For Venkat Santhanam, retirement is still light years away. At 80, this social activist shows no signs of fatigue. Recently, he celebrated his 80th birthday, holding a party, which was largely attended by residents of Chromepet and surrounding localities. Over the years, many of these people have seen civic issues in their neck of the woods addressed on account of his activism.
On the occasion, Santhanam released a souvenir that throws light on many of the civic campaigns he had spearheaded. The souvenir includes an account of how he campaigned successfully against a move by the government to acquire residential plots in Chrompet in the 1960s for a government project.
“While working in Indian Oxygen Limited as a sales representative, I also served as its union secretary, which provide me with opportunities to interact with trade unionists and political leaders, including W.R. Varadarajan, R. Kuselar and V.P. Chintan,” says Santhanam says. He is popularly known as ‘New Colony’ V. Santhanam. He and his family has been living in this neighbourhood in Chromepet since 1968. Santhanam association with The Chromepet New Colony Residents Welfare Society and Federation of Civic and Welfare Association of Pallavapuram (FCWAP) dates back to 1980. Now, he is the vice-president of the Society and president of FCWAP.
He has filed a countless number of petitions under Right to Information (RTI) Act. “ I follow a pattern in representing issues. First, I write a letter to the department. If no action is taken, I take up the issue with elected representatives. If action is still not forthcoming, along with members of the Federation, I take to the streets and protest.”
Almost always, the protest is novel. “At one point of time, Chromepet GH did not have a sufficient stock of bandages. Along with another social activist, we tied bandages on our heads and stood at the entrance of the hospital,” he points out. The activist is a recipient of more than 15 awards including the coveted ‘Jamshedji Tata Fellowship Award’. He is the founder of Chromepet Rail Users Forum. V. Santhanam can be contacted at 94442 54850.