Another milestone in Tamil Nadu’s legislative history

PRIDE OF PLACE: The new Assembly/Secretariat complex looming over arterial roads in the heart of Chennai

The inauguration of the Assembly-Secretariat complex on the Omandurar Government Estate in the heart of the State capital of Chennai marks another milestone in the history of the elected legislature of Tamil Nadu.

The origins of the legislature can be traced back to the Indian Councils Act, 1861. The law restored the legislative power taken away by the Charter Act of 1833. The legislature of the Madras Presidency, which then comprised the present area of Tamil Nadu and parts of what are now the States of Orissa, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, was given the power to make laws for the “peace and good government.”

The Provincial Legislative Council was constituted. It consisted of the Advocate General and four to eight ad hoc members nominated by the Governor to the Executive Council. At least half the members were to be non-officials, nominated for two years. The Legislative Council could not interfere with the laws passed by the Central Legislature. All Bills passed by Provincial Councils required the assent of the Governor-General. Even after that, they could be disallowed by the Queen, to whom they had to be referred. Though the Council was a mere advisory committee for the government in its legislative work, one positive feature was that the public came to know of what went on in the Council, which was till then not possible.

As a result of the Minto-Morley Reforms, a package of constitutional concessions was formulated through the Indian Councils Act, 1909. This raised the strength of the Council from 20 to 50. Elections, though not direct, were introduced.

With nationalist sentiment gaining strength, the British enacted the Government of India Act of 1919, also known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. The membership of the Madras Legislative Council went up to 127 — it was the country’s biggest body of its kind at that time. The number of elected members was 98; the remaining members belonged to the Executive Council or were nominated non-official members. The life of each House of the Council was three years.

On January 8, 1921, the inaugural meeting of the Council took place at Fort St. George. Four days later, the Council was formally inaugurated by the Duke of Connaught, an uncle of George V, Emperor of England. At the inaugural meeting, the Council adopted a resolution to grant women the right to vote.

The next important stage in the evolution of the legislature was the enactment of the Government of India Act, 1935. The Act established a bi-cameral Legislature in the Province of Madras, as it was then called, with the Legislative Assembly consisting of 215 members and the Legislative Council 56 members. The Legislative Council was to be a permanent body with one-third of its members retiring every three years. In the Assembly, there were 116 members from the general seats and 30 from those set aside for the Scheduled Castes. Representation was given to different groups such as Muslims, Christians and landholders. There were eight women members, too.

The first House of the Assembly was constituted in July 1937 after the general elections. C. Rajagopalachari became the Premier of the Presidency and headed the Congress Ministry. His Ministry resigned in 1939 following differences between the Congress party and the British government over the Second World War. The legislature ceased to function.

In March 1946, general elections were held all over the country. T. Prakasam, famously called Andhra Kesari, became the Chief Minister. Between March 1947 and April 1952, Omandur P. Ramaswamy Reddiar and P.S. Kumaraswamy Raja held the post.

Two years after the Constitution of India came into force in January 1950, elections to the first legislature of Madras State were held. The then Composite Madras Assembly consisted of 375 seats. These were filled by means of elections in 309 constituencies — 243 single-member constituencies, 62 double-member constituencies (one seat in each reserved for Scheduled Castes) and four double-member constituencies (one seat in each reserved for Scheduled Tribes). As the three seats were uncontested, elections were held only in the remaining 372 seats. One member was nominated by the Governor to represent Anglo-Indians.

In April 1952, Rajaji, who had by then held the posts of Governor-eneral and West Bengal Governor, succeeded Kumaraswamy Raja who lost in the general elections. Two years later, K. Kamaraj became the Chief Minister and he held the post till 1963.

The strength of the Assembly went down to 231 with the formation of the Andhra State in October 1953 and the merger of Kannada-speaking area of Bellary district with the then Mysore State. After the States Re-organisation Act came into force in November 1956, the number of members was further reduced to 190. After Kanyakumari district and Shencottah taluk were added to the State, the strength was raised to 205. Three years later, one more constituency was added to Tamil Nadu, taking the strength to 206.

In 1961, all 38 double-member constituencies were abolished and an equal number of constituencies was reserved for SC and STs. Through the Delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies Order of 1965, the number of territorial constituencies was increased to 234. Of these, 42 seats were reserved for the Scheduled Castes and two for the Scheduled Tribes, besides one member to be nominated from the Anglo-Indian community. Since then, there has been no change in the strength of the Assembly. (Under the latest delimitation order of 2007, the number of seats earmarked for the SCs and the STs has not been disturbed.)

M. Bakthavatsalam succeeded Kamaraj in October 1963; since then there has not been a Congress Chief Minister in the State. In the historic Assembly elections of 1967, the 18-year-old Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam under the leadership of C.N. Annadurai was swept to power. The name “Madras Legislative Assembly” was changed to the “Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly” on January 14, 1969.

