SPTM: Down the Memory Lane…. (updated in Sept 2010)


The Origin

(The Movement was started by Rajendra Sidhaye.  Following is an interesting story about the birth of this movement narrated by him)

In June, 1998 I had penned a sarcastic Marathi poem on Pune traffic : "Vahatook Punyachi". I had an opportunity to present it at different places and gatherings, including one at Tilak Smarak Mandir. The poem was appreciated a lot and enjoyed by many, I even received "Once more" which pleases any poet!    (If you want to read the poem, click here)

However, I started having an uneasy feeling later, when it dawned upon me that the people only have fun, not even one person seems to express "I realize I am also contributing to this mess. We need to do something". That slowly gave a realization that although we keep cribbing citing various reasons, like lack of proper roads, signals, lack of seriousness from Police, Corporation, RTO and everybody else, main reason seems to be that, nobody owns up the responsibility for his/her own contribution to the mess. I asked many people, even Police on the road about their opinion about the source of the problem and their answers confirmed this realization.

While thinking about it, another thing struck me is that a very large percentage of the society is made of responsible and conscious citizen, who will not commit any crime, even in a dream. However, as far as the traffic rules are concerned, this large mass of responsible citizen is getting carried away with few hardcore irresponsible elements, and secondly everybody is just dependant on some magic action by some other entity. Sad thing to note was that, more and more of the conscious people have started rationalizing their irresponsible behavior on the road.

Hence, I started thinking, how can this vicious circle be broken? How can the responsible citizen be united and networked, so that the transformation can be driven by us?? That gave birth to the idea, 'What if everybody says and commits, "I follow rules, no matter anything else" '? That gave rise to the idea of the message sticker on a vehicle declaring this. I thought that this message sticker can be a powerful networking link, connecting the responsible citizen, who can boldly voice their intention.

Based on this theme, I wrote an article, and also a poem, this time directly hitting and appealing the conscience, in Feb, 2000. (to read this poem, click here). Quite a few people with whom I shared it, for few months, liked the idea but were skeptical. But the more I thought about it, more I got convinced. So, I thought let me break out of this circle and take opinion of some eminent personalities of Pune. First one I could get time with, was Dr. Vasant Gowarikar, whom I met on 16th September, 2000. He gave a patient hearing to my presentation of the idea, and was all praise for it, saying "I congratulate you for having thought like this, then having written this, and then wanting to spread this into a movement. Do Not Stop, please go ahead". That was a great moment and a great moral booster. He also suggested that, before publishing the material, it'd be good if it is started in a small way. I also met Prof. Shivajirao Bhosale and he also gave encouraging words. I am deeply indebted to both Dr. Gowarikar and Prof. Shivajirao Bhosale for the encouragement.

Then, again I started interacting with people with the idea of spreading the movement, but still was not progressing much in terms of acceptability and couple of more months passed. Finally I decided, if nobody is taking me very seriously, let me start from myself first. Hence, I went ahead and put a message sticker on my car, on 15th December, 2000. It required a lot of internal fight in my mind, as to what the world will say and mockery that I will have to face. However I finally thought, "Will you ever be able to pardon yourself, if this idea just dies out in your own mind, so what if two great people praised the idea". "This was going to be my experiment with truth!!", I thought.

This beginning from myself, was the first turning point for the movement. There was quite a ridicule, and there must have been lot of mockery behind my back, from close people also. But once I dived in, there was no turning back! First few days I was unsure. But then, I saw that it does make an impact, though may be temporary. I had sweet surprises, when few unknown people stopped me on road from time to time, asked about the message on the car, and when I told them the idea just briefly in 5 minutes, expressed support, saying they will join the movement. This kept adding to confidence. Mr. Mukund Awati of Display Creators / Raviraj Publicity helped me with the message sticker, and in the process himself got charged up with the idea. I am indebted to him also for the support regarding the stickers.

At the end of December, I also got the idea of making a website and using Internet as a vehicle for spreading the movement. Mr. Anant Gokhale and his team at Crystalline Infotek, helped me a lot with the web site design and also hosted it free on their server. I am highly indebted to them for the support.

In Feb, 2001 I met Dr. Vijay Bhatkar, and he also praised the idea and was always a great source of encouragement. He even consented to come from his busy schedule for the inauguration of the movement, which took place at a small function on 18th March,2001. I am extremely grateful to Mr.Bhatkar for his support.

