Ugly face of the hoarding mafia

Despite the crackdown ordered by the Upalokayukta, politician-bureaucrat nexus continues unabated

Ugly face of the hoarding mafia

With the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) turning a blind eye to rampant violations in display of advertisements, it has become a free-for-all for all those who want to grab the public’s attention. Whether it is the illegal hoarding mafia or political leaders or film distributors, public and private places are being abused, delivering a blow to the City’s aesthetics.

Innumerable deadlines and orders issued for removing illegal publicity materials, including hoardings, appear to have fallen on deaf ears, thanks to the strong nexus between politicians and officials. The BBMP has incurred a whopping Rs 2,000 crore revenue loss due to the nexus since 2007, as per a recent report on illegal advertisements prepared by the advertisement wing of the BBMP. Surprisingly, both the BBMP and the State government have chosen to ignore the report.

Going by the BBMP's claims, the City should have been almost free of illegal hoardings by now: It recently claimed to have removed 2,652 illegal hoardings in the last one year – ever since Upalokayukta Justice Subash Adi started cracking the whip. But, in reality, nothing much has changed on the ground. Hundreds of hoardings continue to dot all busy thoroughfares, violating the Karnataka Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act (KOPA), 1981.

The Upalokayukta had issued directions more than 10 times and set several deadlines to the BBMP in the last one year to make Bengaluru free of illegal hoardings, but to no avail.
Bengaluru has an estimated 5,000 illegal hoardings. A majority of them are located off the national highways. Most are on Ballari Road leading to Kempe Gowda International airport, Bengaluru-Mysuru highway and Tumakuru Road.

According to RTI activist Sai Datta, who has been fighting against the illegal hoarding mafia, the City has an estimated 10,000 illegal hoardings. “Not only the Palike, even the government is unwilling to take action.

The BBMP Council had passed a resolution banning hoardings, but the government has not taken any action so far,” he said.

Politicians,sycophants

Politicians and their sycophants have contributed immensely to disfiguring the City. Life-size cutouts, flexboards, banners and posters of local politicians emerge on their birthdays and during festivals. Many MLAs have found it convenient to greet people of their constituencies on festivals using flexboards and posters. This is done without any permission or paying a single paise as tax to the local body.

Sycophants of politicians never miss an opportunity to please their leaders. They use all kinds of publicity material to greet their leaders on their birthdays and special occasions. Illegal posters of the chief minister, his ministerial colleagues and senior leaders come up every now and then. Interestingly, these politicians never own responsibility for their posters in public places and, instead, attribute it to their supporters.

For instance, posters greeting Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s son Rakesh Siddaramaiah on his birthday sprang up in the vicinity of Vidhana Soudha. Similarly, posters of Law Minister T B Jayachandra and senior BJP leader and former minister V Sommanna were found near seven-ministers' quarters and on Magadi Road respectively. Publicity materials are also normally put up on trees, electricity poles and parks, which is banned.

Film posters an eyesore

Film posters have become an eyesore, grabbing every available space on public buildings and walls. Majority of these posters are illegal. Though information on the distributor who has advertised the film is available, the BBMP never takes any action. Worst affected are Majestic area, Gandhinagar, Srirampuram, Palace Road, Vijayanagar, Rajajinagar, Peenya and Chamarajpet.

This apart, advertisements by small firms and individuals such as “Work@Home”, “PG Accommodation Available”, “House for Rent/Lease/Sale” and small cutouts informing people about the demise of a person in a locality are seen on trees and electricity poles. All these are unauthorised advertisements.

BBMP sources said the ward-level officials of the civic body are hesitant to take action due to involvement of politicians. Though the BBMP Commissioner had recently directed the officials to slap criminal cases against those violating the Act, not many cases were filed. In most cases, the officials choose not to take politicians head-on and, instead, take steps to remove such publicity materials quietly after taking the politicians into confidence.

ECI shows the way

But those who are into illegal advertisement business take care not to violate the KOPA during Assembly and Parliamentary elections when model code of conduct comes itno force. The Election Commission of India (ECI) directly monitors the implementation of the Act through its observers and cases are booked against violations without any hesitation. Ironically, it is the ward-level officials who strictly enforce the model code of conduct.

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