Chain snatching rampant; dingy corners turn dumping yards

The road over-bridges across railway level crossings at Thennur and Palakkarai in the city built at the initiative of the former Union Minister late Rangarajan Kumaramangalam brought much relief to motorists in the city. Though people living close to the bridges did not mind a few minor inconveniences on account of the bridges, they hardly bargained for the clutter and squalor that characterise the public space beneath the bridges now.

The civic administration soon after the opening of the bridges about six to seven years ago had announced that the open space beneath the bridges would be put to good use, for creating a parking lot and to raise public gardens. Neither plan has come to fruition yet.

Instead, the entire space along the bridges on the Thennur High Road, the Heber Road and the Madurai High Road have now turned convenient shelters for encroachers for varied purposes. Platform vendors, roadside eateries, juice stalls and cobblers form an assorted group of encroachers. Truck and goods van operators also find it a convenient place to park their vehicles. In a few places, the open space with the pillars at regular intervals make for work sheds for a few artisans eking out a living from bamboo products.

Timber, hardware shops and steel welding units occupy most of the space on the narrow service lane along the bridge on the Madurai Road. Open drains, road bumps and encroachments by an assortment of shopkeepers have constricted the space on the service roads along the two bridges. Worse still, several dingy corners beneath the bridges have become convenient garbage dumping yards for locals. The Ramakrishna Theatre corner near Thennur has been converted into an open garbage dump and urinal.

All along, the space beneath the bridges is largely unlit. Residents complain that the poorly-lit stretch on either side of the Thennur Railway crossing has now turned into a hangout for anti-social elements. Chain snatching incidents are frequent occurrence on this stretch though many of them allegedly go unreported to police. Sakunthala Srinivasan, a resident of Anna Nagar and president, Tiruchi Payaneetalar Iyakkam, who has long been fighting for provision of street lights and conversion of the open space into gardens observes that the road stretch along the TANGEDCO office in Thennur has become totally unsafe for women during nights.

“We have grown tired of representing the matter to the corporation. Provision of street lights is an absolute necessity to check criminal activities. The open spaces under the bridge have also become a big garbage dump yard,” she says.

Mrs.Sakunthala said that the Payaneetalar Iyakkam and Mahalir Mempattu Mandram had offered to the corporation to sponsor and maintain a garden beneath the Thennur bridge. “But the corporation is yet to act on our request over the past seven years,” she says.

Local residents also complain over the chaotic traffic conditions on the service roads along the bridges. Clogged as they are by encroachments and other impediments, the service roads are also in a poor condition with gaping manholes at several places. Motorists invariably use the wrong side of the service lane along the Thennur highway. Consequently, the service road on the other side is used for two way traffic, often resulting in traffic snarls and bottlenecks, they complain.