'City Pulse' keeps tabs on what Chennai's citizens think about issues that affect their everyday life.
While the recently-inaugurated hawkers' shopping complex in Pondy Bazaar promises to help ease congestion in T.Nagar, the residents of the area are sceptical.
“We will know how helpful this arrangement is only after the hawkers actually move in to the complex,” says R.Rajesh, a resident of the locality for nearly two decades.
The lives of residents of streets off Thyagaraya Road, Usman Road or Venkatnarayana Road are unique and marked by an everyday battle against vehicles parked in front of the gate, speeding share auto-rickshaws and of course, hawkers who spill out on these main roads.
Residential areas have resisted hawkers in the past, too. In August 2008, ahead of the inauguration of the Usman Road flyover, the Chennai Corporation decided to move hawkers from the main road into Pinjala Subramaniam Street. There was a great deal of objection from residents of the street.
Residents say life has only become more difficult now. “These were completely residential lanes that were in demand for their proximity to the commercial hub. With the streets now resembling shopping areas, with hawkers moving about, this kind of noise and haphazard parking, it is utter chaos,” says V.Bharath, a resident who lives off Venkatnarayana Road. However, some hawkers continue setting up temporary shops, residents say.
On the hawkers' shopping complex, he says “It is a livelihood issue, no doubt. The Corporation has to tackle this sensitively. There are places of worship outside which vendors set up shop and occupy pavements. All these have to be addressed,” he adds.
Residents of Rangan Street and Mangesh Street say their challenge is more about unauthorised vehicle parking than handling hawkers.
“Even if hawkers are shifted to the complex, what about days ahead of festivals, when hawkers from the suburbs and towns around Chennai come and start selling their wares? The Corporation has to really prove itself on the hawkers' issue,” says a long-time resident of Ramanujam Street. Hawkers are not the only persons crowding streets, says S. Revathy, a resident of Thanikachalam Road. “What about those who park irresponsibly and those big shops that do not provide adequate parking space? It is easy to blame hawkers. While the complex may help organise and display their products better, seeing it as a big solution in decongestion is not right. A lot more has to be done,” she said.