Looking at the popular yet peculiar practice of adorning vehicles with stickers in India.
Take a walk or drive around the city and you are bound to notice a variety of stickers on vehicles around you. There is no doubt that Indian motorists love to express themselves and often adorn their vehicles with multiple colourful stickers, but where did all of this come from and what does the law say about it?
While it is perhaps impossible to trace a ‘history’ of this practice, it has been common practice for quite some time. Trucks, in particular, are known to carry elaborate and colourful art and slogans like the iconic “Horn OK Please”. Japan has a similar practice called ‘Dekotara’, an abbreviation for ‘decorative truck’ which has been around for many decades.
In India, this practice isn’t all art and decoration and an increasing number of motorists have been decorating their vehicle with stickers that mention their caste, family name, religion, profession, political affiliations and more. From a small sticker on the windscreen to replacing the entire license plate with the name of the driver’s caste, this sticker obsession has turned controversial. The law says that car stickers that denote caste, religion, profession and political association are not permitted and offenders can be fined INR 100 for their first offence and INR 300 for subsequent offences under Section 177 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988. However, this has failed to deter people from continuing to flaunt their caste and affiliations with some believing it is a matter of pride and identity while some believe it is a way to ‘scare’ other motorists or even car thieves by asserting their status.
Another popular sticker that most people will recognise is the bright saffron ‘angry-Hanuman’ that can be found on bikes, scooters and adorns many a rear window of cars. Karan Acharya, a designer and graphic artist from Kumble village in Kerala created this image back in 2015 for some boys from a youth club who wanted something to put on their flags for Ganesh Chaturthi. From there the popularity of the image skyrocketed and appeared on social media pictures and vehicles across the country. Some people even use ‘Government’ or ‘Police’ or ‘Press’ stickers to avoid being stopped by Traffic Police or to be treated with respect by fellow motorists. These stickers are also used to park in areas where parking is normally not permitted or flout traffic rules without any repercussions. The misuse of official stickers has definitely become a common nuisance with no apparent check to the validity or necessity of such stickers on civilian vehicles.
In recent times, Noida Police has led a crackdown on this practice of illegal stickers through their initiative “Operation Clean” that has led to many motorists being fined or even having their vehicles impounded and while some people remain adamant, more people have become aware and have removed these stickers from their vehicles. While many insist they feel pride in flaunting their identity, others argue that it promotes casteism and communalism rather than a national spirit. Many complaints have also been made to the police regarding this matter as many stickers are distasteful, inappropriate or even threatening, making pedestrians and other motorists feel unsafe. Some stickers bear messages or slogans that are hurtful or threaten other motorists with repercussions if they were to accidentally collide with them as they belong to a certain community, which projects a toxic image of that particular community. These stickers can also be a safety hazard with large stickers that cover the rear window obstructing the rear view of the vehicle or distracting other motorists. While it remains to be seen if Police throughout the country will enforce this rule, the sticker culture is booming with more and more people following suit with different intentions.
Picture Credits: Scroll
Tashi Dorjay Sherpa