The locality was hardly attractive to new residents, with many regretting having moved in there. Some decided to move from regret to positive action, says Liffy Thomas

Velachery, once a quiet locality with swatches of farm land, owes much of its development to a few neighbourhood groups. One such is the Dhandeeswarar Nagar Welfare Association, registered in 1976.

In its early days, the Association had 200 members and nearly 60 of them would attend its meetings regularly. These meetings were aimed at getting basic amenities for the area. “We never had to compel people to come, as there were many issues,” says C. Govindaraju, secretary of the Association.

The development of the locality, first from a village panchayat into a town panchayat and now into a corporation zone was however not easy.

On weekends, members in groups of three or four would knock at government agencies entrusted with provision of amenities like street lights, sewerage, water supply and roads.

A.S. Jagadeeshan, who moved to the locality in 1979 from Sowcarpet, says for almost 10 years he repented having moved to Velachery.

“There were only two bus routes 51E and 45A that came to this part of the city. We had to go to Saidapet to get more buses, a journey that would drain you by the end of the day,” he says.

For long, most of the 11 main roads, 12 cross streets and 13 avenues in the colony did not have street lights.

“The streets would become eerily empty and dark after 7 p.m. and the Association requested members to keep the outdoor lights switched on to help those getting home late in the night. For those who could not pay the extra electricity bill, we even offered to reimburse that small portion,” says K. Dorai Raj, president of the Association.

Monsoon was the bane of Velachery until five years ago. Not any more with storm water drain network laid in most areas. One of the major victories was getting a public library for the neighbourhood. The space around the library is still a bone of contention with residents waiting to see it converted into a park.

For many years, the Association took the lead in organising an interaction with newly-elected leaders where residents’ grievances were heard. “I would shoot off letters to various departments to tell the plight,” says Dorai Raj, who retired from the Department of Technical Education. And all these efforts have helped. Today, Dhandeeswarar Nagar is an upscale locality with many amenities matching up to those in areas such as Anna Nagar and Besant Nagar.

The Association has its own building at Third Main Road where members meet regularly. Its challenge now is getting people to participate in new initiatives such as keeping streets clean, taking measures to see four-wheelers are not parked on pavements and helping prevent thefts such as chain snatching.

The Aadhar camp held at the Association premises was one such attempt to show that the Association cares for them.

An open house on Sundays is next on the cards, where residents can discuss various issues. The Association has also made appeals to apartment complexes to affiliate with the Association.

(At Downtown Cares, resident welfare associations can discuss their neighbourhoods. These associations may write to us at downtownfeedback@thehindu.co.in or call us at 28576631, seeking a meeting)

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