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Bandra's poster wars

Fed up with the inaction against the profusion of illegal political hoardings across H West Ward every festive season, residents hit the streets with mocking posters of their own. Which banners will the BMC take down first?

In an inspired move sure to shame civic authorities and, hopefully, local politicians, the H West Ward Federation, a citizens' group, in association with Wake up Bandra, an NGO, has decided to fight fire with fire and put up their own illegal banners, on the streets of Bandra and Khar. The objective of this decision being to protest the profusion of illegal political hoardings across the two suburbs.



The banners were put up last night at 10 major locations, including Linking Road, Hill Road and SV Road.
The banners will reportedly stay put up for 10 days, to bring awareness among residents and to draw the attention of the BMC. The residents say these unauthorised banners are not just an eyesore, but also distract motorists. "They do nothing but clutter the roads and mar the beauty of the area. No one follows the rules and regulations and complaints to the BMC and the police are of absolutely no use," said Anandini Thakoor, Chairperson of H West Ward Federation.

Rules ignored
Rules laid down by the BMC stipulate that political parties need to stick a copy of the permission receipt (for the hoarding) on the banner, which should be taken down after 10 days. However, these rules are never followed.

The festive season in particular sees a glut of these illegal hoardings. Presently, hoardings congratulating people on Eid, Ganesh Chaturthi and the ongoing Bandra Fair can be seen across Bandra. "Even when the festival is over, no party cares to remove these banners and they continue to spoil the ambience. One of the banners publicising Diwali last year was taken off after Christmas, which is totally ridiculous," added Thakoor.

Illegal hoardings can be seen on lampposts and skywalks all the way from Bandra to Santa Cruz, wishing a Congress MLA on his birthday and congratulating people on the festive season.

Baiting the BMC
The Federation had also conducted a drive for a similar objective a year ago. Then, they covered illegal banners with plastic sheets and done a puja on the spot. "We want to express our anger. If political parties themselves are breaking the law, we might as well to show our disapproval and anger," said Dereyk Talker, Trustee, Wake up Bandra.

According to the Federation, they are waiting for BMC's reaction to their banners. "After putting up these banners, we will wait for the BMC to remove them. So that we can question the grounds on which the banner has been removed," added Vidya Vaidya, Trustee, H West Ward Federation.

Officials helpless
An official from the license department of the H West Ward said, on the condition of anonymity,  "We have begun taking action against illegal hoardings and banners in the ward. Yesterday, nearly 40 illegal hoardings were removed."

Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Zone 3) A Achrekar said, "It is a continuous process because political workers put up these hoardings during the nights. Often, BMC staff members who try to remove them, get beaten up. And then the same hoarding appears elsewhere. It is difficult to keep a continuous tab when we are short-staffed. Residents' associations blame the BMC alone if action is not taken. Perhaps they should try to inculcate some civic sense into the people who put them up."

Licence Superintendent S Avhad said, "Illegal banners are being pulled down by individual wards. Presently, we are dealing with more than illegal hoardings that are triple the number of permitted ones."

He said the BMC was helpless in ending this nuisance. "We cannot catch or fine anyone putting up these hoardings, as they work mainly in the night."

Repeat offenders
MID-DAY had earlier reported on how the BMC had granted permissions for only 345 hoardings during Janmashtami in August, but nearly 4,000 illegal hoardings had cropped up in the city.

This led to the BMC removing a total of 1,394 such hoardings. A few days before Bal Thackeray's birthday in January, among those most guilty included Shiv Sena party workers who flouted rules and put up posters in thousands, even though they obtained permission for only 42.

Rs 47 cr
The amount the BMC collected last year from illegal banners, including commercial advertising, political, religious and informational messages.

BMC rules
>The BMC allows only 10 banners for every political party in a ward.
>It charges Rs 40 for the first sq m of the banner and thereafter, Rs 25 for each subsequent unit.
>It can fine offenders anywhere between Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 for illegal hoardings.

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