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Raids fail, illegal shops thrive

Aloysius Xavier Lopez
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Unhygienic eateries near Central removed in morning, back by afternoon

Hub of filthThirty unauthorised shops were removed by the Corporation’s health department —Photo: V. Ganesan
Hub of filthThirty unauthorised shops were removed by the Corporation’s health department —Photo: V. Ganesan

A mere two hours after the Chennai Corporation removed around 30 illegal eateries near Lily Pond Complex for selling unhygienic food, all of them were back – as active as before.

Every day, lakhs of pedestrians, many from a nearby suburban railway station, converge near the complex, which is a hub of unauthorised food stalls set up on footpaths.

The stalls have a system to sell their wares: each shopkeeper stations an employee on the footpath to direct pedestrians to their stall, where, flies swarm over rice, chappatis, fish and meat.

On Thursday morning, officials from the Corporation’s health department removed over 30 shops on the stretch. An official said they had asked the shopkeepers to remove all the food, utensils and furniture, seized the items, and warned the shopkeepers not to sell food without obtaining authorisation from the Corporation.

Though local police officers confirmed the raid had taken place, both the councillor of the ward, Kalarimuthu and the junior engineer in the area claimed they were not aware of any such raid.

By noon though, the shops were back.

The Lily Pond Complex is over a decade old but only about 50 per cent of the complex is in use, with shops on the ground and first floors selling books, pets and antiques, a shopkeeper there said.

“The turnover of shops inside the complex is low. But the illegal eateries outside do a roaring business. The eateries operate until midnight. Many passengers, who arrive at the railway station from other States, are fleeced by the shopkeepers. They get beaten up if they refuse to pay the exorbitant amounts charged at these eateries. The shopkeepers lure pedestrians with claims of selling a plate of biryani for Rs. 70. Once the customer has eaten, they demand Rs. 140,” said a homeless resident of the area.

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