Karthik Subramanian

Traffic chaos, encroachments add to woes of residents Traffic chaos, encroachments add to woes of residents

Many factories shut shop in the region in 1990s, leaving hundreds of labourers unemployed Frequent closure of railway level-crossing gates, a major problem

CHENNAI: Where else in the city could you find one ground of land costing less than Rs. 10 lakh? Or for that matter even find hundred of residents waiting at a railway level-crossing gate for nearly an hour?

Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar in north Chennai is a stark contrast to other constituencies in central and southern parts of the city and fits the Chennai's political sobriquet "the North wanes as the South shines" to the T. It is a region dominated by daily wagers and slum dwellers and the voters here are looking at provision of basic amenities more than anything else.

Chaotic traffic, narrow by-lanes, rampant encroachments along the waterways and unsanitary living conditions in some areas despite the provision of public health facilities and toilets are a common sight. This is one part of the city where cycle rickshaws far outnumber autorickshaws in Chennai.

The downward spiral for the region, according to some residents, started in the early 1990s where major factories shut shop, leaving hundreds of the labour class unemployed.

Corporation councillor for the New Washermanpet area P.S.S. Dhanushkodi says: "At least four major companies that employed over 8,000 persons, including Best and Crompton and Metal Box Factory, shut operations within a span of few years. This had a ripple effect, several shops lost their business, traders moved out ... "

To many, R.K. Nagar is still to find its feet after the blow in the 1990s. Successive governments have promised a lot but have not been able to deliver.

Any talk about civic issues in the constituency almost begins and ends with the replacement of two railway level-crossings in the Korrukupet region. "We refer to Korrukupet itself as an island," says Lakshmanasami, who runs a petty shop near the Korrukupet railway station. "This track is the important route leading to Chennai Central. So there are several trains passing by through the day the gates are closed frequently, at times over one hour at a stretch."

The ruling AIADMK Government had announced that either a subway or a flyover would replace the level-crossings. But the project has not moved beyond the drawing boards in the last three years.

The State Government has squarely blamed the Railway Board for not processing the project despite it having allocated its share of funds.

"Set up team"

Residents believe that the freeing up of traffic in Korrukupet will contribute a great deal to the development of R.K. Nagar entirely.

They also feel that the future government should constitute a team of officials exclusively to look at development of north Chennai.

P.K. Sekar Babu (AIADMK) and Royapuram R. Mano (Congress) are the key contestants in the constituency.