‘Traffic’ Ramaswamy — The one man PIL army, no more


He was reprimanded and fined several times by the Madras High court for filing frivolous PILs and wasting court’s time.

K.R. Ramaswamy, also popularly called ‘Traffic’ Ramaswamy, earned more enemies than friends during his career as an activist.

The social activist, who passed away at the Government Rajiv Gandhi Hospital, was at one point disassociated by his family after they received several threatening calls and abuses. He started his activism by helping regulate the chaotic traffic in and around Parrys Corner and so was nicknamed ‘Traffic’ Ramaswamy by the locals.

Initially, he was hailed by the government officials for his works but later became a thorn in the flesh for various government departments, particularly the City Police with whom he had several run-ins on subjects affecting the life of the commoners.

Be it the eradication of the banner culture affecting the city, removal of vendors who occupied the footpath or the shifting of the iron and steel merchants from George Town to Sathangadu near Manali, Mr. Ramaswamy had a hand in all these issues.

Mr. Ramaswamy’s formula to make the government servants do the duty was simple — file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) case in the Madras High Court and make the officials of Chennai Corporation and Greater Chennai City Police do the work, as failure to comply the Court order would invite contempt of court.

However, resident welfare associations and social activists, who initially approached Mr. Ramaswamy to find solution for any civic issues in their locality, found that filing PILs for each and every issue would not be the answer and they slowly moved away from him.

S. Rangarajan, who was instrumental in forming Neer Exnora, said the filing of a PIL by Mr. Ramaswamy brought to light the encroachment of the huge parcel of railway land at the Velachery Railway station.

A senior government official said the 87-year-old was instrumental in the making the Chennai Police and Corporation officials to shift the iron and steel shops that lined the narrow streets of George Town to Sattangadu near Manali. Mr. Ramaswamy had filed a ‘PIL’ in the High Court stating the iron and steel merchants were not moving to Sattangadu and got a order for disconnecting power supply if they refused to move out.

For all the good works concerning public issues, Mr. Ramaswamy has been attacked on several occasions by the cadres of the political parties when he attempted to remove banners. He was also reprimanded and fined several times by the Madras High court for filing frivolous PILs and wasting court’s time.

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