaranai wetland. On June 8, 2013, The Hindu published the article The mired marshby Shaju John. This article was augmented by photographs  captured by him in the post Photo file: The mired marsh.

.

A significant chunk of non-biodegradable waste is lost in the heaps.( (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)
A significant chunk of non-biodegradable waste is lost in the heaps.( (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

.

Thousands of tonnes of trash of all sorts containing non-biodegradable waste find their way to the wetland amidst the dumped refuse.

.

Fires, lit to dispose off the garbage, are a regular and major health hazard.  (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)
Fires, lit to dispose off the garbage, are a regular and major health hazard. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

.

While traveling along the roads around the Velachery wetland one encounters the unbearable stench emanating from the decaying garbage hillock. Despite the widespread clamour to stop burning rubbish in the dump yard that stifles the air and impairs visibility of commuters, the incessant burning goes on.

.

The smoke from the garbage heaps chokes the air for miles around.  (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)
The smoke from the garbage heaps chokes the air for miles around. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

.

Despite the toxic smoke rag-pickers, mostly children living in inhospitable slums frequent the garbage dump.

.

The burning continues despite widespread clamour for alternatives. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)
The burning continues despite widespread clamour for alternatives. (Photo: Shaju John/thehindu.com)

.

Continual inhaling of the ever-present malodorous germ and virus bound air, the stifling smoke, polluted and poisoned ground water subject the people living miles around the Pallikaranai wetland to major wheezing and carcinogenic health hazards.

.

.

The incredible rate of development, such as the rampant construction of sanctioned IT parks, the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) campus, Hospitals, Colleges, high-rise office and residential buildings, the Velachery MRTS railway station, the flyovers, the road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram, etc., in the midst of the marshland also have immensely contributed to the shrinking of the water spread.

.

.

A high rise building (Cognizant Technology) on Velachery Tambaram Road.  (Photo - T.V. Antony Raj)
A high rise building (Cognizant Technology) on Velachery Tambaram Road. (Photo – T.V. Antony Raj)

.

One of the flyovers constructed  in the midst of the marshland (Photo credit: N. Lalitha and C.R .Sivapradha)
One of the flyovers constructed in the midst of the marshland (Photo credit: N. Lalitha and C.R .Sivapradha)

.

Velachery MRTS Railway station (Photo - Simply CVR)
Velachery MRTS Railway station (Photo – Simply CVR)

.

With policies in place to crackdown on poaching, encroachment and illegal waste disposal, there is yet hope for the Pallikaranai wetland.

.

Pallikaranai marsh, which was once a scenic wetland has lost its charm, mainly on account of rapid urbanisation. (Photo:  M. Karunakaran)
Pallikaranai marsh, which was once a scenic wetland has lost its charm, mainly on account of rapid urbanisation. (Photo: M. Karunakaran)

.

In 2007, to protect the remaining wetland from shrinking further, 317 hectares of the marsh were declared by notification as a reserve forest by the State of Tamilnadu.

.

Road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram over Pallikaranai Marshland, Chennai, (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)
Road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram over Pallikaranai Marshland, Chennai, (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

.

Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve  showing the road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh
Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve showing the road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh

.

Nevertheless, it is the opinion of the scientists and researchers involved in the study of the wetland that an additional 150 hectares of undeveloped region located on both sides of the road connecting old Mahabhalipuram Road (OMR) and Pallavaram that bisects the marsh should also be declared a forest reserve.

However, even now, dumping of garbage by the Chennai metropolitan authorities goes on unabated.

.

← Previous: The Pallikaranai Wetland: Part 1 – Flora and Fauna

.

Related articles

.

.

Add this anywhere

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Pallikaranai Wetland: Part 1 – Flora and Fauna


.
Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
.

Why am I interested in wetlands? Because I am concerned. My home in Jalladianpet is just 2.5 miles (4 km) from the Pallikaranai wetland in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India.

A wetland is technically defined as:

“An ecosystem that arises when inundation by water produces soils dominated by anaerobic processes, which, in turn, forces the biota, particularly rooted plants, to adapt to flooding.”

The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation that adapts to its unique soil conditions. Primarily, wetlands consist of hydric soil, which supports aquatic plants

There are four main kinds of wetlands: marsh, swamp, bog and fen. Sub-types include mangrove, carr, pocosin, and varzea. Some experts also include wet meadows and aquatic ecosystems as additional wetland types.

The Pallikaranai Wetland 

City in the background of Pallikaranai wetland (Photo:  anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)
City in the background of Pallikaranai wetland (Photo: anidiotstraveldiaries.blogspot.in)

.

Historically, a large part of South Chennai was a flood plain composed of the large Pallikaranai wetland, smaller satellite wetlands, large tracts of pasture land and patches of dry forest.