I also want to express my gratitude towards the eminent Puneites who supported the movement and those who communicated via email on Internet and expressed support for the movement, however, I want to mainly thank those large number of common people like myself who took the courage and joined SPTM. Special thanks to the core team members who owned and started driving the activities. And last but not the least I must mention Harshad whose joining SPTM was far more important than the blessings of all of the eminent people. I will not thank him, since he owns SPTM as much as me and we saw it together through its ups and downs and there were several times when only two of us came for the meeting, but never ever did we get discouraged or demotivated!

Though the movement has taken some shape, We have a long way to go.... Together we will win! I do see us winning!!

Thank you,

Rajendra Sidhaye


Initial years of Groundwork    (2001 to 2003 approx)

In the Initial years of the movement, we mainly did citizen facing activities in order to build the support. It consisted of presentations in organizations (KPIT, Wipro and Semantec were among the notable few organizations where presentations were conducted) as well as others like Rotary, Nagrik Chetana Manch etc. We also did presentations in housing societies. We also developed a school program called Kavach and met schools. Later in April 2004, we also did a presentation at IMA, Pune.

We experimented with stickers and finalized on the design. SPTM has been the only organization where the sticker is provided at charge.

Our website was of course our great resource and we kept updating it, though it was not the main focus. Several people joined due to word-of-mouth publicity and coming across the website or after seeing the website url on our stickers.

After seeing that there was lot of ambiguity about the traffic rules even among the people having permanent driving license for several years and that there is no source about the explanation of traffic rules even from RTO and Traffic rules, other than the thick and costly MVA (Motor Vehicles Act) book, we also developed traffic rules handbook (which is available for downloading freely from this site). Later (recently in 2008-09), a team of netizens did the work of its translation to Marathi. 


SunRise: The Rebirth!   (2004 to 2007 approx)

By 2004 the size of SPTM had grown to about 3 to 4 hundred but had got stagnated. Monthly meetings (which were held at Fands Infotrainers office at that time, thanks to Sandeep Tapaswi) attendance had also dwindled to numbers which can be counted with fingers of one hand and sometimes only I and Harshad found ourselves there. We felt that we must have the model of members getting new members and we must show to people that even with each person getting very few additional members, we can achieve significant strength in short time. We decided that we will start a new heavily-moderated yahoogroup meant only registering members and for informing members about specific actions. With this, sptm-sunrise group was born. I thought of the name SunRise since the idea was that with this new strategy we will grow to a tipping point (we felt it was 10,000) and then we will have much faster & self-sustained growth. I felt that at present we are still in a tunnel and this tipping point of 10K will be the sunrise point for us or that we would have created the sunrise for ourselves!

With this idea, we created a new process of member registration, started making presentations with fresh vigor and made sticker distribution network. Later, we also formally created a core team that was intended to have people who would take independent charge of activities and would drive them. 


And the recent times!   (2007 and further ...)

Highlight of 2007 onwards has been the heightened interactions with authorities, particularly with traffic Police and significant on-road activities. There has been much more participation from SPTM members in these activities. Initially we pushed the police for making far better utilization of their scheme and sending computer generated notices the undisciplined drivers.

We also felt that the Police can be far more effective if they are mobile instead of being visibly present in chowks. Simple logic is that if you are small in number then use 'Ganimi Kawa' (strategy successfully used by Shivaji Maharaj using small number of Maratha warriors to fight much larger strength of enemy). In 2008, Harshad created a small experiment at Athawale chowk to demonstrate this. Later, Harshad came up with the idea of the campaign to achieve Step-by-step improvement in discipline, Mission 10vi Pass. This has become a major activity of SPTM. It was launched formally on 4th April, 2009. However, subsequently it did not progress as expected due to authorities (especially PMC) not giving enough priority. However, standard 1 (Zebra/Stop line action) was still pushed in coordination with Police and several on-road actions were carried out. Plan is to push it further by involvement of all including political parties. A mega meeting of the key people from city is being planned and pushed.    

We also had strategy meetings of the core team and identified limited specific activities to focus on with specific owners: Mission 10vi Pass activities (led by Harshad), Increasing membership activities (Rajendra), Traffic education activities for schools (Sujata Tilak) and achieving Visibility in masses (Ninad Patil) to push these activities. We also had a significant get-togethers of SPTM members.

We also achieved media support and wrote large number of articles in news (particularly in Sakal's Jaagar) to reach to conscientious citizens which gave a boost to the membership.

With the clear vision that we are set to put SPTM in much larger orbit, we are also working on getting NGO registration done for SPTM and we are also working on revamping the website under the new www.savepunetraffic.org domain.

And the story continues.... !!!!!!!!!!