After a gap of more than eight months, Tamil Nadu’s tourist spots, including Chennai’s iconic Marina beach, reopened to the public on Monday.
The once buzzing Marina sprang back to life, with walkers and fitness enthusiasts thronging the seafront since the morning. The Chennai Corporation, following Supreme Court orders, has implemented various measures, such as setting up dustbins around the beach, deploying more sanitary workers, and cleaning up the drinking water area and the public toilets near it. Officials, however, said they can keep the seafront “100 per cent clean” only with the public’s co-operation. Patrol vehicles and policemen mounted on horses have also been stationed.
The reopening of Marina has come as a big relief for the hawkers and vendors who made their living at the beach. They say it will take at least two-three months for big crowds to return to the seashore.
Manikandan, who owns a horse (which he calls Raju Bhai) and offers rides to Marina visitors, said he was delighted by the government’s decision to allow the public back on the beach.
“I am very happy to return to the beach, see people and take them on my horse. There used to be more than 100 people involved in this job, now there are hardly 40. We had no income during the pandemic. We survived on the free dry ration and other items given by NGOs and the government. I used to earn between Rs 1,500-Rs 2,000 per day, but I am not sure if I can make that amount now. Today, I have earned Rs 450 so far,” Manikandan said.
Premkumar, a parrot astrologer, echoed similar thoughts. “I have been involved in this business for 18 years and for the past 10 years, Marina beach has been my home. There has been no income at all for the past few months. While things have started to return to normalcy, it will take another four-five months for more people to visit the beach.”
For Ramesh, who was operating a merry-go-round, the pandemic has been worse. The items he had purchased second-hand just before the lockdown have all been damaged. “Many of these items have to be repaired. We used to keep toys and lights around the merry-go-round, which have been stolen. It will take a minimum of Rs 25,000 to fix all these things. Without any income for the past eight months, I am not sure how I am going to get that amount,” he said.
For shopkeepers along the shore, it is a different story. To maintain hygiene, the Chennai Corporation will provide 900 smart carts to vendors (60 per cent to existing street vendors and the remaining to new vendors), for which a fee will be charged. Those who don’t procure these stalls will not be allowed to set up shop. Vendors say with incomes hit, coughing up this fee will be difficult.
According to a release from the civic body, the vendors can receive the application form from the Revenue Office Department in Rippon Building from December 21 till December 26. The forms will be checked between December 29-31 and the final list out on January 6. The forms will be selected by drawing lots.