CHENNAI: A set of new barricades have been placed by the police officers on Railway Border Road at T Nagar preventing street vendors from carrying out their trade. The vendors, who were selling fruits or vegetables, accused the police officers of favouring big shops in T Nagar and determined to evict the vendors from the place where they are doing business for generations.
“Our parents used to sell vegetables here and now we do. Suddenly in the last few years, the police officers have been harassing us forcing us to leave,” argued K Uma, leader of a local street vendor association. When contacted by Express, police officers said they have placed the barricades to prevent congestion.
A police officer from Mambalam police station said, “The vendors have permission to hawk on only one side of the road, while they sell on both sides, causing congestion. So we laid the barricades so that they can’t set up their shops.”
The line of barricades extends up to the junction of Ranganathan Street and is at around two metres distance from the walls of the famed Saravana Stores, and a few other shops.
While the police officers claim the barricades were only aimed at preventing congestion, the vendors say it is only leading to more congestion. Since the barricades prevent them from accessing their usual spot, they are forced to move further to the middle of the road, causing them to block the already narrow road.
“The police officers act in favour of big shops. Since they don’t evict vendors who are not around big brands, they sell peacefully,” Uma alleged, adding that the police officers bring a truck and seize their goods periodically.
Uma further claimed that while police officers laid down the barricades, employees of Saravana Stores used chain and locks to tie the barricades so that they can’t be moved. The officials at the store refused to comment and said that it was the police official’s decision to lay barricades.
Many of them have street vendors license from Greater Chennai Corporation, after Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending Act was brought to force in 2014. Claiming that police officers continued trying to evict them even after the Act was passed, the vendors filed a writ petition on April 19, 2018.
The high court, in turn, directed the zonal officer of the Greater Chennai Corporation to consider and dispose off the vendors’ representation, adding that the police officers should “defer from further decision as to the removal of the alleged encroachments,” until Corporation takes a final decision on allowing them to sell on Railway Border Road. Street vendors denied any communication from the Corporation after that. “The Corporation hasn’t got back, but police officers raid our shops and destroy our goods. They also call us criminals,” said Lakshmi, another vendor.
Corporation officials said that a six-member vending committee has been constituted with the zonal executive engineer as head. Two members of the vendors’ association would also be part of the committee and the election would be held shortly, the official said. However, he added that the corporation had no hand in barricading the stretch directly or indirectly.