Haji Meeran Sahib, pic courtesy Badrunnissa Mahadevan

As the Anna (Gemini) Flyover turns 50 on July 1, it is important we reflect on the contributions of Haji Meeran Sahib, the Corporation Engineer who in 1948 first mooted such a structure, evolved a design with minimal use of cement and steel and then 25 years later, was responsible for its construction as part of the private company that was awarded the tender.

His Patented Design for the flyover

Plan of the Gemini Flyover, courtesy The Hindu

The man behind the Anna Flyover was undoubtedly Haji Meeran Sahib. He not only saved the Government Rs 9 lakhs in the cost, which was a remarkable achievement but also finished the project three months ahead of schedule.

The details of his design are hard to comprehend for a layman but to quote from an article he wrote for The Hindu, β€œthe special feature of the design is in the conceptual development of the structural form of the bridge decking. The bridge deck is a multiple hollow-box slab, made up of precast elements. An ingenious intertwining arrangement of stirrups from the precast elements with the main reinforcement and anchored into the in- situ concrete ensures complete monolithic action of the precast elements for the full deck and thus resulting in a high degree of lateral distribution of live load. The adoption of a hollow section for the bridge deck and the high lateral distribution due to the special detailing has resulted in enormous saving in steel and concrete. Incidentally, this method of construction is the first of its kind in our country and it is the writer’s own patented system.”

Haji Meeran Sahib’s Biographical Details

Born in a remote village of Tirunelveli, Meeran Sahib was a graduate in Civil Engineering from the College of Engineering, Guindy (1931 batch), joined the Madras Corporation in 1933 and rose to become its Chief Engineer in 1948. He was a Fellow of the Institution of Structural Engineers, London and a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers India. As Corporation Engineer he designed the present arched spans of the Napier Bridge, the first public tennis courts in the city (now located within the Hockey Stadium premises) at Egmore, and the layout of Shenoy Nagar. Post retirement (1961), and heading the team at East Coast Construction and Industries, the company he founded, he worked on the Tower Park at Anna Nagar, the architect being Yahya C Merchant and the engineer SLN Moorthy. All these structures still stand, and together with the Gemini Flyover, are testimony to his structural design skills. By the 1970s, he had completed the Haj pilgrimage and that entitled him to the prefix Haji.

A Man Of Impeccable Integrity

A biographical note on him, received from his family states that he was also consulted widely for structural design and more importantly, was of such integrity that his word was considered final in matters concerning disputes over structural issues. The contract for the Gemini Flyover tender had many bidders but his was the lowest owing to his patented design and he ensured further savings during the construction. Meeran Sahib seems to have been a centenarian for he passed away only in 1997. 

With inputs from Badrunnissa Mahadevan, granddaughter of Meeran Sahib. And thanks to the one and only, Karthik Bhatt for setting me off on this journey.