Thanks to the 950 banners flooding his line of vision as he moved about in the city yesterday, AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi must now know with absolute certainty just how welcome he was to Mumbai for his day-long trip.
Sadly, neither he nor any of his fawning admirers perhaps took into account the fact that the funds poured into creating, printing and fixing these banners could comfortably have provided five lakh drought-stricken families in the state with water.
Almost 1,000 hoardings welcoming and congratulating the Gandhi scion cheerfully defaced the city yesterday, the total cost for which could safely be estimated at Rs 6 lakh.
This amount would have fetched one crore litres of water - in other words 1,000 tankers, which translate to 20 litres of water for each of five lakh families. This, after Congress leaders made all the right noises about not putting up advertisements and channeling the funds to drought-affected villages.
More than 10,000 villages are reeling from a protracted drought in the Marathwada regions, thanks to massive damage to crops over the past 12 months. Rahul, who landed in the city for a party meeting at Tilak Bhavan, left for Delhi in the evening, leaving behind a trail of banners and posters in his wake, most of them illegal.
Around 850 small hoardings with dimensions 6 ft x 3 ft, and 100 medium-sized hoardings with dimensions 12 ft x 8 ft defaced the city. Not a single pole along the entire route from the international airport to Kalanagar was spared from the eyesores, each sporting an unsightly banner. Posters were even plastered to dividers on the highway, and the shrubs used to beautify the roads.
On the route from Kalanagar to the spot for the meeting in Dadar, Tilak Bhavan, banners were seen hanging from unhappy looking trees lining the roads and at junctions. All this, despite BMC Commissioner Sitaram Kunte’s recent avowals to make the city ‘banner-free’.
‘2 different issues’
Sachin Sawant spokesperson for the Congress, said, “These are not put up by the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, but by the supporters. The hoardings were to welcome Rahul Gandhi. The hoardings and the drought are two different issues and shouldn’t be seen in the same light.”
What a waste!
Sources in the hoarding and poster business explained that every square foot of a banner costs about Rs 15. A banner manufacturer from Andheri explained, “A vinyl flex of dimensions 10 feet x 8 feet costs about Rs 1,500, including charges for installation. Many political parties prefer this size because it’s a standard size. The 5 ft x 3 ft banners are installed on the street light poles; they cost Rs 700 each.”
Asked about his political clients, the man said, “Leaders of all political parties get banners printed by us; there are many who get them printed in advance, but few who pay up once the banners are installed. This business is completely based on trust and in order to attract more customers, we give discounts on the bulk orders of 50-100 banners.”
Rehman Sheikh, a staff member at the Grant Road office of Navrang Advertising, said that the firm had printed many such banners. Shiekh said, “Each of the small 6 feet x 3 feet banners cost Rs 500, and the medium ones of 12 feet x 8 feet costs Rs 1,900 each.
Just a dream?
The BMC commissioner, who made his dream of a banner-free Mumbai very public recently, perhaps has a more realistic idea of things now. Of the 950 banners put up to welcome Gandhi, only about 70 were legal. Bhagyashree Kapse, assistant municipal commissioner of the H-East ward (from Vile Parle East to Bandra East), said that information about illegal banners could be obtained from the licence department.
Bhagwan Sathe, licence superintendent of the BMC, could not provide answers even seven hours after being asked, and finally said, “I was in the meeting and will be able to give you the information on Saturday.” Deputy Commissioner of the licence department Rajendra Bhosale is on leave.
He [Rahul] was coming to the city for the first time after becoming vice- president of the party. We were all expressing our gratitude and feelings towards our leader by welcoming him - Sanjay Nirupam, Congress MP
The government is tackling the drought issue, and as an organisation we had put up these hoardings to welcome our leader. Rahulji is the leader of the country and also a youth leader and hence people put up these hoardings. In comparison to the hoardings that are put up by the Yuva Sena or MNS, ours are far less - Suraj Singh Thakur, President, NSUI
One poster costs only Rs 500. Moreover, we have already donated a month’s salary towards drought relief. If needed, we would adopt a village or will collect more money to help people affected by the drought. The cost of the poster and the drought issue should not be mixed up - Aslam Shaikh, MLA from Malwani
When Rahulji got down at the airport, the first question he asked was about the drought issue. We were told not to put up banners, but when senior leaders arrive the party members put up such hoardings in order to celebrate the occasion. But it’s hard to believe that expenses incurred for the hoardings were around Rs 6 lakh - Krishna Hegde, MLA from Vile Parle
When a leader like Rahul Gandhi comes to the city, his party members should inform him of the dire situation in the state and how we don’t get funds from the Centre. Had the Congress leaders spent some time explaining to him [Rahul] the gravity of the situation rather than wasting the money on hoardings, it would have benefited the state - Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena spokesperson
The Congress publicly claims that it is cutting down on unnecessary expenditure. However, just to please their leaders, they put up such expensive banners. We are not against them putting up banners to welcome their leader, but then they could have at least kept the expenditure at a minimal - Eknath Khadse, Leader of the Opposition
Rs 500: Cost of one banner of size 6 ft x 3 ft
Rs 1,900: Cost of one banner of size 12 ft x 8 ft
Rs 6 lakh: Cost of 800 6 ft x 3 ft banners and 100 12 ft x 8 ft banners
Rs 600: Cost of one tanker, which carries 10,000 litres of water
Rs 6 lakh: Cost of 1,000 tankers, or a total of 1 crore litres of water, or 20 litres of water each for nearly 5 lakh families
(Inputs by Sujit Mahamulkar, Varun Singh)