Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXIII No. 16, December 1-15, 2023

Does our city need flag posts at every street corner?

-- by Sriram V.

For all that the authorities keep chanting Singara Chennai, ground reality is far removed from the idea of the city beautiful. Which world-class metropolis has party flag posts erected at every street corner, sometimes even two or three sharing the same space? These not only impede pedestrian and vehicle movement but also become convenient urinals and rubbish tips. It is high time that the Corporation of Chennai passes a resolution to remove all these excrescences and then makes sure that the police do act. But then, with every political party zealously guarding its flag posts, this is unlikely to happen any time soon. In fact, the police have in a recent instance been subject to attack when they attempted removal of one such flag post.

The offending structure was no ordinary flagstaff. While the norm is to have ten-foot poles this was a giant 55 feet and erected by the party faithful outside the residence of their leader. The police were ordered to remove it and here we need to note that the alacrity with which this was done was because the said leader is in the Opposition. Flag posts of the party in power, no matter which one is the incumbent, can never be touched. But be that as it may, when the police attempted to remove the pole, rioting ensued and the crane, hired to remove the flagpole, was damaged. So much for people entering politics to serve society.

In the ensuing case the High Court of Madras understandably came down heavily on the offending party workers. It chastised them for having rioted and imposed fines on them. There were also some stern remarks from the bench that make for pertinent reading. The judge noted that a 55-foot pole served no purpose as far as visibility is concerned as the most that people can see particularly in a narrow street is a pole that is around 10 feet in height. He also said that a 55-foot pole would mean a five-foot foundation which would cut into drainage lines, electricity cables and other utilities. He also remarked half in jest that the police had done a favour to the political leader by removing the pole as its continued presence would have meant jamming of sewer lines and the backing up of wastewater into the leader’s residence!

All of this goes to show how much damage to quality of life can be done by something as minor as a party flag staff. It also shows how little our political workers think of impact before they embark on such ventures. In fact this episode has done nothing to alter the thought process of the party in question – a functionary has announced that he and his cadre would install a hundred flag posts in the next 100 days as a mark of protest! Hopefully, the stern remarks from the bench must have deterred the implementation of such a scheme.

The ruling party has remained silent on the matter chiefly because it cannot claim to be any better when it comes to such flag posts. The Greater Chennai Corporation which gives permission for the erection of poles has also kept quiet because its record is not edifying in this regard. It has proved toothless when it comes to monitoring these flag poles and it is very likely it has no record of which ones are put up after permission and which ones are not. And we keep talking of becoming another Singapore when even removing illegal flag staffs become major political issues.

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