COIMBATORE: SP Thiyagarajan waits in the shadows, like a tiger, keeping a close watch on people who step out of their designated space and encroach on others. A friend of the Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation (CCMC), the 50-year-old Thiyagarajan pounces on illegal land-grabbers and anti-social elements, without any mercy, and claims back the open space reserve (OSR) land to make a little space for some parks and recreation.
Whenever the town planning wing of CCMC removes an encroachment on the reserve site, be it a temple or house or a company, it makes the social activist the happiest in the city. Thiyagarajan, of Sowripalayam, has been taking efforts to source the information from CCMC and Directorate of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) through RTI applications. After verifying the information, he puts up a picket or a fence to indicate that the reserve site belongs to the corporation.
Without fear, he is on the job for sixteen years. Nearly 26 acres of encroached (OSR) land have been retrieved and the market value of it is more than 300 crore, he says. Apart from his own effort, he has also helped members of residential welfare associations to retrieve encroached land across the 100 wards.
In Coimbatore corporation limit alone, he has found more than 50 encroachments in reserve sites and retrieved over 40. However, ten reserve sites are interspersed in legal battles.
He started retrieving the lands when he was 34 years old in 2004 after his neighbouring land at GRG Nagar in Sowripalayam in the reserve site was allegedly encroached by three people. After the legal tussle in sub court, district courts and the Madras High Court, the case is now pending in the Supreme Court.
"Out of 26 cents allotted for a park, two temples were constructed in six cents and the rest were sold to three different people illegally. We are expecting favourable results in the SC. After ten years of wait, the corporation has removed a building and fenced the 26 cents, mentioning that the land belongs to the corporation. I came to know how the reserve sites are being exploited by some people when I decided to fight against them," said Thiyagarajan.
He helped in retrieving 51 cents where a house was constructed at Alamu Nagar near Gandhipuram in 2011. This was the highest cent that was encroached by a resident within the city limit. He had also retrieved notable encroached land at Kalapatti, Vilankurichi, and Kothari in Ramanathapuram, and the list goes on.
"My aim is to protect innocent people from getting cheated after buying the OSR land that was originally allotted for constructing community hall and children park. The civic body identified over 1,000 reserves sites across 100 wards and listed it on its website along with how much land was encroached and details of the encroachers in 2013. However, no action has been taken against them in nine years. I will continue to fight until Coimbatore corporation become the role model for the other 20 corporations across the State in retrieving the OSR land," he said .