The Chennai Corporation and the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority on Tuesday began the division of the Koyambedu wholesale market, Asia’s biggest, into three segments to decongest and stop the spread of Covid virus.
Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority member secretary D Karthikeyan told reporters after reaching a broad agreement with representatives of trade associations that in the first stage, the fruits and flower shops would be shifted to Madhavaram bus terminus.
He also said no retail sale would be allowed in Koyambedu . He said this was only a temporary, emergent measure taken following the outbreak of Covid virus in the market. The authorities moved in swiftly with the proposal after a vegetable vendor in the market got the Covid from a truck driver from Maharashtra when he came to supply vegetables.
The authorities proposed to the traders that the market be relocated in parts to Vandalur and Maduravoyal. As the traders resisted the move on the ground that it would affect their livelihood, the officials have decided to move fruits and flower shops to the Madhavaram bus terminus as a temporary measure.
The Koyambedu market came into being in 1996 when J Jayalalitha was Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. All shops from Kothawal Mart in George Town were shifted to Koyembedu over the years. It was done in the face of opposition from local traders who had been there for generations. They were told to move to Koyambedu in order to decongest George Town. .
Now the same Koyambedu market is proposed to be divided in the name of decongestion.
More than the piecemeal shifting the Koyembedu market, the ban on retail sale is going to affect millions of Chennai residents who are under virtual curfew from Sunday morning. It is due to end only on Wednesday night.
When clamping total lockdown in Chennai and four cavities, the Government also ordered closure of all retail vegetable shops on the ground that people were crowding these shops without regard to social distancing.
The same point Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisami made after interacting with an expert committee at the Secretariat on Tuesday. He lamented that the people were not taking the lockdown seriously.
When announcing intense lockdown and shutting down all retail vegetable and fruit shops, Palanisami promised vegetables and fruits would be delivered by retail vendors, a promise not kept.
The people under lockdown are thus forced to come out. Worse is the plight of those in containment zones.
The Chennai corporation has increased the number of containment zones from 108 a couple of weeks ago to over 300 now. Even if one case is reported in any area, the whole area of seven kilometre radius is declared a containment zone and sealed.
Corporation Commissioner Prakash said over two lakh litres of disinfectants were being sprayed in 25,000 streets in hotspots through drones.
A case in Adyar Cancer Institute led to the sealing of the entire Adyar. Even before that, upmarket Kotturpuram was sealed after a case was reported in a slum in the area.
The disease, hitherto been confined to north Chennai, has now spread to south Chennai areas like Adyar, Santhome and Teynampet.
With the total number of cases in Chennai crossing 600, the total lockdown is unlikely to be lifted even after May 3.