BBMP clamps down on non-Kannada sign boards

Shops stand to lose their licence if Kannada language is not given prominence on display boards

The Kannada Development Authority has been pushing for a 60:40 ratio of Kannada to a secondary language on all sign boards in the city for the past few years. The request has resurfaced again with Karnataka Rajyotsava here.
The BBMP has unsuccessfully tried to implement this for the past few years. Although the campaigns had started with much gusto, nothing much has come of it. In 2018, they even issued notices and collected fines from the ‘violators’, but the enthusiasm died down soon.

Curiously, the earlier orders referred to Rule 24-A of the Karnataka Shops and Establishments Act; a rule that was termed “unconstitutional” by the Karnataka High Court in 2009 in the Vodafone Essar South Ltd. v. State of Karnataka case. The rule mandated that 60 per cent of the text on a signboard must be in Kannada.

The court said that the parent law’s purpose was to protect employee welfare, putting Rule 24-A, outside of the scope of the act. 

To work around this, the BBMP drafted the ‘BBMP Outdoor Signage and Public Messaging Bye-laws 2018’.

And this year the order regarding Kannada on signboards refers to these bye-laws. The order says that all commercial establishments have till November 1 of this year to change their sign boards to have minimum 60 per cent Kannada on them.
“We haven’t taken any action yet: they have time till November 1. After that, we will give the violators a warning. If they don’t comply, stringent action will be taken,” says BK Vijendra, Chief Health Officer (Public Health). 

The violators are being threatened with the cancelling of their trade licences.

These bye-laws are an executive order issued in public interest, points out Vijendra. “Unless this order is challenged in a court of law, the BBMP is fully within their right to cancel trade licences of the violators,” says lawyer Siji Malayil.

The shops in Central Bangalore District have the most number of violations. Metrolife spoke to a few establishments in the area and asked them what they thought of the order. None of them had heard about the move that could cost them their trade licence.

Rajanna, the owner of a pub on Brigade Road, says, “We have English and Kannada signages in the same size.” When pointed out that the Kannada sign should be slightly larger than the English one, he responded that an equal division is enough. He said he kept both signages in the same size because of the pride he takes in his language and not because of a rule.

Meanwhile, Cottage Industries Emporium on MG Road, recognised by the Government of Karnataka, has barely any Kannada on the signboard. Sarwar, the manager of the store, says that it does not make any sense for them to change their sign boards. “Let the others do it first,’’ he says, “I can’t say for sure that it will affect my business but I can’t take the risk in an area (MG Road) frequented by non-Kannadigas.”

Aruna, the manager of a jewellery store on Brigade Road, says that such rules should not be implemented in a metropolitan city like Bengaluru. “I am a Kannadiga at heart,
I don’t need to show it by putting up Kannada on my signboards,” she says.
She adds that there are more non-Kannadigas in the city and many of her customers don’t read Kannada. “Already business is down due to various reasons. If I put up a board that is mostly in Kannada, less people will understand it and less people will walk in,” she says.
She said initiatives such as introducing Kannada in schools from the lower grades will help promote the language, while the BBMP move is just for “show”.

The BBMP Outdoor Signage and Public Messaging Bye-laws 2018

It says that each property is allowed to display a maximum of ten “units” of information - in the ratio of 60:40 of Kannada language : secondary language. Any unused allowance in one language, may not be transferred to the other. 

They have also mentioned that the font of the secondary language cannot exceed 80mm.

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