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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pongal Parisu for Ranganathan Street Shops and its employees

In Tamil Nadu, Pongal is very important festival and days before the festivity, people start buying garments.    The Supreme Court on Monday [9th Jan 2012] is a real relief to many – not only to the Shop Owners, but to those who regularly buy and more importantly to those who were employed in these shops and who were earning from the crowds that throng this place.   

T Nagar Ranganathan Street bustles with activity all the time -  Many from rural villages land in Chennai chasing their dreams … many come for employment in shops and establishments..  in this locality, if you are to observe in early morning – you can watch group of young boys or girls happily and noisily talking to themselves walking as if ‘ants in a queueline’ – enter a building and come out in a few seconds draped in uniforms of that establishment… !  - it is this crowded place, which is in news !!.   It is  Ranganathan Street, which leads you to Mambalam Railway Station.  It contains hundreds of shops, mostly textile shops – you can buy everything in shops like Saravana [from pin, vessels, electrical goods, cycles, suitcases, TV sets  – perhaps not aeroplane parts]  Some of the famous shops would include Saravana, Jayachandra, Textile India, Murugan, Rathna and host of others – it contains some jewellery shops as well – again Saravana have their presence here.  Over the years, the shops in the Street have become such an attraction that people from villages regularly come for making wedding purchases.   One can buy ready made garments or buy cloth and have them stitched within an hour by many small shops nearby.

I had been here many a times and today read an interesting piece of information in Wikipedia about the probable origin of its Name.  The Wiki article on the Street reads “What is presently known as  Ranganathan Street ought to have been  Rangaswamy Iyengar Street after the first resident of that street. It was the usual practice then to name streets after the first resident irrespective of their class, caste or contribution.    Mr.Tupil Rangaswamy Iyengar, a retired Civil Servant of the erstwhile Madras Presidency built his house in early 1920s. When civil authorities approached him for his formal approval the humble, religious and self effasive gentleman requested it be named after Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam.”

It is no longer a residential street – replete with commercial establishments and brims with people throughout the year.  During festive seasons, like Deepavali, Navrathri, Pongal, it is tough to enter into the street itself – but that never deters milling crowds.  In a place where you have famed Textile show rooms a stones’ throw away,  Ranganathan Street shops offer goods at a very low rate.  

On the last day of Oct 2011, after Madras High Court  aggressively pulling up the authorities for dragging their feet on building violations,  the Chennai Corporation and the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) swung into action and  sealed 25 buildings in the shopping hub of T Nagar  a day before a contempt case was to come up in court.The buildings sealed were among the 64 unauthorized high-rise structures identified in 2007 for demolition.  The big players who found their shutters pulled down included : Jayachandran Textiles, Anbazhagan Pazhakadai, Saravana Stores, Shobha, Shanmugha stores, Textile India, Ambika Appalam Depot, Kalanjiam, Saravana Sweets and Rathna Stores on Ranganathan Street,and Omar Khayyam restaurant, Sree devi Gold, Archana Sweets, Chennai Silks, Sree Kumaran Thanga Maligai, Khadims,Hot Chips and Balu Jewellery on South Usman Road.

The constructions and the violations were never an overnight affair… the shops had mushroomed over the years but the violations had been so huge;  for  long officials and authorities had remained mute spectators to the rampant violations but the Court is bent on bringing order on the construction front.  Immediately thereafter, Chennai Metrowater  disconnected water supply and sewer lines of the 25 buildings on  Ranganathan Street and  Usman Road in T.Nagar, which were sealed. 

Though the sealing was perfectly right in a legal view, it did affect the lives of many – not only the big shop owners but the employees and daily earners more !  - there were reports that a couple of big shops had sent their employees back to their villages on paid holiday – considered as a smart move of not allowing them to switch to some other jobs and report for duty, the moment the Court permits functioning of the shop again.  But as months passed by, the workers in the shops, tailors who were running small shops in the vicinity, pedlars, those who supplied to the shops, middlemen and a host of others, suddenly found themselves jobless, moneyless, struggling to make their ends meet.   The workers had started feeling insecure and shop owners desperate as even the Pongal sale seemingly looked remotely possible. 

In a move, which is seen as a fresh respite, Supreme Court has ordered de-sealing of several shopping complexes in T Nagar for six weeks, allowing them to open during the Pongal season. It also asked the Madras high court to hear and dispose of the entire batch of cases relating to building violations by then.  TOI reports that besides directing Chennai civic authorities to remove the seals on the shops, a division bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Dipak Misra faulted the first bench of the Madras high court for sending the matter back to a civic monitoring committee without passing any orders.

Pongal is a time when Establishments give gifts [pongal parisu] to their employees – this Supreme Court Order would be considered as ‘Pongal Parisu’ by many……………………..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


  1. A very beautiful post on a controversial issue. Though I knew the news already, your blog did not deprive me from reading further. Good usage of words. Keep posting. My best wishes :-)

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