'City Pulse' keeps tabs on what Chennai's citizens think about issues that affect their everyday life.

Shopping at popular destinations in the city during the festival season is becoming a major challenge every year. The preferred shopping areas, be it T. Nagar, Purasawalkam or George Town, attract thousands of visitors every day during this period.

As Deepavali approaches, the crowd in the markets swells often bringing traffic to a standstill.

Pedestrians are the worst affected as they struggle to make their way through vehicles and hawkers. At T.Nagar, rows of autorickshaws parked outside several stores blocking vehicular movement is a regular feature. Motorists often complain that traffic police personnel often do not attempt to clear the way.

Residents around Usman Road say that improvement in the traffic situation and availability of space for pedestrians and parking have become an impossible prospect. Many of them said the flyover in the area has not contributed to decongestion. Traffic gets often choked at the Duraiswamy Road vehicular subway.

The streets off Usman Road have morphed into a ‘free zone for haphazard parking' as several shops do not have parking space. For residents in these lanes, dealing with vehicles parked in front of the gate, men urinating, and plastic bags strewn all over is a daily battle.

Mahalakshmi Street, Motilal Street, Sarojini Street, Ramaswamy Street or Venkatesan Street, all off Dhandapani Street, connecting to South Usman Road, are in a mess. Mangesh Street, Rangan Street and Ramanathan Street are no better.

Pinjala Subramaniam Street is one of the major casualties. Nirmala Mehta, a resident of an apartment complex, said “Someone who had come for shopping had parked vehicle inside our complex. We could not take our cars out. When the owner returned, he was not even apologetic.”

The zone has become dangerous for senior citizens too. “I am unable to go out anywhere by walk because of the traffic. I take autorickshaws instead,” says B. Jayalakshmi, an 88-year-old resident.

Residents also point to the lack of clarity in traffic signs. Many stretches that are one way do not seem so, as vehicles ignore signboards that are covered with advertisements.

Purasawalkam considered a shoppers' paradise for north Chennai is also increasingly becoming congested. S. Geetha who lives on Purasawalkam High Road, said “Crossing even a half-a-km stretch from the Kellys junction to Bricklin Road on Purasawalkam High Road takes 20 minutes. Footpaths are virtually absent as hawkers usurp the place. Pedestrians have to tread dangerously on road.”

N.Satyaseelan, past president of Purasawalkam Merchants Association, said that with several big stores in T.Nagar eyeing Purasawalkam for the next showroom, the traffic and congestion are bound to increase. Parking is done on the road owing to inadequate space in the shops.

Residents of roads, including Saravana Perumal Street, close to shopping areas have tough time travelling to their houses and often take a detour.

Though hawkers have been provided accommodation at Lily Pond complex, some of them continue to do business on streets.

S.Nagabhushanam, president of Purasawalkam Merchants Association, said there are nearly 1,300 shops. The number of daily visitors has gone up to even five lakh in the previous years.

Parking on Purasawalkam High Road would be restricted two weeks ahead of Deepavali and adjacent roads like Ritherdon Road may be used for the purpose.

“Widening of the Purasawalkam High Road proposed by Chennai Corporation would help ease congestion,” he said.

Shopowners at George Town said though retail business is limited, the place remains crowded.

Meanwhile, the Police department has identified five places — Purasawalkam, T. Nagar, Adyar, Flower Bazaar and Thiruvanmiyur — to step up security and install 30 additional watch towers.

Commissioner of Police T. Rajendran said that about 10,000 police personnel would be deployed in these areas and the security arrangements would continue till Pongal. Besides keeping a vigil on offenders, the department has planned to install CCTVs, especially outside jewellery showrooms.

He recalled that T.Nagar witnessed a whopping seven lakh visitors on some days last year. There would be traffic changes in T.Nagar, Purasawalkam and Flower Bazaar.

The department would also coordinate with Chennai Corporation to remove hawkers during festive time for pedestrian movement.

According to Fire and Rescue Services officials, fire tenders would be stationed at areas, including Koyambedu, Vadapalani, T.Nagar and Besant Nagar, two days ahead of the festival to reduce call response time.

However, they noted that mock drill is not being conducted in T.Nagar as the shopkeepers perceive that the time spent on such exercise would only mean loss of business.

The Fire and Security Association of India, a non-profit association that promotes the use of fire and safety systems underscores the need to look into aspects such as emergency exit routes and extinguishers inside crowded premises.

What they say

B. Viswanathan, resident, Pinjala Subramaniam Street:

Apparel stores have nearly taken over our street. They have earmarked pedestrian and pavement space as parking slots for their customers. They have even put up boards with the names of their shops and no policeman ever questions them. What is worse is that sometimes, shoppers park their vehicles inside our complexes. The hawkers' issue is yet to be solved in Pondy Bazaar where the complex is ready.

T. Rajendran, Commissioner of Police.

We will be keeping a close watch on the shopping areas. For this purpose, we would be posting additional personnel, installing watch towers and bring more areas under CCTV surveillance. There are 2,800 CCTV cameras functioning in the city and this would be increased during the festival season. The security arrangements will be in place till end of Pongal.