interview | ‘Traffic’ K.R. Ramaswamy Tamil Nadu

Onus is on police, not politicians, to crack down on illegal hoardings: 'Traffic' Ramaswamy

Social activist 'Traffic' Ramaswamy in his office at Broadway in Chennai.

Social activist 'Traffic' Ramaswamy in his office at Broadway in Chennai.   | Photo Credit: K. Pichumani

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Parties are threatening printers against following the rulebook on banners: activist

The death of Subasri, a young techie, in an accident involving a vinyl banner has sparked widespread outrage against illegal hoardings in the State. Veteran social activist ‘Traffic’ K.R. Ramaswamy, who has been crusading against the culture of erecting illegal banners for over a decade and waging a court battle against the practice, has said in an interview that at least 34 people have lost their lives to the banner culture in the State. It is the responsibility of the police to take action, he says. Excerpts:

You have been campaigning against illegal flex banners in public places for a long time. What made you take up this issue?

In 2007, the then Chief Secretary issued a Government Order allowing political parties to put up banners three days before an event and two days after the event. I challenged it since it was not only causing trouble to motorists but also posing a danger to them. Since then, I have been moving the courts and seeking to get remedy. I will not give up until this [practice] comes to an end.

What are the challenges you have faced?

[Laughs] Which incident do I recall? It was not one or two! The last major incident was when I was beaten with slippers by ruling party men when I attempted to take down illegal banners put up near the University of Madras in connection with the laying of the foundation stone for the construction of a memorial for late AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa. There were so many incidents.

What keeps you going?

I worked as a PA to Minister K. Venkataswamy Naidu between 1952 and 1954. The Chief Minister of the then Madras Presidency, C. Rajaji, once visited our residence for a function. It was he who advised me to believe in myself and act in accordance with my conscience. I am only following what Rajaji told me.

The banner culture is now all-pervasive…

There are many who keep banners. A few days ago, I pulled down banners erected by a textile shop in Thanjavur. The other day, banners were put up for a temple function in Vadapalani. Did God ask you to put up a banner? All this has to stop.

But despite court orders against flex banners, the practice continues. Are political parties to blame?

One cannot blame the political parties because it is the police who are supposed to enforce the law. Be it politicians or anyone [else], if it [putting up banners] is illegal, the police have to remove them and take action. Political parties are also threatening printers not to print banners as per the rules. Every flex banner should have details of the person who spent money on it, the officials who gave permission [for putting it up], etc. But politicians are threatening printers against incorporating these measures.

How can the menace be curbed?

I can only say that if the rules are implemented properly, deaths due to banners can be reduced.

Some political leaders have urged party cadre not to install banners…

I can only hope that such announcements and promises are followed up with actions.

Do you think Subasri’s death will prompt action, at least for now?

Yes, I strongly hope so. I live with hope every single day against all the challenges that come my way.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 9:05:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/onus-is-on-police-not-politicians-to-crack-down-on-illegal-hoardings/article29426162.ece

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