The Pallikaranai wetland is a freshwater marshland spanning 31 square miles (80 sq Km). It is the Chennai city’s natural primary aquifer recharge system.

.

Source: campbelltown.sa.gov.au
Source: campbelltown.sa.gov.au

.

The original expanse of the marsh, estimated on the basis of the Survey of India toposheets (1972) and CORONA aerial photographs (1965) was about 5,500 hectares, which has now been reduced to about 600 hectares. Situated next to the Bay of Bengal, about 12.5 miles (20 Km) south of the city centre, it is bounded by Velachery (north), Kovilambakkam (west), Okkiyam Thuraipakkam (east), and Medavakkam (south). It is the only surviving wetland ecosystem of the city and is among the few and last remaining natural wetlands of South India. It is one of the three in the state of Tamilnadu, the other two being Point Calimere and Kazhuveli.

.

Map of Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest.
Map of Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest.

.

The Pallikaranai wetland is one of the 94 identified wetlands in India under the National Wetland Conservation and Management Programme (NWCMP) of the Government of India that came into operation in 1985–86.

The terrain consists of fresh/saline water bodies, reed beds, mud flats and floating vegetation.

Flora and Fauna

This wetland is literally a treasury of bio-diversity that is almost four times that of Vedanthangal bird sanctuary in the Kancheepuram District of the state of Tamil Nadu, India, 47 miles (75 km) from Chennai where more than 40,000 birds (including 26 rare species), from various parts of the world visit during the migratory season every year.

The Pallikaranai wetland contains several rare and endangered species of plants and animals. It acts as a forage and breeding ground for thousands of migratory birds from various places within and outside the country. Bird watchers opine that the number of bird species sighted in the wetland is definitely more than in the Vedanthangal bird sanctuary.

Figures of the number of fauna and flora found in the Pallikaranai wetland differ among scholars conducting research here.

Among the many quiet contributors to the mapping of India’s natural treasures is Dr. Jayashree Vencatesan, Smithsonian Fellow and researcher, and managing trustee of Care Earth Trust. She obtained a Ph.D. in Biodiversity and Biotechnology from the University of Madras. She is best-known for her research work on biodiversity, and studies wetland ecology.

Dr. Jayashree Vencatesan
Dr. Jayashree Vencatesan

In 2003, the Tamilnadu State Pollution Control Board assigned her the task of conducting a detailed study of Chennai’s last remaining wetland – the Pallikaranai marsh, which is suffering from degradation caused by human impact. The study had two components — to document the biodiversity and to map the extent of the marsh to define or identify a viable unit of management.

In her work “Protecting wetlands” published on August 10, 2007, Current Science 93 (3): 288–290, she states that the heterogeneous ecosystem of the Pallikaranai marshland supports about 337 species of floras and faunas:

GROUP NUMBER OF SPECIES
Birds 115
Plants 114
Fishes 46
Reptiles 21
Mammals 10
Amphibians 10
Molluscs 9
Butterflies 7
Crustaceans 5
Total 337

Birds, fishes and reptiles are the most prominent of the faunal groups.

Dr. K .Venkataraman, Director of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)
Dr. K. Venkataraman

However, on August 9, 2013, P. Oppili reported in The Hindu that Dr. K. Venkataraman, Director of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) while discussing the diversity of species in the marshland, as nine species of amphibians, 21 species of reptiles, 72 species of birds, five species of mammals, 38 species of fish, nine species of shells and 59 species of aquatic and terrestrial insects had been recorded, besides a good number of plankton.

The Pallikaranai wetland is the home to some of the most endangered birds such as the glossy ibis, gray-headed Lapwings and pheasant-tailed Jacana.

Pheasant-tailed Jacana spotted in Pallikaranai Wetland, Chennai (Photo: Sudharsun Jayaraj)
Pheasant-tailed Jacana spotted in Pallikaranai Wetland, Chennai (Photo: Sudharsun Jayaraj)

.

Purple Swamphen-Moorhen in Pallikaranai wetland, Chennai (Photo - Sudharsun Jayaraj)
Purple Swamphen-Moorhen in Pallikaranai wetland, Chennai (Photo – Sudharsun Jayaraj)

.

FulvourWhistlingDucks (Photo: GnanaskandanK)
FulvourWhistlingDucks (Photo: GnanaskandanK)

.

Cormorants, darters, herons, egrets, open-billed storks, spoonbills, white ibis, little grebe, Indian Cormorants, darters, herons, egrets, open-billed storks, spoonbills, white ibis, little grebe, Indian moorhen, Black-winged Stilts, purple moorhens, warblers, coots and dabchicks have been spotted in large numbers in the marshland.

.

Russel's Viper (Source:  umich.edu)
Russel’s Viper (Source: umich.edu)

.

The Pallikaranai wetland is also home to some of the most endangered reptiles such as the Russell’s viper.

