It is home to popular multiplexes, swanky commercial complexes and reputable schools in the city. There are also ancient market places and buildings dating back to several decades. Some of the city's preferred localities with substantial middle class and upper middle class households are here, as are innumerable housing board colonies, slums and shanties with the residents slogging to eke out a living as labourers, petty traders and support staff in companies, organisations and trading places in the vicinity. The Teynampet zone of Chennai Corporation is a mix of the old and the new, the rich and the poor and represents the continuously evolving face of the city.
Nungambakkam, Thousand Lights, Royapettah, Zam Bazaar, Triplicane, the Marina beach, Chepauk, Alwarpet, Mylapore are among the areas that form this zone, that has nearly 5.12 lakh voters.
Among many, waste disposal, sanitation and hygiene seem the most recurrent concerns of the residents. At Zam Bazaar market, S. Sukumar, a banana vendor for the past 15 years, thinks the market's glory days are over. The huge dustbin nearby is overflowing with organic rotten waste. “The meat waste dumped outside the dustbins rot in a day, and the place smells of dead animals. Who would want to come and buy fruits and vegetables here?” he asks.
Life in S. Kumar's shanty on Bharathi Salai has also become unbearable because of the stench of accumulated waste and mosquitoes that the hand rickshaw puller and his family like many others have been spending nights on the Marina beach for the past two months.
In Ram Nagar, Ice House, sewage lines have been clogged and overflowing for the past six months. A.Ekavalli of Rajaji Nagar complains that there was no access to public toilets after 10 p.m. “Since no one has been made in-charge of the toilets, some people charge us two to three rupees to use the free facility. In the night, we are forced to go to the cemetery,” she says.
The zone, which has numerous by-lanes, has seen a massive increase in traffic spilling over to Anna Salai. Adding to the problems of traffic congestion in Triplicane, are vehicles parked on all lanes. “Owners let their cattle roam free, disrupting traffic,” says Sampath Kumar, president, Srinivas Young Men's Association.
On the contrary, residents of many areas of T. Nagar are happy with improvement in the last five years to the roads. “We have got proper roads and stormwater drains in Nakeerar Nagar and Giriappa Road, among others. But traffic woes have increased,” says R. Gayathri, a resident of Habibullah Road. Councillor of the ward V. Christy, who is not contesting the elections, underscores the need for the roads to be widened. For that, roadside settlements along roads perpendicular to Anna Salai have to be moved, which is a predicament for any councillor, he says.
Valluvar Kottam and Sterling Road junctions are two cases in study to solve the riddle of urban traffic management. “There are vehicles coming from all sides, that we ask family and friends to call us once they have crossed the road,” says Rama Subburaman, a resident of Lake Area.
Another concern, points out P.G. Ramanathan of Exnora, is the rapid increase in the number of commercial buildings amid residential areas in Nungambakkam. Building violations have led to no space for new trees to be planted and hundreds of old ones have been chopped, he says. Besides, there is no regulation on parking of cabs, company cars and other vehicles, complain residents.
There are many others who have positive things to say such as residents of Badikarai in Nungambakkam who are grateful that they have concrete roads. “Water used to stangate for ten days even if it rained for only a day,” says S. Shanthi. “But we have only six toilets for 600 people here. There are bathrooms but no water,” she adds.
Problems of a different kind plague the relatively better-off areas in the zone. The re-introduction of the two-way system on CP Ramaswamy Road and TTK Road is a major concern voiced by residents of Alwarpet. “Earlier, at least the traffic used to be moving. Acute traffic congestion in the area leading to chaos on the roads during rush hours is a menace. Smaller lanes have become the transit for traffic now,” says K. Varadarajan of Labdhi colony. Branded outlets and restaurants along TTK Road also attract a lot of illegal parking, residents say, adding that the Councillors have to devise measures to address these issues in association with other departments concerned.
Delay in construction of stormwater drains has also left many residents in areas in and around Alwarpet disappointed. “It has been almost two years since roads in Abhiramapuram and Bawa Road were dug up. And they are bordering the compound walls of houses that it becomes very risky, especially at nights,” says Naina Shah, a resident.
Mylapore that still bears the old-world charm for many has its share of concerns too. “It is not the old Mylapore I know. Safety has become a great concern with recurrent cases of chain snatching in places, including Mada Street,” says T. Raghunathan, a resident. “The increasing commercialisation of the area has resulted in more pressure on the groundwater.”
Accessibility, reach and immediate response to concerns are what residents demand the most. “Often, the candidates canvas only in the economically backward areas. As a result we are not familiar with the candidates, and they do not know our issues,” says Praveen Kumar, a resident of Mylapore.
“The councillors should address the issues of the people once they are elected instead of indulging in politics,” he adds.
“Online services are only on paper, very few middle-class families use it. But phone numbers such as the police number or helpline keep changing,” says former MLA S. Ve. Sekhar.
On the parking facilities, roadside parking should be banned since it adds to the congestion. Vehicles should be registered only if the residents show proof of parking space, he says.