S. Sundar and R. Sairam

One has to search for pavements along almost all roads around the Meenakshi Temple

MADURAI: “Use pavement,” advises the board put up by the City Traffic Police. Blaring loudspeakers too say the same. But what is missing is the pavement itself in many places.

Traffic improvement schemes have slowly eaten them up or shrunk them.

And wherever you find one, it is either not good enough to walk over or encroached upon. Just look at the most important bus routes.

Most part of the Gokhale Road has no pavement.

So is the Goripalayam-Tamukkam section of Alagarkoil Road.

One has to search for pavements along almost all the roads around the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple.

Besides potholes, wild growth, electric poles, hand-pump and telephone junction boxes block your way.

Blame it on wrong planning, lack of maintenance or unabated encroachment, it is the voiceless pedestrians who have been silently putting up with all inconveniences on the Veli, Chithirai and Masi Streets.

“Tiffin ready” boards of restaurants, “recharge coupons available here” danglers, vulcanising centres and sugarcane crushers have permanently blocked the roads. Right from textile shops to hardware shops all pull out their products on the pavements to give them a better display.

However, strongly refuting the charge that traders are causing hardship to public, K.P.C. Kumaran, branch manager of a prominent shop on West Masi Street, argues that they are aiding them.

“Unless we display our wares, how will the people, who come from far off places, know what we have,” he asks.

The pavements also serve as the most convenient parking lot for vehicles.

Even the Corporation has officially allowed to turn the pavement on West Veli Street near the railway junction as a parking lot, forcing people to walk on the busy road.

S. Gopalan, Headmaster, Setupati Higher Secondary School, says,

“Our school students are forced to walk on the roads as hoardings and vendors block the way. Some of them have met with accidents as traffic is heavy here.”

That thousands of tourists, including foreigners, have to carefully tread for hundreds of metres from the Periyar Bus Stand/railway junction and Simmakkal is a proof of authorities having not given a thought to improvement of pavements in the city.

The trenches that are left open in many places warrant the pedestrians to be doubly careful in making every step to avoid falling into the underground sewerage.

Says Cyril Prathap Kumar, a retired travel agent, “Madurai is an unplanned city centred around the temple. Now, these lanes have been converted into commercial ones. The city has to expand outwards to decongest its streets.

Policy makers have to foresee how the city would develop and plan accordingly for the next 20 years.

Many commercial activities should also move out,” he adds.

Admitting that the space for pedestrians has shrunk, the Corporation Superintending Engineer, K. Sakthivel, says that all those encroached/damaged pavements will be redone while constructing storm water drains for nearly 800 km in the city.

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