About 114 species of plants are found in the wetland, including 29 species of grass. These plant species include some exotic floating vegetation such as water hyacinth and water lettuce.

Since 2002,  presence of new plants and  reptiles have been recorded.

.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Next → Part 2 – The Once Pristine Idyllic Wetland Is Now a Wasteland cum Concrete Jungle!

.

.

Add this anywhere

Enhanced by Zemanta

Assamese Gang Apprehended in Chennai for Circulating Fake Indian Currency Notes


.

Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

.

“City residents should be cautious about transactions involving currency and must alert the police if they find anything suspicious.”
S. George, Chennai Police Commissioner.

A file photo of fake Indian currency र1000 and र500 displayed at Chennai Police Commissioner Office (Photo : S.Thanthoni / thehindu.com)
A file photo of fake Indian currency र1000 and र500 displayed at Chennai Police Commissioner Office (Photo : S. Thanthoni / thehindu.com)

.

Chennaites are now apprehensive and cautious when accepting र1,000 currency notes.

On New Year’s Day, the Fishing Harbour police in Chennai arrested three men from Assam when they attempted to purchase a wristwatch at a showroom on Adam Sahib Street in Royapuram using fake Indian currency notes.

According to C. Sridhar, joint commissioner of police, North, the shop owner suspected the trio when they gave a thousand rupee counterfeit note as payment for the wristwatch, and he alerted the police.

The police arrested the suspects and then raided the house in Manali New Town where they were staying. There the police found four more fake notes along with र30,000 genuine currency and various items purchased by the gang using fake notes. The three identified as Hameed Rehman (19), Rafiqul Islam (22) and Fasil Islam (28) were arrested for circulating fake Indian currency notes of र1,000 denomination.

The three arrested men from Assam had come to Chennai six months ago and were working as security guards at a private firm in Manali. Three more Assamese frequently visited the city and replenished them with almost-genuine fake Indian currency notes originating from Maldah district in West Bengal. The three Assamese security guards had exploited the counterfeit currency in shopping hubs Purasawalkam, Washermenpet, T. Nagar, and in various other areas in the city. They even maintained bank accounts to deposit their harvest from the exchanges.

On Saturday, January 4, 2013, another private security guard, identified as Jelbar Hosfin (21) from Assam, tendered a fake र1,000 note at a photocopying shop in New Colony, Adambakkam, for taking a few photo copies. The shop owner, suspecting the note to be a fake, alerted the police.

Police took Hosfin into custody. When RBI officials confirmed the note was a fake, Hosfin told the police that his friend Mohammad Quaid Ali, employed with a private security agency in Koyambedu had given the note to him and asked him to spend र500 and return the balance.

The police team picked up Quaid Ali from his office and recovered र2.74 lakh fake Indian currency notes he had hidden in a pile of sand dumped at a construction site near his office in Brindavan Nagar, Adambakkam. Quaid Ali also revealed that he got the counterfeit currencies from Saddam Hussain, believed to be the brain behind the network circulating fake notes in Chennai, the police said.

The special police team traced Saddam Hussain to a hideout in the city and arrested him.

.

The police seized some debit cards from the arrested duo and also recovered Rs. 19,900, which they had obtained in exchange of purchases made with the counterfeit notes. (Photo - B. Jothi Ramalingam - one.in)
The police seized some debit cards from the arrested duo and recovered Rs. 19,900, which they had obtained in exchange of purchases made with the counterfeit notes. (Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam / one.in)

 

The three men – Jelbar Hosfin, Mohammad Quaid Ali, and Sdadam Hussain – revealed that they had so far harvested र19,000 in genuine money by circulating र1,000 counterfeit currency notes totalling र26,000. Three remit cards used by the accused to deposit money in bank accounts after the counterfeit harvest were also seized from Saddam Hussain.

These three culprits seem to have a connection with the three arrested at the beginning of the year for trying to circulate fake notes, police said. Saddam Hussain is the brother of one of the three arrested earlier.

S. Thirugnanam, South Chennai joint commissioner of police said that Saddam Hussain had stayed in the Chennai for some time in 2011. He then returned  to Chennai in 2012 and brought several people from Assam and got them jobs as security guards and construction workers.

Chennai Police Commissioner S. George said the case would be transferred to CB-CID, the main agency that deals with such cases.

.

RELATED ARTICLES

.

Add this anywhere

Even an Elephant Can Slip!


.

Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

.

Like most people, each morning I read my favourite newspaper while sipping hot coffee. My favourite newspaper? It is the Deccan Chronicle (Chennai edition).

Yesterday (Sunday, December 29, 2013), I was intrigued by a news captioned “Hindu married to non-Hindu can’t get divorce: HC” on page 7.

An elephant too can slip - Full page
Page 7, Deccan Chronicle (Chennai edition) Sunday, December 29, 2013 (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

I was in for a shock. The news that followed had nothing, even an iota, to reflect the caption.

