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Updated: July 6, 2013 10:08 IST
Right to Walk

Reconciling livelihoods, walkability in north Chennai

D. Madhavan
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Trees, vehicles, shops, the obstacles to pedestrians in north Chennai seem unending. A scene on South Mada street, Royapuram. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam
The Hindu Trees, vehicles, shops, the obstacles to pedestrians in north Chennai seem unending. A scene on South Mada street, Royapuram. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

It is not surprising if freedom is the last thing on the minds of pedestrians who use Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Road, earlier known as China Bazaar Road. Hundreds of hawkers ply their trade on the pavements of the 1.5 km stretch connecting Parry’s Corner and Walltax Road despite several warnings by the Madras High Court.

In early 2012, while directing Chennai Corporation to clear the encroachments along the stretch a bench comprising Chief Justice M. Y. Eqbal and Justice T. S. Sivagnanam wondered, “..why do the corporation and the police allow hawkers to encroach pavements, once they have been removed?” In response, the civic body conducted a three-day operation, removed encroachments on NSC Bose road and Broadway and identified 296 hawkers for relocation.

A year later, both the stretches are back to the days of chaos as pedestrians dodge vehicles while casting wistful glances at pavements entirely occupied by vendors or ad-hoc parking lots. “Many important government buildings and the High Court are located along the stretch. The hundreds of people who throng the area are at risk,” said N. Kannan, a petitioner at the High Court.

Less than a third of the stretch is motorable as establishments have eaten into roads too in addition to pavements. Corporation officials periodically evict hawkers and remove encroachments, but both return with within hours. Officials say they are helpless because the most they can do under the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act, 1919 is evict a hawker and confiscate goods.

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