The pain of progress

Chennai is one of the fastest developing metros in India. Ask any of us live here and we’ll tell you! We’ve seen entire stretches of road, entire localities, and large empty stretches of land change rapidly over the last few years. One only has to recall Velachery some years ago, Valmiki Nagar or the East Coast Road to see what one means. And these are just a few examples.

One such work in progress is the Old Mahabalipuram Road, or the OMR for short, now being transformed into the ‘IT Corridor’. I work in an office at Tidel Park, and the transition that we see take place with breath taking speed from our windows is really something. Over the last year, we have seen some 4 million square feet of IT Parks rise up South of us from empty stretches of land, metamorphosing the skyline. In the process, the infrastructure and standards of the area are being hauled up by the bootstraps, sometimes very painfully.

Perhaps the most painful is the six lane IT Corridor highway project that is replacing the venerable OMR. The project itself takes ones breath away with facilities, standards and design that we have hitherto only dreamed about, or gazed at wistfully when travelling overseas in more developed countries. A highway with the carriages divided by a tastefully designed barrier, overhead walkways like suspension bridges of dramatic design, landscaped gardens along the sides, parks, a sophisticated traffic management system, service roads- it has it all.

The only problem is, it’s taking an inordinately long time to complete! From when the project was initially cleared, it’s had serious delays. First in the ‘file being passed’ in typical Indian government style. Then arranging for the finance. Then in selecting the executing agencies and awarding of the contracts. But perhaps the most vexing has been in acquiring land on either side for widening the road, and in many areas, in getting illegal occupants to vacate. Now the actual execution is under way, but also painfully slowly. It appears that not enough resources are being deployed or co-ordinated for it to be completed as per schedule.

The people who have been hardest hit are those who built their homes along this once quiet stretch of road, never imagining the dramatic development that’s taking place along it now. As the pictures show, many people have lost a major portion of the homes that they invested not only their money, but their dreams and emotions in. While my heart goes out to those who have had the trauma of having to transition in such a brutal manner, I have little sympathy for the many squatters who thought the government would never try and reclaim land they occupied and built on.



Entire rows of two story arcades of shops have been completely demolished, now awaiting the foundations that are being laid for a world class highway. Elsewhere, shops have been demolished up to the point where they are legal, leaving very little standing sometimes. While its taken time, one must credit the government for the determination with which they have approached this problem, and the compensation that is being given to those affected.



Overall, I think everyone understands that what is being done is for the good of the city. For most of the development is now taking place towards the South, along this particular stretch of road. If they don’t respond in time (and God knows they are terribly delayed already), it’s going to affect the pace of development. And affect the viability of the city as a good place to invest in. The sooner they can complete the IT Corridor, the better for Chennai. So that people will appreciate the infrastructure and progress. While the pain grows dim with time.

2 Comments so far

  1. Kingsley (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 2:02 am

    On the other hand, there are people like me who bought an apartment on the stretch and are making a killing on property appreciation. I think, for everyone’s sakes, the corridor should be finished as soon as possible.

  2. jaganpathra (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 11:58 am

    All thru my school and college life , I lived in the old mahabs road area . And now , when I visited OMR , I could hardly recognize the place since all the shops and houses near the road wer demolished . I guess there some people making more sacrifices than the others for the development of the city .

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