M. Karunanidhi, who became Chief Minister in February 1969, remained in power till January 1976 when the Union government dismissed his government and dissolved the Assembly. After a brief period of President’s Rule, M.G. Ramachandran, the founder of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, became the Chief Minister after his party secured a majority in the 1977 elections. In February 1980, his government was dismissed and the State had another stint of President’s Rule. Ramachandran came back to power in June that year after the AIADMK emerged successful in the general elections. After his demise in December 1987, his widow Janaki Ramachandran held the post of Chief Minister for 24 days. One more spell of President’s Rule followed.

The Legislative Council, which was part of the State legislature since 1937, was abolished with effect from November 1986. In May that year, the Assembly adopted a resolution seeking to abolish the Upper House. Subsequently, Parliament adopted the Tamil Nadu Legislative Council (Abolition) Bill, which got presidential assent in August 1986. In 1989 and 1996, the Assembly adopted resolutions to revive the Upper House but these efforts did not fructify.

In the 1989 Assembly elections, the DMK staged a historic comeback and Mr. Karunanidhi became Chief Minister after a gap of 13 years. Two years later, his government was dismissed again.

In the 1991 Assembly polls, the AIADMK was returned to power and Jayalalithaa became the Chief Minister. Five years later, Mr. Karunanidhi was sworn in Chief Minister for the fourth time. In 2001, it was the turn of the AIADMK to stage a comeback. Ms. Jayalalithaa was Chief Minister for most of the term. O. Panneerselvam, who held the post for about five months, did not face the Assembly.

The 2006 elections saw the DMK coming back to power. Mr Karunanidhi became the Chief Minister for the fifth time.

Where the State legislature met

>> Council Chamber, Fort St. George (1921-1937)

>> Senate House, Chepauk campus, Madras University (July 14, 1937 – December 21, 1937)

>> Banqueting Hall (Rajaji Hall), Government Estate (January 27, 1938 – October 26, 1939)

>> Legislative Council, Fort St. George (May 24, 1946 – March 27, 1952)

>> Children’s Theatre (Kalaivanar Arangam), Government Estate (May 3, 1952 – December 27, 1956)

>> Assembly Hall, Fort St. George (April 29, 1957 – March 30, 1959)

>> Aranmore Palace,Udhagamandalam (April 20-30, 1959 – Legislative Assembly; May 4-9, 1959 -Legislative Council)

>> Fort. St. George (August 31,1959 – January 11, 2010)


22 school children injured in accident near Rameswaram

Twenty-two children were injured, six of them seriously, when their school van collided with a State transport corporation bus here on Wednesday.

The van was carrying 42 children of the officials of ’INS Parundu’, a Goast Guard station at Mandapam in Ramanathapuram district, when the mishap occurred, police said.

The children were studying in the Kendriya Vidyalaya School at Marackaiyar Pattinam near here.

The injured children have been admitted to government hospital at Ramanathapuram

Rain-related casualty in Tamil Nadu goes up to 71


Girls use a thermocol raft to reach their home at a flooded street in Chennai on Monday

The rain-related casualty in the State went up to 71 with the Nilgiris accounting for the death of 42 persons in the landslides.

Tirunelveli and Villupuram districts recorded the death of six persons each. The overall figure took into account those who died since October 1, a senior official of the Revenue department said.

An official release stated that the Nilgiris District Collector was directed to pay Rs. One lakh each to the families of the deceased. Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi asked Ministers Veerapandi S. Arumugam and Pongalur N. Palanisamy to rush to the Nilgiris. Commissioner of Revenue Administration and Principal Secretary N. Sundaradevan and Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) K. Radhakrishnan also left for the rain-hit district.

The services of the National Disaster Response Force had also been pressed in. The Chief Minister advised the officials to dispatch adequate strength of personnel from other departments such as Fire and Rescue Services, Health and Police, the official release said.

Monsoon may continue to be vigorous over coastal areas


Vehicles wade through a flooded street in Chennai. According to Met Department, rains may continue to lash TN and Puducherry for the next two days..

 With a low pressure area over Kanyakumari and neighbourhood likely to become more marked, the northeast monsoon, which set in over the State on October 29, will continue to be vigorous over the coastal belt.

A trough from the low pressure area extends to west central Bay of Bengal across the Gulf of Mannar and southwest bay off the coast of Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh, according to a bulletin of the Met department on Saturday.

Thundershowers are likely to occur at most places over the coastal Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and at many places over interior parts of the State on Sunday. Heavy rain at a few places with very heavy to extremely very heavy rains at isolated places is likely to occur over coastal parts of the State and Puducherry on Sunday and Monday.

During the 24-hour-period that ended at 8-30 a.m. on Saturday, the maximum amount of rainfall of 15 cm was recorded at Red Hills on the northern outskirts of the city. Chembarampakkam in the western fringes of the city received 14 cm; Ponneri – 13 cm and Madurantakam, Sholavandan and Cuddalore – 11 cm each.