An elephant too can slip - news clip
News on Page 7, Deccan Chronicle (Chennai edition) Sunday, December 29, 2013 (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

So, the adage: “Even an elephant can slip,” has once again come true!

If you are curious you can read the news in “The Times of India” under the title: “Hindu married to non-Hindu can’t get divorce under Hindu Marriage Act: Bombay high court” (PTI | Dec 28, 2013).

.

.

Add this anywhere

November 19, is World Toilet Day!


Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

.

“Sanitation is more important than independence.”
– Mahatma Gandhi (in 1925).

.

World Toilet Day

.

If you find the images used in this article nauseating, then I have made my point. For us, Indians and other Asians, this is life. We have to live with it.

In 2001, World Toilet Organization (WTO) declared November 19 as World Toilet Day (WTD). Today, over 19 countries observe WTD with events hosted by various
water and sanitation advocates.

In developing countries in Asia and Africa, poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually.

India has more mobiles than toilets

Though a majority of the world’s population has access to mobile phones, one third of humanity do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets or latrines, affecting the environment, human health, dignity and security, and social and economic development.

We all like food. We spend most of our income on food. We look forward eagerly to what we would eat today for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, do we ever give thought to what happens as a result of all that food we consume?

In our society and community, it is a taboo and not polite to talk about toilets. We do not want others to see the cleaning and sanitation products we use. So, we hide them. We even hide the sewer system beneath the ground.

Why?

Because one third of humanity (2.5 billion people), or one in three people living in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to clean, safe, and functioning hygienic toilets. Therefore, they do not bother to discuss the problem of sanitation. As such, sanitation remains a neglected issue with meager financial investments in water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.

In the developing countries, the cost of inaction on sanitation is high. Due to lack of toilets, men, women, the young, the sick and the elderly have to defecate in the open, in fields, in vacant lots, and even by the roadside during the day and at night. Almost 1 billion people continue to defecate in the open.

Excreting in India

Lack of access to clean bathrooms in schools deters many girls from pursuing their education after they reach puberty. In some regions, due to lack of toilets, girls do not go to school when they are menstruating. Improved sanitation facilities can have a particularly positive impact on the education opportunities of young girls, affected by the lack of privacy and cleanliness during their menstrual period. Also, lack of toilets in schools affect all learners from concentrating in the classrooms, as they have to wait for longer periods before being able to relieve themselves in privacy in a dignified manner.

Without toilets and proper sanitation the environment around homes, workplaces, markets, and hospitals, become sources of infection and diarrhoeal diseases due to millions of tonnes of human excretion.

Due to lack of improved sanitation almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases, the second leading cause of child deaths in the world. Diarrhoeal diseases caused by inadequate sanitation, and unhygienic conditions put children at multiple risks leading to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, high morbidity, malnutrition, stunted growth and death. Every year 0.85 million children die from diarrhoea. Poor sanitation and unimproved water cause 88% of these deaths. Studies reveal that improved sanitation can help reduce diarrhoeal diseases by about 33%.

Despite the scale of the crisis, sanitation remains a low priority for many governments.

How can we mitigate this situation?

Now, many organisations have started to discuss toilets. Investment in sanitation is becoming a priority in many international communities. Yet, because the topic of sanitation has until now been neglected to a vast extent, they wait for good solutions to the problem. New solutions and approaches to sanitation that should have been tried and tested a long time back, are starting to find support only now.

Progress depends on adequate investment and collaborative action by civil societies, multilateral agencies, academia and the private sector in developing countries by supporting national efforts to improve sanitation for all strata of their society.

To address these issues, in July 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “Sanitation for All” Resolution (A/RES/67/291) designating November 19 as World Toilet Day, aims to change both behaviour and policy on issues ranging from ending open-air defection (which 1.1 billion people practice worldwide) to enhancing water management.

 Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

On July 24, 2013, Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, issued a statement on adoption of the General Assembly resolution ‘Sanitation for All.’

I am delighted and grateful that Member States have adopted a resolution officially designating November 19th as World Toilet Day. I thank the Government of Singapore for its leadership on a crucially important global issue. This new annual observance will go a long way toward raising awareness about the need for all human beings to have access to sanitation.

Despite progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, one in three people do not have a basic toilet. Almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. Poor sanitation and water supply result in economic losses estimated at $260 billion annually in developing countries.

Proper sanitation is also a question of basic dignity. It is unacceptable that women have to risk being the victims of rape and abuse, just to do something that most of us take for granted. It is also unacceptable that many girls are pushed out of school for lack of basic sanitation facilities.

This new resolution builds on the General Assembly’s “Sustainable sanitation: the drive to 2015”, agreed in 2010, and adds momentum to the Call to Action on Sanitation that I, on behalf of the Secretary-General, launched in March this year.

