With shops and houses cheek by jowl, conflicts are unavoidable in T. Nagar, writes R. Sujatha

Residents of T. Nagar have resigned themselves to the fact that they have to share space with traders. But that does not rule out the occasional confrontation. Resident-vendor tension surface, probably for the first time, in the 1980s when a group of vendors sought a place to set up shop. These tradesmen had their way and Sathya bazaar was born. This marketplace now occupies a small lane between Ramanathan Street and Ranganathan Street.

In the 1990s, vendors outside the Shiva Vishnu temple were relocated after the temple trustees made a representation. At that time the trustees said they wanted to enhance revenue for the temple which relied on its devotees for its upkeep. At that time the Chennai Corporation considered relocating them on Rameswaram Road, which has now become a hellish passage for pedestrians, even without the vendors.

Residents in the area have always been complaining of encroachments, which has been steadily rising in numbers over the years. During the construction of the flyover, vendors were relocated to various streets. But the residents of Sivagnanam Street went to court and obtained a stay. Now the Sathya Bazaar shopkeepers are fighting a battle with the residents of Ramanathan Street.

V. Santhanam, a resident of the locality for several decades, says the residents’ complaints are never entertained. Jayaraman, also a member of the T. Nagar Residents’ Welfare Association, says flagging issues are their only option. But these residents have not given up hope. Basheer Ismail, a resident of Ramanathan Street, took up the issue last week after the Sathya Bazaar shopkeepers tried to build a wall on the other side of the Sathya Bazaar Street, claiming ownership over the street too.

A senior Corporation official explained that the conservancy lane between Ramanathan Street and Ranganathan Street fell into disuse after the sewage lines were built. “There was a time when the lane served to pick up night soil from the houses on Ramanathan Street. That is how houses opening to Ramanathan Street also had back entrances on Sathya Bazaar Street,” he explained.

As the bazaar grew in size, the street was also renamed as Sathya Bazaar Street, said Y. Mohamed Ismail, secretary of the Annai Sathya Bazaar Shop Owners Welfare Association. But he refuses to accept that he cannot claim ownership over the street.

He contends that he pays property tax and water tax every year and this entitles him to ownership of the street too.

The problem came to a head after Mr. Basheer took up the issue. “My house has a back door leading into the street. The broken sewage lines have not been set right by the CMWSSB because of the stubborn shop owners,” he complained.

The T. Nagar Residents Welfare Association has made several representations to the Corporation and the Metrowater.

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