Traders to soon move into shopping complex on Thyagaraya Road
Finally, on Wednesday, pedestrians in Pondy Bazaar got a glimpse of what the area would look like without the ubiquitous footpath shops.
The day dawned with some shopkeepers removing their shacks and loading them in trucks. The move followed the government’s refusal to grant another extension of the November 5 deadline to shift into the three-storey shopping complex built for their benefit by Chennai Corporation on Thyagaraya Road.
In the past month, the shopkeepers had sought three stays to prevent eviction from the footpaths.
A total of 620 shops in the complex have been allotted so far. Some shopkeepers are now making arrangements to move in but on the ground and third floors, a portion is unoccupied.
“Since the shops have been allotted by draw of lots, those that sell flowers are positioned next to garment shops. There are 16 shops selling flowers and we have asked that all shops selling flowers be bunched on one side. We routinely sprinkle water on flowers and it could damage goods in the neighbouring garment shop. Besides, there is no provision for water to drain. The arrangement for garbage disposal too is inadequate,” said Rajendran, a flower vendor. Flower vendors have at present occupied the front yard of the complex.
Kanniamma, who has been doing business on the footpath for almost 40 years, said she was born in the locality and runs a newspaper stall. “I have been allotted a shop on the third floor. We will distribute the papers on the footpath in the morning and carry on the business during evenings from the allotted shop. Since there is a lift, I don’t see any difficulty posed for customers,” she said.
Another trader, Syed Ibrahim, too has been allotted shops in the complex. He said fifty years ago when he set up a shop on the footpath under a tree in Pondy Bazaar, there were just three others like him. “They died, but I continue to sell towels and handkerchiefs. My sons and I have been allotted two shops. I will supervise the sales,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Pondy Bazaar Traders Welfare Association, which has around 125 shopkeepers as members, has gone to court demanding they be provided larger spaces, which were promised to them, on the ground floor. “We will remain here for another three months until the court decides our fate,” said a shopkeeper on Lakshmanan Street.
The association is also concerned that the proximity of the shops is a threat to safety in case of a fire. Though portable fire extinguishers have been provided near the staircase, the members are worried that customers and shopkeepers would be affected in the event of a fire in the complex.
A lawyer and resident of Usman Road, K. Swaminathan, said around 65 shops in Usman Road that have come up under the flyover there have got a stay on vacating. “Now they are demanding a site for relocation. Today, the Corporation officials have cleared the shops but we don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” he said.
A Corporation official said the 65 shops were unauthorised structures and would be removed shortly. According to the official, around 80 per cent of the shops allotted space in the complex was removed on Wednesday. The shops on Lakshmanan Street and Thanikachalam Road had moved the court but they too would have to fall in line, he added. As for the changes demanded by flower vendors, the official said the shopkeepers would have to sort it out among themselves.