The death of R. Subasri in a road accident in Chennai on September 12 and the debate thereafter whether the hoarding that fell on her was permitted has come in for criticism.
Irrespective of the legality or otherwise of the hoarding on median, the fact that the hoarding would have still fallen on Subasri or such hoardings pose a threat to road safety seems to be missing from the public discourse.
If the hoarding on median that fell on the girl was approved, would it not have caused her death, asks District Road Safety Committee member and consumer activist K. Kathirmathiyon. And, unfortunately, nothing prevented the Chennai Corporation from permitting the hoarding or any other local body from granting permissions to such hoardings.
The Tamil Nadu Urban Local Bodies (Permission for Erection of Digital Banners and Placards) Rules, 2011, permits erection of hoardings on medians. The Rules says that as digital banners – flex boards, in common parlance – were earlier covered under the definition of hoardings in urban local bodies, the State Government has created a separate provision for digital banners and placards, as they are used for a specific purpose and for a specific period.
Section 5(2) of the Rules says, “Wherever it is feasible to display the digital banners or placards on the road margins/footpaths, the display of the placards in the medians shall not be allowed. Wherever the display of placards is permitted in the medians, no digital banner/placard shall be permitted on road margins/footpaths.”
And, Section 5(5) says, “The digital banner or placard shall be erected only parallel to the footpath or road, and not across the footpath or road margin except in the case of display in the median of the road.”
The Municipal Administration Department, in its letter to district collectors on February 15, 2019, reiterates Section 5(5) among others to demand compliance.
This, Mr. Kathirmathiyon says, is wrong because be it footpath or median, advertisements or hoardings or placards or digital banners pose a threat to road safety.
“That the Municipal Administration has made such a distinction without thinking about the consequences is absurd.”
This 2011 Rules of the Department goes against the Indian Road Congress norms, Madras High Court orders and also the instructions given by the National Highways and State Highways departments.
“If the National Highways and State Highways ban hoardings or advertisements by any other name citing road safety, how different can the municipal roads be,” he asks and wants to know if hoardings on medians, even if permitted, not pose a threat to road users.
In his letter to the Municipal Administration Department, he demands that it amend the 2011 Rules exempting medians. “Even if the Madras High Court were to lift the ban on advertisements on roads, the Department should go ahead and amend the Rules in the interest of public safety as the exemption does not make sense.”
Municipal Administration Secretary Harmander Singh could not be reached for his comments.