I urge every country to accelerate progress towards a world in which everyone enjoys this most basic of rights. I look forward to working with all partners to make Sanitation for All a reality.

.

.

The lack of access to decent toilet is no joke for a third of the world’s people, but a matter of life and death. No other invention has saved more lives than a toilet. Without access to toilets, many women and girls are too embarrassed to go in the open to defecate during daytime and so deny themselves relief until darkness sets in. But, trips to fields or roadside at night, however, puts them at risk of physical attack and sexual violence. So, having a toilet in or near the home lowers the risk of women and girls getting subjected to violence and rape.

Toilets mean safety.

.

.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

.

Add this anywhere

Murder Most Foul: Part 4 – The Trial and the Judgement


.
Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

Fiat justitia ruat caelum
(‘Let justice be done though the heavens fall.’)

Fiat justitia ruat caelum

.

A team of Madras City Police travelled to Bombay in search of the Menons. With the help of the Bombay police they traced the relatives with whom the Menons were staying.

When the police arrived, Devaki Menon who had undergone an abortion was resting at the home of her husband’s relatives. Prabhakara Menon was not there. He had gone out and the police traced him to the Chowpatty Beach, Girgaum. Menon had shaved off his mustache, nevertheless, the police recognized him. One member of the Madras police took out a fountain pen from Menon’s pocket. The pen had the initials of Alavandar.

When the police arrived, Devaki Menon who had undergone an abortion was resting at the home of her husband’s relatives. Prabhakara Menon was not there. He had gone out and the police traced him to the Chowpatty Beach, Girgaum. Menon had shaved off his mustache, nevertheless, the police recognized him. One member of the Madras police took out a fountain pen from Menon’s pocket. The pen had the initials of Alavandar.

The police arrested Devaki and Prabhakara Menon. A Bombay City Magistrate charging them with the murder of Alavandar, and other miscellaneous charges, remanded them to custody. The arrested couple was brought to Madras.

A team of top Madras police officials investigated the murder and gathered evidence for the trial assisted by Dr. N. Pitchandi and Dr. C.B. Gopalakrishna, the Police Surgeon, Madras, and consultant for a few other states in India, and to the Indian Army.

The Malabar knife used by Prabhakara Menon to decapitate and amputate the body of the dead Alavandar, which he later threw in a park in Broadway was found by the park attendant, who in turn gave it to his mistress. The police recovered it from the woman to include it as evidence. They found the shop where Menon bought it on the morning of the killing.

The police also found the blood-stained sari worn by Devaki Menon at the time of the murder, and while helping her husband to dismember the dead body.

As there were no eyewitnesses to Alavandar’s murder, the police tried to make a deal with Devaki Menon by suggesting that she would be given the state’s pardon for her role in the murder if she gave evidence against her husband. But she turned down the offer since she believed that her husband killed Alavandar to save her honor.

The Trial

The trial came up for hearing at the Madras High Court Original Criminal Sessions before the renowned Judge, Mr. Justice A. S. P. Iyer (Ayilam Subramania Panchapakesan Iyer).

The eminent lawyer S. Govind Swaminathan was the State Prosecutor. Advocates B.T. Sundararajan and S. Krishnamurthy appeared for the two accused.

The trial by jury was then in force in Madras High Court. A panel of nine jurors, some of whom were noted citizens of Madras, was sworn in was sworn in.

HOARY HALL - A view of a hall in the Madras High Court (Photo: K. N. Chari)
HOARY HALL – A view of a hall in the Madras High Court (Photo: K. N. Chari)

Large crowds thronged at the hearings of this sensational trial. On March 13, 1953, according to the Indian Express “the crowd in the courtroom became unmanageable, delaying the proceedings.”

The next day was no different. The veranda, leading to the court hall, was so crowded it made entry into the court hall difficult. The police bundobusts (arrangements) were meager, and reserve police were called in.

The couple, Prabhakara Menon and his wife Devaki, pleaded “not guilty” to the various charges including murder.

The prosecutor Govind Swaminathan built up a strong case of planned murder of Alavandar by the couple. He stated that the servant boy of the Menons told the police that he heard Menon and Devaki discuss the ways to get rid of Alavandar, and that Prabhakara Menon had pressurized his wife to bring Alavandar to their house so that he could give the devil his due. It was a case of killing the snake that strayed into one’s home.

Defending advocate, B. T. Sundararajan, argued that the killing was not pre-mediated as suggested by the prosecution. Prabhakara Menon was provoked to murderous fury by the playboy who assailed his wife Devaki in their own house, with the intention of having sex with her against her will. The defense lawyer stated: “It was done out of grave provocation and in self-defence. It is homicide and not murder.

What is the difference between “homicide” and “murder”? In fact, most people use these two terms interchangeably.

