Billboards with PM, Sonia photos to go

The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) had earlier planned to erect billboards of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi along the highways. The NHAI has now decided to remove them.

In place of leaders’ portraits, the authority will display information like names of the project, concessionaire, the date of start, completion, project cost and a complaint number, for the benefit of road users.

The NHAI had earlier decided to put up 1,500 billboards— every 25 km—with photographs of the two leaders on both sides along all ongoing and completed highways at the cost of road contractors or concessionaires.

It was said that the move was to highlight the UPA efforts to push highway projects as it was under attack for tardy progress in road building works in its first regime. Already, 146 billboards have been installed and six are in progress on various roads.

However, the plan ran into controversy after the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Sonia Gandhi asked the NHAI not to use their photographs for the purpose. The PMO has also asked the cabinet secretary to ask all the ministries and government departments not to use the prime minister’s photograph without approval.

The NHAI, in its letter to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, said  it was proposed not to provide display boards with photographs of Singh and Gandhi in view of the letter from the PMO.

“The display boards already erected will either be removed or the photographs of the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi will be replaced with the photographs of projects or facilities,” the letter said.

The display of photographs of leaders along highways had created enough fodder to political parties to indulge in blame game earlier.

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