Downtown

Restoring order where chaos rules

Familiar Stranger: “When I found the traffic problem there to be almost uncontrollable, I decided to step in,” says Sridhar Venkataraman.

Familiar Stranger: “When I found the traffic problem there to be almost uncontrollable, I decided to step in,” says Sridhar Venkataraman.  

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Every Thursday, between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., a young IT consultant regulates traffic at Alamelu Magangapuram junction near Sai Baba temple. MADHUMITHA VISWANATH meets the volunteer

An endless line of cars inches forward. School children are in a tearing hurry. They have to be at school before 8 a.m., and can’t wait for the traffic to clear. They make their way between vehicles, walking past angry motorists.

This is a scene from the Alamelu Magangapuram junction near Sai Baba temple in Mylapore, a situation that prevails every Thursday. Amidst this utter chaos, stands a man, trying to bring a semblance of order to it.

He is wearing an orange reflective jacket and carries a traffic-light baton in his hand, which he waves frantically to stop a car from entering a narrow lane. He is not a traffic policeman, if that’s what you have assumed.

Sridhar Venkataraman, a resident of East Abhiramapuram and an IT consultant, has taken up the task of regulating traffic at this junction for the last 10 months, every Thursday morning, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

He is a familiar stranger to most regulars at the temple and residents of Mylapore who silently thank him for what he is doing.

“I started to regulate traffic last January when I noticed utter chaos on the stretch. I decided I should step in and provide some sort of a solution.

As I live very close to the temple and frequently pick up my children from school, I knew how much of a nuisance the traffic jams were to the public,” says Sridhar.

Sridhar, who is well-known for conducting food walks during the Mylapore festival and the Madras Week, is an activist too.

He is associated with many social welfare groups. including Arappor Iyakkam, TNFES, the newly-formed Jeth Nagar residents association and the Mylapore Residents Welfare Association. Sridhar worked as senior manager in Paypal after which he quit the corporate world to take up teaching which he is very passionate about.

Over a year ago, when a permanent shamiyana was erected outside the Sai Baba temple, Sridhar registered a complaint with the Greater Chennai Corporation.

“The shed-like structure built on the road with heavy metal rods was blocking the movement of vehicles on the already congested road.

The temple authorities claimed the structure was constructed to provide shade to devotees. And it stayed on for almost six months.

Thankfully, Corporation officials took down the structure immediately after my complaint,” he said.

Sridhar says the removal of two other encroachments ensure the road gets wider.

“The wash area and the chappal stand outside the temple are on the pavement. Also, the barricades hinder free movement of vehicular traffic. If all these encroachments are removed, vehicles can pass freely,” he said.

When asked what could make a workable solution for the traffic on this stretch, he says that would be possible with better communication and joint planning between the Corporation, the traffic police department and other departments concerned.

“Most traffic police personnel who manage the traffic are from other areas. They are unaware of the traffic pattern, the peak hour timings and the basic flow of traffic in this area. Last week, three policemen from Royapuram were manning the stretch. They had no idea about this,” he said.

Those who like to help Sridhar regulate traffic for an hour on Thursday mornings can contact him at 97909 57208.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 7:28:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/Restoring-order-where-chaos-rules/article14630803.ece

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