Preposterous as it may sound, the question is not baseless if one bothers to take a walk along any of the city's main roads. From shopping malls where the cash registers ring through the day to hawkers who struggle to earn their daily bread and butter, the city's pavements have become everybody's property but that of the pedestrians.
Here is just a small sample: several automobile showrooms on Anna Salai have converted the pathway into a display area for their new motorbikes; Along Bell's Road, used motorbike sellers take over the pavements; On Anna Nagar Second Avenue, a recently inaugurated book showroom even has a couple of volunteers helping customers park their cars on the pavement; and T. Nagar, Parry's Corner and Mylapore continue to be a hawkers' paradise.
As if this were not enough, thousands of hoardings hoard the city pavement for space, in the process pushing the pedestrians to the main road, where they are left to fend for themselves against heavy and light vehicles.
The Government itself is a big encroacher on pavements. From electricity junction boxes to transformers to police booths, several government agencies use up the space to make their presence felt.
The misuse of pavements and the lack of any enforcement by the authorities concerned is most glaring in the context of money spent on pavements in recent times. The Chennai Corporation has spent nearly Rs.20 crores in the last couple of years and has allotted another Rs.5.6 crores this year for laying granite and stone pavements in the city.
Pushed onto the streets
K. Ramadoss, a residents' welfare activist in Ayanavaram, said commercial establishments encroaching onto the roads was nothing new as it happened with political backing. This also meant that officials would not act with a strong hand. "Encroachments are rampant on Konnur High Road and I have taken up the issue several times with the Corporation zonal officials but in...