Not many who go to the shopping area in T. Nagar will take their vehicles, for they know that unless they are lucky, they might not find space to park their vehicles.

A recent petition, filed by members of the T. Nagar Rangan Street Residents Welfare Association under the Right to Information Act, has revealed that the space beneath the Usman Road flyover came under the control of the Chennai Corporation, and had not been leased out to private establishments.

However, members of the residents association complained that the police and the Corporation were turning a blind eye to “blatant encroachments in public places”.

Several stretches under the flyover are used to park hundreds of bicycles of employees of different stores. Consequently, customers' vehicles spill over onto the streets off South Usman Road, making residents' lives miserable, they said.

Some stretches under the flyover have been barricaded, to restrict parking to customers of certain commercial establishments.

On Tuesday, a group of customers who had finished making purchases at a jewellery store were seen being escorted to one such “reserved parking lot” by employees of the store. “It is the Corporation's parking space. But we are waiting for the hawkers to be relocated to the complex. Once that is done, the parking space can also be regulated better,” said a traffic police official at the spot.

High Court directive

Such a situation prevails despite a directive of the Madras High Court with regard to parking. No private person is entitled to an exclusive right to park his vehicle in a notified public parking place as no such reservation has been contemplated under the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Rules, the Madras High Court said in September 2010.

Enquiries with different stakeholders only presented a blame game — one in which customers blamed the traffic police, the traffic police blamed the delay in shifting hawkers to the hawkers' complex, the big showrooms blamed the hawkers and the hawkers, the commercial establishments.

The Court had directed the Chennai Corporation and the police authorities to take action and ensure that public paid parking areas were available for use by the general public on payment of a determined fee.

According to Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) M. Ravi, the traffic police could step in only when there is an obstruction to vehicular movement on the road. The case of a commercial establishment using a public space to park vehicles of its customers will have to be addressed by the Chennai Corporation.

Members of the Panagal Park and Usman Road Traders' Association have appealed to the Chennai Corporation to let out the space below the flyover to them. Secretary of the Association T. Sarathy said: “We will ensure that the space is maintained well. Most of the big stores have enough space for parking. Once the hawkers are shifted, things will get better.”

Denying that stores earmarked public parking space exclusively for their customers, he said employees of the stores merely helped customers park safely in the common parking lot and help ease congestion.

“How can the police alone manage regulation of such a challenging stretch?” he asked.

Mayor M. Subramanian said private establishments had no right to reserve the parking space only for their customers. “After May 13, we will take a policy decision on whether we should float tenders to lease out the parking space to private agencies or develop the area as a park. Until then it is both the Corporation and police's responsibility to ensure that anyone coming to the area gets to park under the flyover,” he said.

Hawkers' complex

On why there was so much confusion with regarding to parking vehicles, many like Mr.Sarathy pointed to the hawkers along the stretch. The Hawkers' Complex constructed by Chennai Corporation in Pondy Bazaar is waiting to be occupied.

Hawkers said they were waiting for further directions from the Chennai Corporation.

“We also hear that 14 shops that were allotted space in the complex have gone to the Supreme Court asking for alternative allocations,” said Mohammed Iqbal, president, Usman Road Small Traders Association.

Corporation officials confirmed that all hawkers would be able to move only after the verdict of the Supreme Court was out. “Until then, we have to wait,” an official said.

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012

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