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T.N. Constituency Watch: Harbour | Chennai’s gateway goes to the polls with its own set of issues

Residents exasperated with the very slow pace of infrastructure improvement

March 17, 2021 12:45 am | Updated 06:38 am IST - CHENNAI

Older than the city that came up around it, Harbour constituency is a hub of trade and is home to a cosmopolitan population. The narrow streets and alleys that dot the constituency are congested. With two major government medical college hospitals, healthcare needs are accessible but infrastructure improvement has been very slow.

The largely business locality co-exists with residential areas. The constituency has its share of pavement dwellers and civic problems. In places like St. Xavier Street, families have lived along the compound wall of the Christian missionary schools for over three decades.

The only improvement is their thatched roofs have given way to tarpaulin roofs. Women head most families here and have to provide as single mothers.

In 2011, Pala. Karuppiah of the AIADMK was elected. But the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa expelled him in 2016 for “anti-party activities” and since then there has been no active representative here, say residents.

Traffic bottleneck

Traffic congestion is a major issue. The Elephant Gate bridge has been shut for repair since 2016 and work remains incomplete, says Praveen Jain, a resident of Sowcarpet.

Hukmichand Shah, an electrical goods shop owner in Sowcarpet, says, “The area is the highest revenue generator yet there is no proper parking facility. Shops have installed cameras and it benefits the government as well, yet traders are neglected.”

The roads are riddled with potholes and garbage clearance is poor. Electric wires hang haphazardly and people fear walking during the monsoon, he says.

Mr. Shah wants an MLA who connects with the Centre. “Since the GST was introduced, they have brought 937 amendments and we simple traders are unable to keep track of them. We need someone who listens to our problems as a trading community,” he says.

Residents like Manoj, a construction site supervisor with the civic body, believes the constituency has improved with e-toilets, street garden and a gym.

S. Murali, a tailor in Varada Muthiappan Street and a Congress functionary, says the electricity supply network needs improvement. “Each building here has 10-15 AC units. Naturally, one transformer cannot take the entire load,” he says.

MLA P.K. Sekar Babu, who is seeking re-election, is aware of the problems. “All streets are narrow and the floating population is high. There is no space to create a parking lot. The amount of garbage is twice what you see in other constituencies as this is a business district. The drainage system is 60 years old and though we have expanded its capacity, it requires improvement,” he says.

Water is being supplied from the Kilpauk pumping station for the past 40 years, a reason why areas in the tail-end of the supply network suffer, he says.

The government has closed the Elephant Gate bridge without preparing for the consequences, he says.

He, along with Chennai Central MP Dayanidhi Maran, had represented repeatedly to the State and Union governments.

After persistent pressure, the government has agreed to award work on the storm-water drains on Wall Tax Road that collapsed 10 years ago, Mr. Babu says.

Though former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa issued a GO to build a 230 kV station, the government has not taken steps, he says. “Next time, if the DMK regime comes, we will solve these infrastructure issues of the people,” he says.

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