Mammooty launches Kerala Police’s road safety mascot Pappu Zebra in 3D
Thrissur: Pappu Zebra, the mascot of Kerala Police’s road safety awareness campaign now comes in 3D animation form. Actor Mammooty introduced the new Pappu through his official Facebook page at 7 pm on Saturday.
Created by artist Nandan Pillai, Pappu Zebra was launched on June 3, 2009 when Kodiyeri Balakrishnan was the state Home Minister. The programme was so successful, it won the International Media Safety Award for the best Road Safety awareness programme. In the first year, Pappu Zebra helped in reducing road accidents by 2 per cent.
On the occasion, artist Nandan Pillai opened up to mathrubhumi.com about how the 10 years of Pappu Zebra have been and what the future holds.
What led to the creation of Pappu Zebra?
More than 10 years ago, a national level meeting of officials took account of the ever increasing traffic accidents in India and decided that police departments in each state must create a separate wing to prevent road accidents.
This came at a time when the police department wanted to connect with the people at a deeper level. This was soon after the Janamaithri or Community police scheme was implemented to strengthen the bond and reduce the distance between police and public.
Kerala was the first state in the country to create a traffic wing, under the leadership of the then IG Dr B Sandhya IPS. They decided to organize an awareness program. This ultimately ended up in the creation of Pappu Zebra. He became the official logo of the Kerala Police Traffic Wing on June 3, 2009.
What was the inspiration behind Pappu Zebra?
The stripes on every Zebra in the world is different and I thought what could be more unique than that. The lines on the road mean a lot. That gave me the initial spark and the zebra lines helped me develop it further. I created a Zebra in the appearance of a school going student to make it friendly and easy to associate with.
I drew the character and went to see the then IG Dr B Sandhya and DGP Jacob Punnoose. It was the then DGP who named it Pappu. In north India, small children are called Pappu, just like in Kerala we call kids Unni (son).
Initially there was a lot of criticism from within the force and several other sections. But the impact of those awareness programmes, campaigns, short-films etc. was visible. Soon everyone in the police department started taking it very seriously.
Why target children and not adults who drive?
I like children very much and love working amongst them. All my creations, whether it’s poems, short films, cartoons or caricatures; they all have that connection with children.
From the beginning I thought there was no point in targeting the adults. They already have a mindset and it’s very difficult to change. They know the rules, but they are the ones who violate them. So I decided to target the children.
In Kerala, we have streets more than roads and almost all of them have single lane traffic. This requires a lot of patience from a driver. So I felt that road safety awareness must be thought from a young age.
Did Pappu Zebra start Kerala police’s trolling culture?
Practically, yes. Through Pappu and his cartoons and songs, we introduced trolls like ‘Helmett Ittillengil Thala Omelet Aakum’, (head will become an omelet if one does not wear a helmet) and Seatbelt Ittillengli Nenju Puncture Aakum (Chest will be punctured if one does not wear seatbelt).
This was a first in the history of the police force. Now the Kerala police are famous for their trolls, especially on their Facebook page.
These trolls were made into small cartoon books and visual CDs. Police took them to schools. The students took the books and the words in them to their hearts and soon started advising their parents.
The move worked so well that Kerala police received the International Media Safety Award for the best Road Safety awareness programme. But most importantly, accident cases in the state came down by 2 per cent in the first year itself.
Pappu became famous in other states as well?
Yes. He did. Following Pappu’s initial success in Kerala, IG Dr B Sandhya created a drama featuring Pappu Zebra and the police took it to schools. Inspired by the influence, Rajasthan, Odisha and Hyderabad police took Pappu to their states and dubbed his cartoons and videos into Hindi and Oriya among other languages. Pappu was a huge success in those states as well.
What were the challenges faced by Pappu Zebra?
The problem with awareness programs in Kerala is that they are organized on one day, published in media the next day and completely forgotten the day after. We must conduct awareness programmes repeatedly. It’s about gently and lovingly reminding each one of us to remain alert.
Pappu Zebra becoming 3D is basically 10 years of evolution of the mascot. Now Pappu will remind us to keep ourselves alert on every occasion, regional or international days or festivals. We are also planning to bring out 3D stickers of Pappu that can be pasted on vehicles. The goal is to make Pappu a part of our everyday life so that he will keep us alert with his presence.
Will the 4 friends of Pappu come out in 3D?
Yes. In 2017, I had created four friends for Pappu Zebra. Two boys named Jeevan and Samay and two girls named Rekha and Sradha. The four friends have round faces inspired by signal lights on the road.
Jeevan represents life. He reminds us to value our life more than anything else on the road. Samay represents the time we spend on the road. When we head out to a place, he reminds us to take account of the traffic, weather and road conditions so that we don’t have to rush or over-speed to get there on time. Rekha represents traffic rules and regulations that we must follow. Sradha represents our need for being alert on the road. Loss of concentration, even if for a brief moment on the road, could lead to a tragedy.
We are planning to bring out 3D versions of Jeevan, Samay, Rekha and Sradha before the schools reopen.
Is Pappu Zebra the mascot for a better driving culture?
Of course. If a biker forgets to release the side-stand while driving, other road users will attract his attention and tell him/her. But nobody, except maybe the police, will alert a biker if he/she has not tied the helmet’s chinstrap properly. This attitude needs to change.
This will not be possible without stringent action from police, motor vehicles department, PWD and other departments. Cooperation from the public is also crucial. Our efforts must be aimed at creating a better driving culture.
Now Pappu Zebra has reached the children. The kids are advising their parents and loved ones. When these children start driving, they will remember the words of Pappu Zebra and follow the rules of the road. Later, when these children become parents, they will remind their children about road safety with the help of Pappu Zebra.
Do different departments support awareness programmes?
These awareness activities cannot fulfil their goals unless they receive good support from the departments concerned. The Police and motor vehicles department must join hands to ensure road safety. Several such successful programmes have been dropped because of technical issues and lack of coordination between departments.
But Pappu Zebra is doing very well. The police and motor vehicle department should join hands with the public and other stakeholders to strictly enforce rules and regulations. A combined effort will be much more effective.
Association with police department?
I was fortunate to have helped Kerala police start their first online complaint facility at Thrissur back in the 2000s when the sitting Thrissur range IG Balram Kumar Upadhyay IPS was the SP. Then chief minister A K Antony inaugurated it. The system was a major relief to NRIs. More such developments came out in the following years.
I was also part of the police campaign Nammude Police Namukku Vendi (our police for our needs) in Thrissur, which can be considered as the programme that kick started all of the present day awareness campaigns by Kerala Police. I have received tremendous support and encouragement from the department including very senior officers. I consider myself fortunate to have a personal relationship with a few of them.