Actor-turned politician Kamal Haasan appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter, requesting him to put an end to the banner culture, as the Madras High Court is expected to respond Thursday to permissions sought by the state government for erecting banners ahead of the Modi-Xi Jinping informal summit that is to take place over the following weekend in Mahabalipuram (50 km from Chennai).
Haasan tweeted, “Honorable @PMOIndia While Thamizh Nadu and Thamizhians are struggling to cope up with the loss of Shubasri’s death, the Thamizh Nadu Government has approached the courts to obtain permission to erect your banners. If you act as a pioneer in taking the first step to put an end to this haphazard banner culture, it will reflect your concern towards the sentiments of Thamizhians, and that in itself will garner you the greatest publicity possible. Jai Hind!”
The banner culture has been a talking point in Tamil Nadu after the tragic death of 23-year-old Techie Subhasree, who was run over by a lorry after an illegal banner fell on her, while she was riding her bike. In 2017 the court had banned hoardings and flex boards featuring living persons, however, the banner culture has continued to block pedestrian walkways and arterial roads unabated. In December 2018, the Madras High Court restrained all the political parties in Tamil Nadu from erecting digital banners and hoardings on arterial roads posing a risk to road users and pedestrians, until further orders.
The State Government’s petition to the Madras High Court said that all over the state political parties were not permitted to erect banners, but since the Indian Prime Minister and Chinese Head of State are visiting Mahabalipuram during 11th and 12th October for an informal summit, as part of bilateral relations and a goodwill gesture it is customary to erect banners to welcome the dignitaries.
It also mentioned that the Ministry of External Affairs has proposed to put up welcome banners in Chennai City in 14 locations, 9 locations in East Coast Road, 2 locations in Mahabalipuram. Where the State government would erect banners in 5 locations in Chennai, 4 locations in Mahabalipuram and 7 locations in Old Mahabalipuram Road and East Coast Road. “The above welcome banners will be put up from 9th October to 13th October. The welcome banners will be in places as per the specifications mentioned in the existing rules and it would be ensured that these banners would not cause any hindrance to the public. The strictest standards of safety would be maintained.”
Following Subhasree’s demise, the Madras High Court had come down heavily on the political parties in the state for letting the banner culture go unchecked. The court had observed that it was tired of passing multiple orders against illegal flex banner erected on roads. The Court lashed out at government officials for not implementing the orders and negligence of officials is the reason behind the death fo Subhasree. Whichever party is in power, there are violations and banners are put up, the court added.
The harsh criticism from the court and the public outrage on social media drew reactions from political leaders who issued a statement to their cadre. DMK President MK Stalin issued a statement asking his cadre that cut-outs and banners not be used for party events and that violators will face stringent action. He also added that he would not participate in an event if banners are found to be erected.
AIADMK leaders EPS-OPS issues a joint statement that said, cadre shouldn’t erect banners that inconvenience the public, over-enthusiastic cadre put up banners without knowing the adverse impact on public. they requested not to erect banners/flex boards at party or family events, that would inconvenience the public.