August 02, 2021
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Chennai Corner

Is gun culture -- no, nothing to do with edible gunpowder, but real guns that shoot -- taking root in Chennai? With guns being procured from Bihar and Nepal and illegal gun manufacturing units springing up in Marumalainagar and Sivakasi...

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Chennai Corner

Gun Culture In Chennai
Shoot-outs were common in Mumbai some years ago whether it was the cops gunning down criminals or underworld gangsters neutralizing a rival. And these happened in the middle of the road, in courts, in residential buildings. Is Chennai, which had no gun culture earlier, catching up now? One wonders after the shooting in a fancy house in Neelankarai last week even as this city was blowing out 370 candles on a birthday cake. And the target was not some dreaded gangster but an old couple who was killed, their daughter-in-law visiting from France who sustained four bullet wounds. Even her children were harmed with knives. Till today, the motive behind this senseless crime remains unclear although speculation is that there was a land dispute.

Incidentally, the alleged killer died in police custody the same night setting off speculation about whether he was framed by someone in the DMK whose reach was so high that it was easy to silence the alleged assailant forever.

The police commissioner T Rajendran, when asked whether gun culture had permeated Chennai, responded, “Thani marram thoppu aavatha (a single tree does not make a grove)". But this state which has seen ghastly murders with sickles (and exemplified in many films, including the blockbuster Thevar Magan), had never seen a murder in which a gun was used till the Neelankarai murder. It is true that Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) leader Padmanabha and 14 others were shot in a flat in Kodambakkam, one of Chennai’s suburbs, in June 1990 when they were holding a meeting. But the LTTE was involved and there was never any doubt that its arsenal ran to sophisticated arms. 

But in recent years, guns are being procured from Bihar and Nepal and what should be of concern to the cops is that illegal gun manufacturing units have sprung up in Marumalainagar, on the outskirts of Chennai, and Sivakasi, the hub for manufacturing firecrackers which are filled with gun powder.

For the record
The people in this state are hung-up on records. And that’s not always a good thing. Particularly when you do 14 breast surgeries in a government hospital in 3.5 hours. Or do a Caesarean when you are 15 years old as happened two years ago in a nursing home near Tiruchi. Or deliver 20 test-tube babies in one day as happened in a fertility clinic in Erode last October 10, just so that you can get into the record books. 

The furore that broke out when the ethics behind the Madurai surgeries were questioned led the state government to step in hastily to deny that the doctors were going for glory. Health secretary V K Subburaj said, “The 14 operations, conducted throughout the day by eight teams of doctors, were done to create awareness. The government will never allow any such thing to happen.” 

But Rajaji Hospital dean Dr SM Sivakumar bragged last Thursday that a team led by head of oncology Dr BKCR Mohan Prasad, chief anaesthetist Dr R Chandrasekhar and surgeon Dr Gopinath performed 14 breast cancer surgeries from 8.30 am to noon. Prasad boasted, “We opened four patients at one go. I would open the breast, remove the tumour and nodes and move on to the next patient. My assistant and a post-graduate student would close the wound. When I moved to the fourth patient, the first was ready to be sent to the recovery room and another patient would be wheeled in.”

Prasad said that the entire procedure was videotaped and sent to the Guinness authorities. Who was right? The doctor who did the surgeries and who explained in such detail how he pulled off this “surgical feat”. Or the government which said the operations were done over the day? There has been no action against the doctor, which should have been the norm in a government hospital.

Health minister M R K Panneerselvam said the aim was only to create awareness and prove that government hospitals were on a par with those in the private sector. Well, awareness was created, yes, but not for the right reasons. Which woman would go to a hospital she suspected did breast surgery in 15 minutes?

Fear of Flying
The day before Andhra Pradesh CM Y S Rajashekhara Reddy was killed in a helicopter crash, Chennai airport was in a chaotic situation for about five hours with several flights forced to hover for long spells because the radar failed. This is the same airport which hit the headlines earlier this month when the country’s first walkalator (horizontal escalator) inside an airport opened for passenger use at the international arrival and departure Terminals. But what’s the point of a walkalator if a passenger is not certain of landing because of obsolete and overloaded equipment? Chennai airport handles 350 flights a day, which means an air traffic controller handles around 30 take-offs and landings at a time during peak hours. In such a situation, no help from a radar puts pressure on pilots as well as air traffic controllers. More so currently, because the monsoon clouds bring down visibility drastically.

Incidentally, sources say that a cable was cut inadvertently by a labourer working on the expansion of the runway. And get this, this is the fourth time the cable has been cut since work started. ATC sources say that is because there is virtually no co-ordination between contractors and departmental engineers, who carry the plans of the place and are in a position to guide labourers.

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