CHENNAI: Traffic Ramaswamy, the man who held the authorities in check and questioned the wrongful deeds by the governments passed away in Chennai on Tuesday. He was 87.
Mu Anandakumar, who runs Bharathamatha Foundation, remembered the days he spent with Ramaswamy organizing awareness programs throughout the state. “I met him during a PIL in Madurai High Court. Our friendship grew stronger over the years. He brought out the hazards from the leather factory in Dindigul district. He taught us how to take our own cases without the help of an advocate and how to ask the questions right in RTI petitions,” said Mu Anandakumar.
He said whenever he travels to visit him in Chennai, Ramaswamy would ask, “Why do you spend so much to meet an old man? Save the money for bringing social reforms.”
Another activist C Muthukumar, from Paramakudi who runs Mezhuguvarthi NGO, recalled Ramaswamy talking about his early days as an activist. “He worked in several places in the city and while working in Co-optex he used to help the police in monitoring the traffic in the late 80s. The police later provided him with a special ID card to regulate traffic,” said Muthukumar.
That's how he won the prefix ‘traffic’ in his name.
Where it began?
When Traffic Ramaswamy was just a teenager, there was a rule in the state prohibiting transport of rice over a certain quantity in public transport.
One day when Ramaswamy was taking a few kilograms of rice on a bus, the conductor confronted him and handed the rice over to the police, saying it was against regulation.
The next day young Ramaswamy, dropped a letter to the Tehsildar stating that he was carrying rice from their own farm and that it was below the prohibited weight. After which the Tehsildar went to instruct the official who seized the rice to apologize to the youngster.
“From then he knew that words are powerful enough to question the authorities and to bring reforms,” said Muthukumar.
In the early 1990s, based on his idea, the Home Guard division was formed.
A few of his notable reforms came when he challenged the state government's decision to construct a flyover on the NSC Bose road.
Traffic Ramaswamy played a key role in questioning banners and posters placed along the roadside. He had challenged both DMK and AIADMK leaders for placing banners that disrupted safe public movement.
Though he has been booked several times, he was never formally arrested.
Several times, he was praised by the courts but there were also times when he was held in contempt of court.
Always seen with a bunch of papers in hand, high-spirited Traffic Ramaswamy will be missed in the court rooms.