A homicide is the killing of one human being by another. The killing may be accidental or intentional; it may or may not be done with criminal intent. If one kills a man accidentally or in self-defense, it would be considered “homicide”; similarly, if one runs over an individual intentionally, it would be considered “homicide”. It is a neutral term. So, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and vehicular homicide all are types of homicides that are not murders.

Black’s Law Dictionary edited by the world’s foremost American legal lexicographer, Bryan A. Garner, is the definitive legal resource for American lawyers, law students and laypeople alike. It is known for its clear and precise legal definitions, substantive accuracy, and stylistic clarity – making it the most cited legal dictionary in print. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, the word homicide merely “describes the act, it pronounces no judgment on the moral or legal quality”.

Murder, on the other hand, is an illegal act that usually involves some degree of premeditation or intention to kill. Murder is punishable by death under Article 302 of the Indian Penal Code.

The word “murder” has a negative connotation associated with it. The police force in the United States has a Homicide Department, but not a Murder Department.

The Judgement

Gavel

Justice A. S. P. Iyer, a person ingrained in the ancient Hindu tradition opined that the victim, Alavandar, the scallywag, was a disgrace to humanity and deserved to be eliminated. He considered the killing as a “justifiable execution of an unwanted rascal.”

After the lengthy trial, Justice A. S. P. Iyer’s summing-up to the jury swerved in favor of the two accused. He accepted and supported the sudden and grave provocation theory put forward by the defense, taking into consideration the interests of the society and its morals. However, some people felt that his indulgence towards the accused couple from Kerala prejudiced because he too hailed from Kerala, from the agraharam in Ayilam Gramam, 320 km from Palakkad. However, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of ‘guilty’ against both the accused.

However, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty against both the accused.

On August 13, 1953, accepting the verdict of the Jury, Justice A. S. P. Iyer sentenced Prabhakara Menon to seven years rigorous imprisonment for culpable homicide and Devaki to three years in prison.

The top police officials who were eager to get the maximum punishment of death by hanging for Prabhakara Menon, the first accused, were sorely disappointed by the sentence.

Menon wanted to appeal against the sentence. But his lawyer, B.T. Sundararajan, advised him not to, now that he had escaped with a light sentence thanks to the judge. Menon accepted his lawyer’s advice and did not appeal.

The Menons were released early due to their good conduct in prison, and they shifted back to their native state, Kerala. In their prayer room the couple placed a photo of Justice A.S.P.  Iyer along with the gods and goddesses venerated by them.

.

← Previous: Part 3 – The Killing

.

RELATED ARTICLES

.

Add this anywhere

Murder Most Foul: Part 3 – The Killing


.
Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

Alavandar: The Local Casanova

C. Alavandar belonged to the Hindu Vysya community of Telugu speaking ‘Komati Chettis. The members of this community are by tradition businessmen, and many of them wealthy, but Alavandar was not.

In 1952, Alavandar was about 42 years old, married and had two children. He lived in the crowded Nattu Pillaiyar Koil Street, George Town, Madras, with his family.

After his discharge from the British-Indian Army, Alavandar got employed as a salesman at Gem and Company, the foremost dealers of fountain pens in China Bazaar, Madras, owned by M.C. Cunnan Chetty, a fellow Vysya.

Soon after the war ended in mid-1940s, celluloid and plastic goods made their foray into the Indian market. Alavandar wanted to start a small business selling celluloid and plastic wares. Cunnan Chetty, gave Alavandar a small space in the frontage of his pen company to display his celluloid and plastic wares and conduct his business.

Despite his unseemly looks, Alavandar always dressed well with a necktie or a bow-tie to boot. He was not keen in conducting business, but had interest only in women. He was indubitably a womanizer, a local Casanova, romantically involved with many women.

In the early 50s, fountain pens were a prized possession. Alavandar used to allure young women by initially presenting them fancy fountain pens, building their friendship, and eventually taking them to a lodge on Broadway to have sex with them.

Alavandar also sold saris in installments on easy payment terms. He chose this line of business mainly to inveigle women. Many of his women clients who failed to pay the installments were willing to pay him in kind by accompanying him to lodges to have sex with him.

He regularly visited the YMCA, opposite the Madras High Court, always in the company of a woman. Once he boasted to one of his friends that he had slept with 400+ women of all communities.

One of the women he was romantically involved with was Devaki from Kerala.

In mid-1951, Devaki, then young and single, engaged in Hindi ‘prachar‘ work, came to Gem & Company to buy a fountain pen. There, she met Alavandar and the two became friends. By October that year, Alavandar took her to a lodge in George Town and slept with her. To the playboy, Devaki was just one more notch on his scabbard.

By the end of that year, Devaki broke off her relationship with Alavandar and got married to Prabhakara Menon.

