Hawker’s space, now a big ticket business at city’s busy T Nagar

According to T Nagar residents, who have been fighting a long legal battle to remove illegal encroachments, hawkers are part of a well-organised network where each hawker pays rent to operate from a particular street.
Hawker’s space, now a big ticket business at city’s busy T Nagar
Photo: Justin George


Despite the landmark decision to relocate hawkers from Pondy Bazaar to a three-storey shopping complex built by Greater Chennai Corporation on Thyagaraya Road, most of the hawkers are back on the streets, affecting vehicular movement on Mangesh Street, Pinjala Subramanian Street, Rangan Street, Ramanathan Street, Motilal Street, Mahalakshmi Street, Sarojini Street and Natesan Street.
Unlike earlier days, when hawkers paid a small protection fee of Rs 10-Rs 20 a day to goons and beat constables, now hawkers have to pay a fixed monthly rent that ranges from Rs 3000 and can go upto Rs 10,000 a month. 
“I pay a rent of Rs 3,000 a month to the ‘agent’ in-charge of Usman Road. Every shopkeeper in this stretch pays rent according to the size of the shop,” says Kumaran, a hawker who sells jewellery and fancy items. Those who cannot pay the rent are often harassed to move and find a new place every day. Rani, a flower seller who sits near a temple, says, “I was asked to pay Rs 1,000 a month to sit next to a footwear hawker at T Nagar. The man who runs the show stall told me that he himself pays Rs 4,000 rent to keep his shop in that location. When I told him I can’t afford it, he asked me to move,” she said. Members of the T Nagar Residents Welfare Association have been fighting a long battle to free the neighbourhood from illegal encroachments. “Each hawker here makes Rs 5,000 every day. During festivals, their margin is almost triple. A hawker by definition is a peddler. They don’t pay any tax or bills and it’s the residents who suffer,” says B. Kannan, Secretary of the association. According to a police officer, this money ultimately goes to the local councillors and they can’t take action unless an official decision is taken.
In a recent court order after the residents filed a writ petition, the Madras High Court ordered the Corporation to re-locate the hawkers. When asked about the encroachment issue, Mayor Saidai Duraisamy said, “We are continuously monitoring such issue after Court directed to remove hawkers. However, we will again inspect the place and shift those hawkers to another places.”

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