Every time a pedestrian wants to use the sliver of footpath near the flyover connecting EVR Periyar High Road and Pallavan Salai, it is a battle to ensure he/she is not in the way of a vehicle.
If a pedestrian does linger on the narrow footpath for longer than five minutes, a sea of humanity will wash past, from the Park Town railway station.
Eight food stalls do brisk business on the footpath until late in the evening. Patient attendants from the nearby Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital buy hot milk or quench their thirst with a glass of sugarcane juice, clogging the footpath in the process.
Along the less than two-foot wall that borders the shops is an announcement stating that the shops are operating following a pending writ petition 33482/2012 by petitioner Viswanathan in the Madras High Court.
The employees in the shops claim they don’t have the petitioner’s phone number but know that he is a person with a disability. Gopi and Mani, who work at a tea shop, say they have been employed only recently. “If someone pays us higher wages, we will move,” says Gopi. He is paid Rs. 200 a day but there is always a better job elsewhere he maintains.
Traffic police officers and the inspector of police posted in the outpost near the entrance to the Central Railway Station say their hands are tied as to the blatant encroachment of footpath space, as it is the Chennai Corporation that must clear the shops.
“A person with disability has set up the shops there. He shows us the court order and we can do nothing about it. A similar situation exists on NSC Bose Road too. A dedicated parking lot for cars would prevent this vendor nuisance. As for us, we can only file petty cases against these vendors. Their abusive language makes us a laughing stock,” said a policeman attached to the Park Town law and order wing.
On March 7, Corporation Commissioner Vikram Kapur submitted an affidavit to the Madras High Court that the civic body was “taking action to remove unauthorised bunk shops after ascertaining the list of bunks shops located in zones”. However, in the case of persons with disabilities who operate the bunks, the commissioner said they have been asked make their own arrangements to remove the bunks, failing which the Corporation will do so. But this will take four months, he said.