Shopkeepers stake claim to conservancy lane; house-owners allege damage to sewage drains

A dispute over a narrow stretch of conservancy lane in T. Nagar has come to a head with residents approaching the Corporation for redress.

Annai Sathya Street, where the Annai Sathya Bazaar, known for its ‘foreign goods’ is located, is the bone of contention. While shopkeepers on the street declared that it belongs to them, residents of Ramanathan Street complained that the building of a wall by shopkeepers had denied access to the street to them.

The bazaar came up on the tiny stretch of land between Ramanathan Street and Ranganathan Street in 1986 on a piece of vacant conservancy alley that was till then used by residents of Ramanathan Street. Though the allotment of shops was perceived as an effort to remove hawkers from the footpath on South Usman Road following representation from the trustees of Shiva Vishnu temple, the shop owners were not the rehabilitated footpath vendors.

According to Y. Mohamed Ismail, secretary of Annai Sathya Bazzar Shop Owners Welfare Association, in 1986, the government permitted them to set up 145 shops.

“Every six months, we pay property tax and water tax. This street belongs to us,” he said.

The lane where the bazaar has come up had earlier served as a conservancy lane and fallen into disuse after the sewage lines were laid.

For residents of Ramanathan Street, the nightmare began around five years ago when their wells began to get contaminated with sewage. The sewage drains pass through Annai Sathya Street and at several places, manholes can be seen. “We complained to the Metrowater department whose officials conducted an inspection. The underground chambers are damaged in some areas and that has led to contamination of wells . For several months, Metrowater officials tried to reason with the shopkeepers but with little success. The official has been transferred and we will have to renew our appeal to the new assistant engineer,” said Basheer Ismail a resident.

Meanwhile, a fresh dispute broke out with residents contending that shopkeepers were drilling holes in their compound walls to display their products. The compound walls of the residents of Ramanathan Street are pock-marked at several places. In view of the residents’ objection, the shopkeepers started to construct another wall. However, residents pointed out that this wall was blocking entrance from the back-side to their houses. They have drafted a petition to Chennai Corporation, seeking its help.

Officials have visited the site and sought an explanation from the shop owners’ welfare association. A source in the Corporation said that the association’s contention is not right as they cannot claim ownership of a street that belongs to the civic body.

T. Nagar Residents Welfare Association has decided to file an RTI to find out who the rightful owners of the shops are. This would enable them to seek permission to set right the damaged sewage lines too, Mr. Basheer said.

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