Many of them were creative with graphic descriptions and drawings
The range of ideas and variety of proposals that poured in when The Hindu invited suggestions for putting to use the structure on Anna Salai that was meant to house the Secretariat and Assembly show the readers were deeply concerned with what the city lacked, and with what it needed. For many, it was a top-grade medical education and research institution that the metropolis required; for others, it was a particular kind of library, museum or cultural institution.
The question how best to use the new building at the Omandurar Government Estate has been answered by the State government by its decision to establish a super-specialty hospital and a medical college adjacent to it.
While 30 per cent of the 1,654 ideas that came in concerned the use of the space for medical and educational purposes, 14 per cent felt it could be used for what it was originally intended – as the Secretariat and Assembly. Some sort of administrative use was in the minds of 11 per cent of those who responded, with many of them feeling that the complex would be ideal for housing all government departments and offices presently functioning from rented premises.
Curiously, some wanted the Chennai Corporation to be moved to this spacious location and the Ripon Buildings be preserved as a heritage structure. Looking at its revenue potential, a small section of the readers suggested that it be given away to corporate houses or other private entities so that facilities such as shopping malls and recreation spots might come up. But such proposals – constituting 10 per cent – would have amounted to putting it to private commercial use and not public use that this newspaper envisaged.
Museums were next in order of numerical support, but proponents of this category had several types of museums in mind. Some favoured housing artefacts that spoke of the language, culture and history of the Tamils, while others had in mind exhibits of global and national heritage value. Going by the five per cent support that cultural use garnered from those who responded, it is reasonable to suppose that the city needs a large cultural institution that would promote different kinds of fine arts and provide a public stage to visiting performers.
Nearly an equal number came out with proposals that envisaged simultaneous use of the various features of the complex in different ways. These were ‘multi-use' proposals that came with detail and imagination, some with graphic descriptions and drawings. Libraries and auditoriums or convention and trade centres were suggested by some, although the city already has a large and new library at Kottupuram and the well-appointed Chennai Trade Centre at Nandambakkam. And then there were those that considered it an ideal location for an integrated complex for the judiciary or the city's diplomatic corps. A few believed that it could house hotels and restaurants. Some envisaged free or low-cost accommodation for the poor and the needy here.
The Hindu thanks its readers and concerned citizens who responded to its invitation and came up with valuable suggestions and well-presented ideas, many of them backing their proposals with sound reasons and elaborate explanations.