13 Aug 2008, 0525 hrs IST,TNN
CHENNAI: The issue of relocating hawkers from Usman Road in T Nagar continued to keep the Madras High Court busy, with a third public interest writ petition --- this time against allotting the Conservancy Bylane to hawkers --- coming up for hearing on Tuesday.
While not interfering with the relocation drive as such, the first bench comprising chief justice A K Ganguly and justice F M Ibrahim Kalifulla made it clear that the Chennai Corporation authorities should not permit construction of any permanent structure at the site.
The one-km, nine-feet Conservancy Lane is sandwiched between Ranganathan Street and Natesan Street, and is located next to Railway Border Road, off Usman Road.
Residents of Mangesh Street, Rangan Street and Ramanathan Street, who were the first to approach the High Court against the proposal, scored a clear victory when the civic body was restrained from going ahead with the plan. Bowing to public opinion, the corporation later informed the court that the relocation proposal had been scrapped.
While they heaved a sigh of relief, residents of Pinjala Subramaniam Street realised that authorities were earmarking space on their street to accommodate the dislocated hawkers. Now their PIL is pending before the first bench, which has been assured by the corporation that the hawkers would be there only for a week.
The latest PIL, filed by Traffic KR Ramasamy, stated that if shops were allowed to be set up in the Conservancy Bylane, it would leave only about three feet for the public using the Mambalam railway station to move about. Pointing at thepresence of the overhead hightension power line, he said that in case of an emergency such as a building collapse or fire, relief would not reach the victims in timeif the area was occupied by hawkers.
"An estimated average of 30,000 people will visit the lane daily," he said, adding, "There is no exit route for the public as well as the pavement hawkers. In case of any fire and building collapse, there is a possibility of heavy loss of lives."
Also, before embarking on the relocation drive the civic authorities did not hold any public hearing to ascertain the opinion of residents, Ramasamy said, adding that it would be dangerous to allow hawkers to put up temporary or permanent structures to carry on their businesses.
He prayed for an interim injunction restraining the corporation authorities from shifting the dislocated hawkers to the Conservancy Bylane.
When the matter was taken up for hearing, counsel for the corporation told the bench that there was no public interest involved in the petition, as it had been sponsored by two leading malls that used the site to park their own vehicles. Counsel, however, told the bench that the corporation would not allow the relocated hawkers to put up any permanent structure at the site. Recording the undertaking, the judges adjourned the matter by a week for further proceedings.
CASE IN POINT
Initially, the Corporation planned to shift hawkers from Usman Road and relocate them to Mangesh Street, Rangan Street and Ramanathan Street. When the residents there filed a public interest writ petition, the court restrained the civic body from going ahead with the plan. Then the corporation authorities announced their intention to shift the hawkers to Pinjala Subramaniam Street.
Again, residents opposed the move. However, the authorities earmarked space for hawkers before the petition was filed in the High Court. The corporation has now told the court that the relocated hawkers will be kept there only for a week A PIL opposing any move to relocate hawkers to the Conservancy Lane off Usman Road is the latest in the series. On Tuesday, the court said no permanent structure should be allowed at the site.