The Corporation Commissioner has rejected a request from the Boat Club Residents’ Welfare Association to place a gate at the entrance of the residential area so as to prevent non-residents from entering.

Ravi Appasamy, president of the association, said pursuant to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, non-residents/outsiders are increasingly using the area for walking and jogging. “We also find unknown cars are parked in odd timings.”

“The outsiders are using the place for walking/jogging in groups. Their health background is not known and also we don’t know whether they came from any isolated area. This is against principle of physical distance under COVID-19 norms,” a request letter apparently stated.

“In the above circumstances, we request us to permit to install a drop gate and only permit the residents and their people so as to prevent any COVID-19 transmission that may arise due to this,” the letter said. The association also requested the police to monitor the entrance.

However, a top police officer with the city police said, “We have no power to do as they requested and directed them to approach the Chennai Corporation.” Another police officer said the roads in the area are public roads and maintained by the Chennai Corporation. “Their request to place a gate is not acceptable,” the officer said.

Greater Chennai Corporation Commissioner G. Prakash said it was not possible to permit such drop gates to give special treatment to a few residents. He said the Boat Club residents’ understanding of COVID-19 containment was incorrect. “Residents have to be safe. But they cannot restrict the movement of people. The law does not have provisions for such special treatment,” said Mr. Prakash.

Former IAS officer M.G. Devasahayam said the neighbourhood of Boat Club Residents Welfare Association was originally meant for the poor.

“I am astonished to learn about the demand made by the elite super-posh Boat Club area RWA to convert the place into a high-gated colony by installing drop-gates at the entry points to prevent people from using the roads and open areas for jogging/walking. In this context I would like to state that the entire Boat Club area of 105 acres is property bequeathed by Sir John DeMonte to the Catholic Church by a Last Will and Testament executed on 19 July, 1820. As per the Will the property was primarily meant for “poor Orphans, Widows and distressed Families who may be objects of charity and most deserving and also to contribute for Charity Schools” (Clause 31) and “none of these properties can be sold” (clause 27),” said Mr. Devasahayam.

“The Boat Club RWA has no right to seal the property and prevent ordinary people from accessing this breathing space,” said Mr. Devasahayam.

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