After their marriage, Prabhakara Menon and Devaki went to Gem & Company. Alavandar congratulated Menon for marrying the lovely young woman. The way Alavandar behaved intimately with Devaki, sowed seeds of doubt in Menon’s mind about the fidelity of his wife. One day the newly wedded couple went to Minerva Theatre in Broadway. During the show Devaki confessed to her husband about her intimacy with Alavandar and said the womanizer was stalking her again, harassing and beseeching her to renew their relationship.

.

Alavandar Murder Case - Paper cutting - 2
A paper cutting with photos of Prabhakara Menon, Devaki and Alavandar.

.

The Killing

The Menons had a young boy as their servant and provided him food and lodging in their house. Later on, during the murder investigation, the boy told the police that at nights sleeping on the floor near their bedroom he could hear Devaki sobbing at times. Also, he had heard Menon and Devaki talk about Alavandar and the ways to get rid of him. According to the boy, Menon had coerced his wife to bring Alavandar to their house so that he could meet out to the devil his due.

In the morning of August 28, 1952, the day of the fateful murder, Menon bought a ‘Malabar knife’. Later during the day, he gave the servant boy pocket-money and asked him to go sightseeing as he was new to Madras.

That afternoon, Alavandar came to Devaki’s house at Royapuram by rickshaw with high hopes since Devaki had told him that her husband would be away from home. Many people in the neighbourhood including the owner of the shop hiring out bicycles near Devaki’s house, had seen Alavandar going up the steps and knocking on the door. But nobody saw him coming out of that house.

As soon as Alavandar stepped inside the house and closed the door, he started physically molesting Devaki, trying to undress the unwilling woman. Prabhakara Menon, who was in the kitchen, rushed out with a knife in hand, and enraged with what he saw, killed Alavandar by stabbing him.

Menon then cut off the dead person’s head using the lethal Malabar knife.

The couple packed the murdered man’s headless torso into a steel trunk. Menon transported the steel trunk to Madras Central Railway Station. On his way to the Egmore Railway Station, Menon threw the Malabar knife in a park in Broadway. With the help of an unsuspecting porter Menon placed the steel trunk under a seat in a third class compartment of the Indo-Ceylon Express.

On returning home from the railway station, Prabhakara Menon wrapped the severed head in Alavandar’s shirt, carried it to the Royapuram beach, and buried it in the sand.

Later in the night, the couple set out for Bombay.

.

← Previous: Part 2 – The Headless Cadaver

→ Next: Part 4 – The Trial and the Judgement

.

RELATED ARTICLES

.

Add this anywhere

Murder Most Foul: Part 2 – The Headless Cadaver


.
Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

The Boat Mail Train aka the Indo-Ceylon Express

In the 1950s, there was much traffic between India and Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) by land and sea. The Boat Mail train, aka the Indo-Ceylon Express plied between Chennai (then Madras) and Dhanushkodi on the Bay of Bengal. It took almost 19 hours to complete the journey of 675 kilometers.

.

Ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar in the 1950s.
Ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar in the 1950s.

.

After the Boat Mail train reached Dhanushkodi Pier at 15:05 hours in the afternoon, the passengers after alighting from the train crossed the Palk Strait using the steamer ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar Pier in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The ferry steamer used to leave the Indian shore soon after 16:00 hours. It took about 3½ hours for the crossing.

The era of the Boat Mail came to an end after a cyclonic storm with high-speed winds, and high tidal waves struck South India and northern Ceylon between December 22 and 25, 1964. The entire town of Dhanushkodi was completely submerged with heavy casualties. The railway line running from Pamban Station to Dhanushkodi Pier was destroyed, and a passenger train with over 100 passengers drowned in the sea.

.

 The railway track in Dhanushkodi destroyed by the cyclone of December 22, 1964
The railway track in Dhanushkodi destroyed by the cyclone of December 22, 1964

.

Years later, the name of the train changed from Indo-Ceylon Express to Rameswaram Express.

.

The Headless Cadaver Crammed in a Steel Trunk

As the day dawned on August 29, 1952, the Indo-Ceylon Express was nearing Manamadurai. The passengers in a third class compartment started complaining about the stench emanating from a steel trunk placed under a seat and the foul-smelling gooey fluid that oozed from it. The train had left Madras Egmore railway station at 20:00 hours the previous night, on its way to Dhanushkodi.

.

Alavandar murder case - steel trunk

.

When the train came to a halt at the Manamadurai Junction at 10:15 AM, the Railway Police detained the compartment. The local police opened the steel trunk in the presence of witnesses and were shocked to see a headless nude male cadaver crammed inside, along with severed limbs.

Since the penis was circumcised and the victim was wearing green socks on his feet, the colour preferred by most Muslims, the police concluded that the murder victim was a Muslim. However, the police overlooked the thick string around the waist, usually worn by Hindu men, even today, to hold the loincloth in its place and did not place any importance to it.

.

