MADURAI: Gold, clothes, and bike taxis scream out of flex boards on police check posts and barricades across the city. All vying for our seconds, time the advertisers want converted into purchases and profit. Squint at them a little longer and you might, if lucky, see a line or two of a traffic awareness message, something meant to save a person's life. What is that message doing in a sea of advertisements or why is there no awareness message at all? One might ask oneself.
It just so happens that there already exists norms framed by the police department itself to govern space allocation on police barricades, flex boards on checkposts, outposts, and other installations, but none adheres to them. This is what the norms say: One third for advertisement; two third for awareness messages. In reality, it is 80 per cent advertisement and 20 per cent awareness message (if any!)
"But if we approach a sponsor with 1:3 ratio of space allocation, none will sponsor a barricade/flex board!" says police sources, adding that they neither have sufficient funds to maintain barricades nor to build/maintain outposts and checkposts structures.
"Structures for outposts/checkposts are built and maintained by sponsors. Monthly maintenance expenses of some checkposts (those with LED displays, and other electronic and electrical equipment) is around `10,000. This is borne by sponsors."
What motorists see?
The entire top portion of many an outpost is covered with banners. "They just do not look like a police outpost at all. It is even harder to figure out which station it belongs to," said Manickam, an autorickshaw driver. Ramesh, a biker from Avaniyapuram, said, "Most barricades are covered with advertisements."
It took Manikkam some time to recollect an awareness message he saw on a barricade. But Manickam seems to have a good memory, for there was not much of a reply from others this reporter met. Many were even surprised to hear that barricades can carry advertisements only on a third of their space. The city commissioner of police was unavailable for comments.
Conceded that the barricades need upkeep and the money comes from the sponsors, but can norms be tailored as per need? Should the police wield the sceptre of justice on certain helmet-less riders or should accountability, much like charity, begin at home?