Cries to evict encroachers are loud but authorities are tardy in their action
Anna Nagar 80 Feet Road may not fit the same name in future. The carriage space of this landmark road has shrunk to 45 feet because of encroachments. And, a practising advocate has filed a public interest litigation asking for speedy action to clear the main thoroughfare.
There are many big and small residential colonies on the outskirts facing a similar problem. Cries for evicting encroachers from public spaces are loud. But the authorities have been tardy in their follow-up action.
Jaya Nagar, off bypass road, is a classic case where over 100 residents have signed a petition to the Corporation Commissioner, the Mayor, the Collector and the Commissioner of Police praying to stop a corporation councillor from constructing an office block on land in their locality originally approved and meant for developing a public park.
The Resident Welfare Association members say they were informed by the elected representative that the office could be used by them to remit taxes intended for the Corporation. But the residents are not convinced because there is already a tax remittance centre on the Bypass road and they don’t see the logic of having another nearby. The councillor has also indicated that the building would house a library for the benefit of the local residents.
Says advocate, A.S.M. Kumar, “The Jaya Nagar case is not an isolated one. There are many more Jaya Nagars waiting to claim space meant for the people.”
Three decades ago, the State government had identified certain pockets in the city, including Anna Nagar, to set up housing colonies. The Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB), which was entrusted with the task, developed the area by earmarking housing plots and exclusive space for a park, hospital, community centre, school and so on. The idea was to create self-sufficient mini townships.
Though the intention and objective was welcomed then, it failed at the implementation stage. Alleged corruption and the nexus between local body officials and town planners and bureaucrats marred the project.
Anna Nagar is a case in point. A sought after residential locality has today turned into a commercial area and people no longer want to own houses there. “It is chaotic now,” says R.Venkatesan, 80, who has been residing near the Suguna Stores junction in Anna Nagar for the past three decades.
“Earlier, there were only symmetrical dwellings of TNHB on this road. A handful of grocery and textile shops and vegetable and fruit vendors did their business from the space earmarked for them,” he recalls.
Today, only a few of those old houses are visible. The rest have all been displaced by commercial buildings. “The drinking water connection to a majority of these new commercial properties continue to be shown as residential connection in the registers of the local body,” Mr.Venkatesan contends.
The rampant violation of building bye-laws by the high-rises in the area has brought in its wake several other problems, such as haphazard parking by shoppers that keeps the main road perennially choked. The road side vendors have occupied the walk-ways. The centre medians have further eaten into road space. Pedestrians have no other choice but to use the main thoroughfare.
Complains a Tahsildar Nagar resident, “A majority of the properties which have been converted into commercial undertakings on the Anna Nagar Main Road have extended their space in the front, originally meant for pedestrians. The contractors have provided space to small time shopkeepers to sell fruits, vegetables and bakery products. This compounds the problem for pavement users.”
Ellis Nagar residents allege that the open space in their locality has been encroached by anti-socials, who enjoy political patronage. All that the Corporation officials have done is to install a board warning encroachers. A TNHB official, on condition of anonymity, said that they have lodged a complaint to the police.
District Collector Anshul Mishra says that complaints received from the public are probed and action taken by the Revenue Divisional Officer under Sections 145 Cr. P.C. He admits that some land promoters/developers indulge in unscrupulous means of marketing house-sites without seeking approvals from the authorities concerned.
A recent survey revealed that many promoters had not obtained the re-classification of the sites. In such cases, the buyers are at risk as the transaction could be declared null and void.
The rising number of road accidents between the central vegetable market near Maatuthavani bus stand and the Ambika Theatre in Anna Nagar is a cause for concern. Police records between 2005 and 2010, obtained under the RTI Act, show 53 accidents, including 12 fatal, on the two-km stretch. The increasing vehicle numbers coupled with anti-social elements working hand in glove with officials is undermining the tax payer’s best interest.