V. Ravichandran does not have a law degree, but is a regular at the courts. K. Sarumathi on the cases he has won for his neighbourhood
He is not an advocate or a judge. Nor is he a staff attached to ant of the courts.But the major part of his day is spent on the corridors of justice. He heads to the courts every day to fight for the rights of the common man.
From a young age, V. Ravichandran nurtured the desire to be a social activist.
He made a beginning when he volunteered with the residents’ welfare association at Bank of India Colony and also the one at Sri Devi Colony in Ashok Nagar, where he resides. He was instrumental in solving the electricity problem in the area. “I wrote letters to the officials of the electricity board and was surprised to get a reply and also a permanent solution to the issue. I understood that little perseverance on the part of the residents can get people in authority to work. My experience with the association helped me learn how the system functions and how to demand our rights and ultimately get work executed.” In the next few years, he got storm water drains laid in and around Ashok Nagar, worked with the now defunct Ashok Nagar Citizens’ Council, and was the coordinator for the Federation of Ashok Nagar and Kodambakkam Residents Welfare Associations and the president of Bharat Vikas Parishad, Ashok Nagar.
It was however in 2003 that he was noticed as a big-time activist. His first major achievement was recovering over 14 grounds of encroached land meant for public use near Ashok Pillar. He filed a public interest litigation and in 2006 got a favourable judgement from the High Court. A public park was established on the recovered land.
He is engaged in a battle to get back the land meant for expansion of the government peripheral hospital in K.K. Nagar into a multi-speciality hospital. The case is pending in the Supreme Court.
Along the way, Ravichandran realised that fighting as part of an organisation would bring about better results than if he fought the system as a lone ranger.
“With other like-minded people, I started the Citizens’ Guardians to take on issues of greater public importance. An organisation has a greater reach and can be projected better than an individual. I wanted a minimum number of members and an external guidance and advisory committee. So, only three of us have the decision-making power,” says Ravichandran, who is supported by two trustees S. Sreekumar and V. Thiagarajan.
The group fought against the Traffic department, putting up posters against one-way traffic that was established in Ashok Nagar. Their request for conducting a public meeting on the issue was turned down by the department, following which they approached the court and succeeded in bringing the department to the negotiating table. The meeting led to two-way traffic being restored. They also went to the court over what they called the “improper implementation” of Chennai City River Conservation Project. The case is still pending in court.
They recently raised their voice against mismanagement of Aadhar Card registrations and the improper distribution of electricity in Ashok Nagar, West Mambalam and adjoining areas.
“After we took up the issue of improper distribution of electricity to the court, a new sub-station was commissioned at P.T. Rajan Salai. The work is in progress at the site and the sub-station will benefit residents of the area.”
For Ravichandran, there are no short-cuts. He believes in going through the system. “There is no use asking for a change of system. We should learn to work with what we have. People must know their rights and demand them, only then will the authorities fulfil their duties. There are no easy solutions. Residents must pursue and persevere to get what is rightfully theirs. Citizens Guardians is always ready to lend support to issues affecting residents, but people must also take responsibility and raise their voice against injustice.”