‘Attention, Time to become Bear Grylls’ screams the poster on Happy Theatre, a Coimbatore-based Facebook page. The poster invites photos of bad roads in Karumbukkadai, a small locality situated on the Palghat road in the city. The intent is to bring the pathetic state of the roads in the area to the attention of the authorities and force them to take action.
S Mohammad Siyad, a 22-year-old college student, is one of the main men behind this initiative, which has grabbed eyeballs on social media for all the right reasons. Speaking to TNM about the initiative, Siyad says that the thought was born after numerous petitions to the authorities to repair the roads in the area bore no fruit.
“We were planning to do this campaign for the entire city but restricted it to this area to see how it worked. Residents here are slowly getting used to these bad roads. But students are the demographic that suffers the worst. There are schools around here and a lot of college students also. Workers dug up the road and did not patch it up properly. So after there is rain, it becomes like swamp,” he says.
The campaign asked people to send in their pictures on email or post them on Facebook with the hashtag ‘WildVsKarumbukkadai’, on the lines of Bear Grylls’ survival TV series Man vs Wild, the idea being that navigating the roads was akin to fighting for daily survival.
Around 100 photos of bad roads, some with huge puddles and some looking like a swamp, have been received by the Happy Theatre team in the 10 days since the campaign started.
“We started as an offline team doing mimes and street plays on various socially conscious topics. We have been posting social awareness memes on our Facebook page for a while now, but this is the first time we are doing a campaign for a cause,” Siyad says. Happy Theatre now has 15 members in its offline team and six members working on this campaign.
The bad roads when combined with heavy traffic is a cause for worry, says M Abdul Hakkim, member of Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind and a third generation resident of the area. “An overbridge is being constructed from Ukkadam and it passes over Karumbukkadai. So police have diverted the traffic through our locality which has made a mess of our lives. This is a small residential area with narrow lanes that cannot support such a huge amount of traffic passing through,” he says.
Karumbukkadai is a crucial point in Coimbatore, as vehicles going to Palakkad, Pollachi, etc. have to pass through here.
“The traffic diversion was started three months ago, around Ramzan. Due to heavy traffic inside the area and the bad roads, every other day there is some accident or some vehicle gets stuck in the potholes. We are not sending our children outside fearing the traffic, they are all holed up inside their homes,” Hakkim adds, stating that numerous petitions given in the past three months to all senior authorities in the police to the corporation have not helped at all.
The lack of local government representatives has also badly affected the residents, who are used to approaching their local ward councillor with their problems, points out Hakkim.
Siyad says that the campaign has indeed attracted the attention of the authorities who have repaired a few of the smaller streets. “The aim is to get them to repair the main roads as well,” Siyad adds.