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    Authorities clear encroachment on St Marys Road

    CHENNAI: A six-year battle has finally come to an end for an RTI activist R Natarajan on Tuesday, when the authorities, finally, began clearing the encroachment off St Mary’s Road at R A Puram.After several last-minute cancellation of drives, Revenue Department officials with the help of the Corporation have started pulling down structures constructed on a government land on St Mary’s Road on Tuesday.According to official sources, the Corporation would use the reclaimed area for road widening. Residents of R A Puram were also happy as the reclaimed spot would be used for road widening, one of their prominent demands with the local authorities for years. “It’s a victory for the RTI Act and its a hard-hitting order on errant government officials who used their own tactics to delay the drive for months. RTI has helped me to put consistent pressure on the authorities to act without fail on the issue,” said Natarajan, a research scholar and RTI activist from R A Puram.Since 2005, Natarajan was engaged in a pitched battle with the authorities to remove the encroachment, which has been causing traffic congestion on St Mary’s Road during peak hours.In the same year, he succeeded in forcing the authorities to initiate demolition proceedings on the encroached parts but the drive ended abruptly after reclaiming about 1,000 sqft out of the total 7,200 sqft land encroached upon by more than 20 shops.The authorities then evaded a straight answer on the status of the eviction drives. Natarajan was forced to choose the RTI route to get the correct information. “Information on the drive was hard to come by as the officials concerned used several tricks to hide it,” he said.Despite the delaying tactics, Natarajan went on an appeal and the State Information Commission in 2009 directed the Chennai District Collector to personally ensure the supply of information to Natarajan within 48 hours. Despite such a strong order, lower-rung officials did not provide any information to him and instead chose the legal way to block information. However, after a new tahsildar was posted at the Mylapore-Triplicane taluk, there was a sudden change in the attitude of the officials, said Natarajan. “Perhaps, they understood the motive behind the untiring efforts put in by me. The drive has finally started on Tuesday,” Natarajan told Express. It is expected to be completed in a few days.