Updated: May 2, 2015 12:00:58 am
Horn Please OK, the ubiquitous sign on the back of lumbering trucks that is to India what rickshaw art is to Bangladesh, has been banned by the transport commissioner of Maharashtra, on the ground that it encourages drivers to use the horn and increases noise pollution. Next, they’ll probably want to remove the rest of the traditional livery of Indian commercial transport — the cow and calf borrowed from Congress election graffiti, and the idyllic lakes and rivers with idealised belles drawing water from them, the last reminders of a time when India lived in its villages with no sense of anxiety or embarrassment. They are vibrantly colourful images which, to the transport officials of Maharashtra, may seem like visual noise. Yet another source of pollution!
What about textual graffiti? Would the authorities find that noisy, too? Trucks are encrusted with public-service messages for family planning, protestations of undying love, praise for the gods, appreciation for parents, political jokes, snatches of real poetry and warnings to those who would cast the evil eye, along with images of jootis to help the vehicle on its way. Erasing such exuberance, should all trucks be painted battleship grey as a traffic-calming measure?
Since the diktat applies to all commercial vehicles on the roads of Maharashtra, this curb on free speech on the move has pan-Indian implications — trucks driving in from outside may please have their artwork concealed or suffer “harassment”, an official has said. Maybe their drivers and cleaners should have their tattoos surgically removed as well, just in case. India is prepared to go to extreme lengths in the interest of traffic-calming. In the east, Mamata Banerjee has played canned Rabindrasangeet at stop lights to soothe the savage breast. Now, Maharashtra has declared war on noisemaking. Coast to coast, the reaction to traffic is extreme.
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