The First Autopsy in Madurai

Manamadurai was then part of the Ramnad district. At the district headquarters in Madurai, the District Medical Officer Dr Krishnaswamy, a radiologist, performed the autopsy on the headless corpse at the Erskine Hospital, (now Madurai Medical College). He took X-rays, and his report said the headless trunk belonged to a male of 25 years of age. Unfortunately, this conclusion was not quite correct.

.

The Second Autopsy in Madras

Meanwhile, the headless corpse was brought from Madurai to the Forensic Department of Madras Medical College where Dr C. B. Gopalakrishna, Assistant Professor of Forensic Medicine at Madras Medical College carried out a fresh autopsy.

The autopsy result said the head was slightly decomposed. A sharp weapon had been used to severe the head at the cervical vertebra, and a piece of bone was missing. Nevertheless, the cervical vertebra of the head and the trunk fitted perfectly confirming that they belonged to the same person aged between 42 and 45. The missing Alavandar was 42.

Two teeth had peculiar formation, over-riding one on another. At the mortuary, Mrs Alavandar, after looking at the severed head and the peculiarly formed teeth – a solitary black tooth along with two teeth over-riding one on another, and the pierced ear lobes, she confirmed that the corpse was that of her husband.

That Alavandar was an opium addict came to light when the narcotic was found in the dead person’s stomach. He might have consumed it as an aphrodisiac, or as a relief from his frequent asthma attacks.

.

← Previous: Part 1 – The Decapitated Head 

→ Next: Part 3 – The Killing

.

RELATED ARTICLES

Murder Most Foul: Part 1 – The Decapitated Head


.
Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

.

Way back in 1952, when I was 11-years-old, a sensational murder took place in Madras (now Chennai). I remember listening to the news read out from the newspapers by the elders in our village. Even after 61 years, the gruesome details I heard about the murder still lingers in my mind.

The Alavandar murder case and trial became a cause-celebre. It aroused widespread controversy and heated public debate. Now, some details have eroded with time from people’s memory, and controversies crept in at times while recalling the incident.

.

Randor Guy (Photo : M. Periyasamy)
Randor Guy (Photo : M. Periyasamy)

.

Madabhushi Rangadorai born on November 8, 1937, a prominent Indian lawyer, columnist and film and legal historian associated with the English language newspaper The Hindu who sports the nom de plume Randor Guy, has written an excellent detailed account of The Alavandar Murder Case.

In 1995, a 13-part Tamil TV serial based on this murder written by Randor Guy and produced by the Dina Thanthi newspaper group was telecast by the Doordarshan Kendra in Chepauk, Chennai as a sponsored program. Though the serial wasn’t well made it proved a big hit.

.

The missing businessman 

It all began with a complaint lodged about a missing businessman at a police station in Madras (now Chennai) on behalf of a worried housewife.

On August 29, 1952, a worried Mrs Alavandar, anxious about her husband who did not return home even after daybreak, went to Gem & Company, fountain pen dealers in China Bazaar (now Parry’s corner), Madras, where her husband had a small frontage space to display his plastic wares and conducted his business. There, the staff of the pen company told her that her husband left the shop the previous day around noon for Royapuram with a woman who came to meet him.

Mrs Alavandar immediately deduced that her husband would have gone with Devaki, a woman from Kerala, with whom he had an illicit love affair. Devaki was an attractive young college-educated woman, who involved herself in social service activities. She lived in Madras .

On reaching No. 62, Cemetery Road in Royapuram, Mrs Alavandar knocked on the door. Devaki’s husband, Prabhakara Menon, opened the door. He told Mrs Alavandar that he had not seen her husband and asserted that her husband never came to his house.

Mrs Alavandar then returned to Gem & Company and requested M.C. Cunnan Chetty, the proprietor of the firm, to go to the police, and on her behalf, he lodged a complaint at the Law College police station in Esplanade, Madras, about the missing Alavandar.

The following day, The Hindu carried a short news item about the incident with a catchy sensational headline: “CITY BUSINESSMAN MISSING!”

.

The Decapitated Head

A police constable attached to the Esplanade Police station pedalled his bicycle to Devaki’s house at Royapuram and found the door locked. He made enquiries and found from the neighbours that the couple, Prabhakara Menon and his wife Devaki, had left for Bombay (now Mumbai).

While pedalling back to his station, the police constable saw a parcel bobbing up and down on the shallow sea water. Out of curiosity, he went up to the seashore and picked up the package wrapped in a brown shirt. When he unwrapped it, he was shocked. There was a decapitated human head inside. The head had been undoubtedly buried the previous night in a shallow pit at the edge of the sea and the morning tide had dislodged it from the sand and washed it ashore. The shirt was later identified as  belonging to Alavandar.

The discovery of the head made headline news in the press the following day.

 

→ Next: Part 2 – The Headless Cadaver

.

RELATED ARTICLES