India has seen sundry changes in its 75 years of independence. The country and her many states have experienced economic growth at an unprecedented rate, as small towns turned into large, vibrant, and bustling cities. Tamil Nadu is no exception to this pattern, being the country's most industrialized and urbanized large state, boasting many accolades to its name. But most Indian states, Tamil Nadu included, have not been proactive with the handling of their road infrastructure. The urban population surge has therefore led to many resorting to private transport, due to inadequate public transportation and non-motorized transport facilities. In 2021, TOI reported that the private vehicle count doubled from the previous decade; this seemingly innocuous statistic becomes grave when we note that 18.9% of road fatalities are of pedestrians in India. This is 85% more than in 2020 (MoRTH). Pedestrians simply are not safe in our country. And given that 1/3 of total work trips are by foot (2011 Census) and 60% of children walk to school (NSO), the rise of private transport forebodes a grim future in terms of pollution, safety, sustainability, equity, and justice.
Venue: AMR hotel Date: 2nd March 2023
Thus, to create a platform to discuss ways to mitigate this serious concern, CAG, in collaboration with the Social Consumer Rights Movement (Salem), conducted a media workshop at Salem. The workshop was attended by various media personnel including local journalists, senior reporters from visual media and print, and journalism students. The workshop aimed to discuss the role of the media in promoting sustainable road infrastructure development, given its need in all recent urban development projects. The pivotal role that the media could play in encouraging and endorsing sustainable development was discussed. Various senior journalists, academics, and vocal supporters of sustainable development were given a platform to discuss how the journalists of today could be changemakers in advancing this salient issue.Divya Arvind from CAG talked about the recent pedestrian study conducted in Salem, a perception survey of pedestrians and a road audit of some arterial roads. The survey showed that more than 77% of people in Salem regularly walk yet the pedestrian infrastructure such as footpaths and streetlights is in poor condition. As these are often neglected issues, she asked the media to highlight such mobility issues. Prior to this, a media analysis was conducted and the findings were presented to the journalists. The analysis covered articles from major Tamil and English media. The analysis found that the concept of sustainable mobility is often not highlighted in many transport-related articles. In addition, the majority of the mobility-related articles only focus on motorists and very few articles are not written from the perspective of marginalized road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. She called for a more nuanced coverage of mobility that includes perspectives of all road users.
Picture 1 (In Salem): Divya Arvind from CAG spoke about the importance of pedestrians and the ways to improve pedestrian infrastructure in our cities.
G. Ananthakrishnan, a senior journalist formerly with the Hindu and a long time observer of urbanization, stunned the audience with data that “according to the World Bank, around 40% of rural households reported at least one death after a road accident compared to 12% of urban households”. He stressed the need for adequate planning for sustainable mobility not just in urban areas, but also in rural areas and generally deprived areas of the state. He spoke of how journalists could approach stories on road crashes and transport, by bringing a sustainable mobility lens. He shared various potential sources of information, such as government reports, that could be used by the media to bolster their reporting.
Picture 2 (In Salem): G. Ananthakrishnan spoke about the significance of sustainable mobility in a growing city like Salem.
Dr. S. Nandhakumar, the HOD of journalism and mass communications at Periyar University, was another esteemed speaker who added valuable insights into the discussions. He spoke of the importance of data collection, and how it can be used to enhance a piece of writing that created greater impact in readers’ minds. To promote greater introspection, he asked the media to not only write more hard-hitting stories but also create awareness among the public on the ramifications of not planning for sustainable mobility.
B Thangaraj Rase Rajan, Bicycle Mayor of Salem, spoke of his personal experience of riding long distances on his bicycle. He encouraged young children, adults, and the general public alike to follow his examples and put their cycles to better use. He also used the platform to share key issues that cyclists face today, namely, the lack of consideration of motorists and the non-availability of cycling infrastructure. He stated that very often motorists were not accommodating of bicyclists, often cornering them into small spaces or forcing them to stop to let the motorist pass. This led to his second point, which was that the government must make efforts to build infrastructure thoughtful of the needs of cyclists. Given the obvious benefits that a higher bicycle-riding population would have on the environment, these recommendations must be taken seriously. Furthermore, he suggested the media create separate columns in their respective newspapers, covering and providing awareness of the livelihood of cyclists, in order for the general public to become more understanding of their needs.
Venue: Press Club Date: 4th March 2023
CAG, in collaboration with the Tirunelveli District Consumer Awareness Movement, conducted a media workshop at Tirunelveli. The workshop was attended by various media personnel including local journalists, senior reporters from the visual and print media. The workshop aimed to discuss the role of the media in promoting sustainable road infrastructure development, given its need in all recent urban development projects.
Divya Arvind from CAG talked about the recent pedestrian study conducted in Tirunelveli where a perception survey of pedestrians and a road audit of some arterial roads was conducted. The outcomes from the survey showed that more than 75% of people in Tirunelveli regularly walk, yet the pedestrian infrastructure such as footpaths and streetlights is in poor condition. As these are often neglected issues, she asked the media to highlight such mobility issues. Prior to this, a media analysis was conducted and the outcomes were presented to the journalists. The analysis covered major Tamil and English articles from both online and newspaper prints. The analysis found that the concept of sustainable mobility is often not highlighted in many transport-related articles. In addition, the majority of the mobility-related articles only focus on motorists and very few articles are not written from the perspective of marginalized road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. This situation needs to be improved by including the concept of sustainable mobility in all transport related articles and include perspectives of all road users.
Pechi Muttu, Tirunelveli traffic police inspector, joined the event and spoke about road safety in Tirunelveli. He spoke about the various methods used by the traffic police to control traffic and reduce road accidents. He also requested motorists to respect the pedestrians on the road by sharing the roads with them by not encroaching onto footpaths. In addition, Mupidathi, senior reporter from Nellai Dinamalar highlighted the pivotal role that the media could play in encouraging and endorsing sustainable development. The event concluded with a Q&A session and discussion on the prevailing transport issues in Tirunelveli and ways to incorporate the concept of sustainability at various levels.
Picture 3 (In Tirunelveli): Divya Arvind from CAG spoke about the poor conditions of pedestrian infrastructure and ways to improve pedestrian safety.