Highways Department to give permission: Corporation; there is proof it was named after him long ago: advocates

Is Madurai Corporation discriminating against B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India, by refusing to erect a name board for a stretch of road in the city?

This is a pointed question raised by the Dr.Ambedkar Advocates’ Association that has been pressing for putting up the name board for the stretch of Madurai-Melur Road between Periyar Statue junction and MGR statue junction after Dr.Ambedkar.

The demand came after Madurai Corporation embarked upon the new project of installing retro-reflective name boards for arterial roads, streets and by-lanes at a cost of Rs.4 crore. The blue signboards have attractive stainless steel frame carrying the names of roads and streets in English and Tamil.

However, the lawyers’ association found that the Corporation that had put up the boards for several by-lanes had not erected one for the Ambedkar Road.

“As the officials raised doubts, we had to produce evidence to show that this particular stretch of the road had been named after Dr.Ambedkar several years back. The address for the zonal office of State Bank of India showed that the building was located on the Dr.B.R.Ambedkar Road,” said N.Tirukumaran, association’s executive committee member. The issue was taken up with Collector Anshul Mishra, who drew the attention of Corporation Commissioner R.Nanthagopal to the issue in February. Mayor V.V.Rajan Chellappa then promised to install the name board immediately.

However, as there was no sign of the demand getting fulfilled, the advocates threatened a stir to erase other name boards with tar in April. They also sought permission from the police for unveiling the name board near the Periyar statue junction on their own.

Subsequently, a letter from the office of the Corporation Commissioner, signed by an officer “for Commissioner” gave permission to the lawyers for installing the board. The copies of the letter, dated April 9, addressed to D.Arul Joseph, joint secretary of the association, were marked for the District Collector and the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), Tallakulam.

The lawyers claimed that the permission given by the Corporation to instal the name board only vindicated their claim that the road had been named after Dr.Ambedkar in the past.

“Even the name board of the community hall constructed jointly by the Corporation and the Madurai District Tiny & Small Scale Industries Association (Maditssia), next to the Corporation office building, says that it is located on Dr.Ambedkar Road,” said advocate K.Sivalingam, a member of the association.

“When the Corporation is giving permission for us to name the road after Dr.Ambedkar, I wondered what prevented its officials from putting up the board for this (Dr.Ambedkar) road like they have done for many roads, streets and even small by-lanes in the city. The permission given to us (the association) to carry out the work implies that the Corporation authorities are not willing to erect a board bearing the name of Dr.Ambedkar,” said S.Maniraj, assistant secretary of the association.

Onus on government

The lawyers said the government that had been spending crores of rupees for the project was duty-bound to erect the name board for Dr.Ambedkar Road too.

Meanwhile, the lawyers incorporated “Dr. Ambedkar Road” in the Highways name board near the Corporation office a few days back.

Just as the issue, mired in controversy for nearly three months, looked to settle down after the lawyers succeeded in putting up the name board for the road, it took a new twist with the Corporation Commissioner denying that his office had issued any letter giving permission for the lawyers’ association.

“It is not our (Corporation) road, but State Highways Road. Only the Highways Department needs to give the permission,” Mr.Nanthagopal said. But, the lawyers claimed that the copy of the letter was given to them by the Tallakulam police. Assistant Commissioner of Police (Tallakulam), S.Dhanapal said the copy was handed over to the police by Corporation officials.

Mr.Sivalingam questioned how the Corporation had put up name boards on other stretches of Highways after other leaders. The Pangal Road (on Sivaganga Road), Palam Station Road (on Bangalore Road), Kamarajar Road (on Ramanathapuram Road) are some of the examples he cited.

“More recently, the new Council, led by Mr.Rajan Chellappa, passed a resolution granting permission to name a stretch of Natham Road, a State Highway, after Chenna Pulavar Karmeganar. The Corporation was quick to put up a huge board reading “Chenna Pulavar Karmeganar” Salai. But, the officials are refusing to put up the name board for Dr.Ambekar Road,” he said.

Mr.Tirukumaran said the attitude of the Corporation officials only reflected the discrimination against Dalits. “They do not want an important road in the city to be named after Dr.Ambedkar,” he added.

He said the advocates’ association would organise a grand public meeting at the Periyar statue junction by inviting leaders of Dalit parties, like Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and Puthiya Tamilagam, to “unveil” the board naming the road after Dr.Ambedkar.

They would also not spare the legal route to get the Corporation erect the board on its own, Mr.Sivalingam said.

More In: Madurai