A 40-year-old person in Alangulam taluk of Tirunelveli district died in the latest spell. A senior official of the Revenue administration here said though the death occurred on Thursday, it was just now reported to the authorities.

In the morning, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi discussed with Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, Chief Secretary K.S. Sripathi and Principal Secretary (Finance) K. Gnanadesikan on the relief work to be carried out. Mr Stalin briefed him of his visit to northern and southern parts of Chennai earlier. Union Minister for Textiles Dayanidhi Maran and Chennai Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni were present.

The Deputy Chief Minister, who visited T. Nagar and Choolai to inspect baling out of rainwater and went to a special medical camp at Ayodhya Kuppam, later told reporters that over the last three years, storm water drains were laid in the city at a cost of Rs. 81.76 crore for nearly 150 km. Silt was removed from the drains over the length of 996 km. As of now, there was no need to relocate people in camps in view of the baling out operations.

TN Govt. to buy 40 lakh colour TV sets for free distribution


The State government has decided to purchase 40 lakh more colour television sets as part of its project of distributing the sets free to people.

This would be the fifth installment of the purchase of colour TVs. Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi made an announcement in this regard on Thursday after chairing a meeting of leaders of legislature parties at the Secretariat.

Global bids would be floated shortly. By the middle of December, they would be opened and by third week of next month, the contracts would be settled. Starting from February 2010, the distribution would go on up to December. Those tender specifications adopted for the fourth phase of the project would be adopted now also.

Another decision was that additionally, 8,37,500 colour TVs would be procured under the fourth phase of the project.

In the four installments, the TVs were distributed to 85, 15,343 households at a cost of about Rs. 2,036.69 crore. The permission was given for covering 1.04 crore households and the amount sanctioned was about Rs. 2267.87 crore.

Those who attended the Thursday meeting were M.K. Stalin, Deputy Chief Minister, D.Sudarssanam (Congress), C. Govindasamy (Communist Party of India-Marxist), V. Sivapunniyam (CPI), H. Abdul Basith (Indian Union Muslim League), M. Jagan Moorthy (Puratchi Bharatam) and D. Ravikumar (Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi).

New Southern-Zone railway time-table released

Introduction of 11 new trains, including five from various cities in Tamil Nadu, extension of six services, and increase in frequency of one train were the highlight of new Southern Zone time-table released here on Friday. The new time-table comes into effect from November 1.

Normally the new time-table is released on July 1 every year. But this year it was delayed by four months due to operational reasons, according to a railway official.

Of the five new trains planned for Tamil Nadu, the Duronto (non-stop service) Express from Chennai Central to Nizamuddin was already in operation. The date of introduction of other four trains viz Tirunelveli – Bilaspur Weekly Superfast Express, Tirunelveli – Hapa Bi-weekly Superfast Express (both via Trivandrum and Ernakulam), Rameswaram – Kanniakumari Express (via Madurai) and Coimbatore – Shoranur Express will be notified later. The Jammu Tawi – Madurai weekly Express will be extended to Tirunelveli, the Mangalore – Chennai Central Express to Puducherry, and Ernakulam – Tiruchi Express to Nagore on both directions. The frequency of Chennai Central – Mangalore Express now running three times a week will be made a daily service soon.

Releasing the time table, Union Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed said as against 9 new trains introduced in last year’s (Southern Zone) time-table, 11 trains had been budgeted for the current financial year, the highest in recent years. The number of originating passengers in the current financial year had increased by 8.2 per cent till September compared to the same period last year. The passenger earnings had also increased by 4 per cent. To cope with the increased passenger demand, Southern Railway is running large number of specials. The number of specials had gone up to 1,020 till September this year from 912 during the same period last year. The earnings from specials had increased from Rs. 22 crore to 30 crore.

To meet the increasing demand from Sabarimala pilgrims, the zone had planned 162 specials this season as against 138 during the last season. A large number of special trains for Pongal and New Year had also been planned for various high demand cities such as Tuticorin, Nagercoil and Coimbatore, he added.

According to a railway press release the delay in completion of Villupuram – Mayiladuthurai gauge conversion has affected the introduction of 5 new trains and the extension of two services on the section. These services were announced in various budgets. The Chennai Egmore – Nagore Express and Bhubaneswar – Rameswaram Express (2007 budget), Chennai Egmore – Tiruchi Day Express, and Villupuram – Mayiladuthurai Passengers (two pairs) (2008 budget), and Madurai – Chennai Egmore (Bi-weekly Express) in the current budget. Extension of Bangalore – Salem passenger to Nagore and Varanasi – Chennai Egmore to Rameswaram is also postponed due to delay in gauge conversion.

Southern Railway General Manager M.S. Jayanth said the section would be opened by January as some work on passenger amenities were going on.