Several years ago, the Madras High Court had allowed people with disability to run bunk shops in Chennai. Now, however, with the Greater Chennai Corporation delaying the formation of vending and non-vending zones to regulate street vendors, people on the pretext of being disabled have been setting up bunk shops on pavements illegally.
According to a Corporation official, the High Court had given permission to only 108 people with disability to run bunk shops. “But, the number of bunk shops in the city are much more than 108. People use fake court order numbers to escape police and civic body action,” the official said.
When DT Next inspected bunk shops in Royapettah near Express Avenue Mall, several such shops were found lined up on the pavement each bearing a court order number and a name board saying that the shops are allocated to people with disabilities.
In one of the shops, a fully-abled man said that the shop was allocated to a disabled person by the court. “As he could not work, he hired me to run the shop,” the shopkeeper said.
Another shopkeeper from the area said that he is paying Rs 150 per day as rent to the owner of the bunk shop, who does not have any disability.
Commenting on this, a Corporation official said that even though the practice is prevalent in the city, it is against the rules.
“The high court allowed the people with disabilities to have bunk shops on pavements so that they can earn a decent livelihood. Those shops cannot be sublet. The same norms apply to the registered street vendors, who will be allocated shops after the vending zones are demarcated,” the official said.
Apart from obstructing the pedestrian movement, illegal bunk shops in Royapettah also sell tobacco products despite Wesley Higher Secondary School located a few meters away. A number of such illegal bunk shops were also spotted in Egmore and T Nagar.
Meanwhile, activists alleged that the civic body refuses to allocate bunk shops to disabled people who deserve it.
“Several people with disability are denied bunk shops even though they have the court’s permission. Chennai Corporation’s local engineers should approve the bunk shops, but keep rejecting it. There are around 50 such people in Chennai who are awaiting the Corporation’s permission,” S Namburajan, state general secretary of Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers said.
Formation of vending zones delayed
“We are in the process of demarcating vending and non-vending zones in the city and the regulation of street vendors have been decentralised. Once the vending zones are identified, bunk shops will be shifted and only eligible vendors will be given space,” R Lalitha, Joint Commissioner (Revenue and Finance) said.
The civic body had identified around 27,000 eligible street vendors in 2017. The authority has been issuing identity cards to eligible street vendors and around 24,000 of them have already received their vendor identity cards.
So far, the civic body has identified vending zones in only 6 of the 15 zones. “We need to take police permission for it and that has been delaying the work. We will have a coordination meeting with the police to finalise the vending zones,” Lalitha said.
Reservation for street vendors
“We will follow the norms and implement the reservation,” another official said.