Outside the mortuary of the Chromepet General Hospital in Chennai, a small crowd of youngsters were in shock, a few struggling to hold back their tears. They were friends of Subhasri Ravi, a 23-year-old techie who was killed around 2.30pm on Thursday at Palliakarani, on the 200-feet Radial stretch along the Thuraipakkam- Pallavaram road.
Subhasri had been riding her two-wheeler when a hoarding erected on the road’s divider fell on her. Subhasri lost her balance, and as the bike veered off, she fell on the middle of the road. Eyewitnesses told the media that though the driver of a tanker lorry that had been coming from behind tried to apply brake, it rammed into the young woman. Though she was rushed to the Chromepet GH, she died within an hour.
The hoardings had been erected on either sides of the road and on the divider by former AIADMK Councillor and Kancheepuram East MGR Mandram Assistant Secretary S Jayagopal to announce his son’s wedding. A high-profile wedding that saw even Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam attending it.
An eyewitness Manimaran told the media, "One hoarding was already coming loose and I went and tied it. The banner fell on her and she slipped. Though the lorry tried to swerve and stop, the driver could not. Most of the banners were loose and crooked."
The accident spot
Subhasri who has become the latest victim of political apathy was an B.Tech graduate who was working in an IT company in Perungudi. The 23-year-old was reportedly returning home from her office. She was also planning on going to Canada in October to pursue her higher studies.
St Thomas Mount Traffic Investigation Wing has arrested the lorry driver and filed a case against him. A case has been filed against Manoj, the driver who hails from Bihar, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including section 279 (rash driving), section 336 (Act endangering life or personal safety of others), and section 304A (causing death by negligence).
Though the police station has been tightlipped about the details, sources say that no case has been filed against Jayagopal till Thursday night. "We have filed a case against the person who put up the hoarding. We are not sure who it was outsourced to. If they had sought permission for it, the Revenue department will have the details. We will add names of the person who put it up and who gave order after investigation," Inspector Ravikumar of the St Thomas Mount station told TN.
Despite multiple bans and High Court warnings, many politicians and political parties continue to erect hoardings and put up banners for every small event they are associated with. Though people are allowed to erect banners and hoarding after seeking police permission two weeks before, the High Court has repeatedly said that flex banners and hoardings of living persons cannot be put up. Moreover, rules dictate that the letters granting permission from the corporation be displayed on these banners.
The AIADMK in particular is one of the biggest defaulters and despite being the ruling party, it has given scant regard to the court’s repeated orders. In November 2017, K Ragupathi, a software engineer from the US who had returned home to Coimbatore to meet a prospective bride, was killed after he rammed into an illegal wooden arch erected for MGR Centenary celebrations.
The banners on the road