It started with a saffron towel on the chief minister’s chair, and then his car. The Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has since been aggressive about painting the state saffron. After school bags, certificates, electric poles and so on, it announced Wednesday the launch of a special fleet of 50 buses, painted saffron and white, to commemorate the birth centenary of Sangh icon, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. A cabinet minister explained the saffron splash: “We like all the colours, but saffron is our favourite because it represents tyaag, balidaan aur shaurya.”
UP, of course, is used to seeing every new government paint public spaces in its favoured hue: For the BSP, it was blue and white while the SP preferred red and green, colours of their respective party flag. In fact, this is an old idea, and not just in UP. Governments elsewhere, too, have embraced the idea of capturing public utilities, spaces and goods to push the party agenda.
The Gujarat government recently got bus stops painted in saffron and Maharashtra, last year, ordered saffron and white coloured buses for its fleet. The Mamata government in Kolkata has been trying to colour the city blue and white. Years ago, the then Tamil Nadu chief minister renamed the state transport service after her. Puratchi Thalaivi Dr J. Jayalalithaa Transport Corporation Ltd buses plied everywhere, but couldn’t help the “revolutionary leader” to win the elections that followed.
Citizens can go colour-blind if propaganda on public utilities becomes monochromatic. Be it UP, or Tamil Nadu, governments seldom keep pace with the aspirations of the people. Blue, red or saffron, a bus service in UP must focus on being passenger friendly with signage and graphics that are easy on the eye and, preferably, language neutral. Public funds should be spent towards making goods and utilities smart and accessible. A modern public utility is one that cares for the customer, the citizen, instead of merely serving as a platform for political advertising.