mid-day editorial: Cleaning up Mumbai's walls of shame

Mumbai’s walls and public infrastructure have been reduced to a mere canvas for unsightly hoardings for years now. A front-page report in this paper yesterday cited these appalling figures: the BMC took down 10,314 illegal banners in 2015, but only alerted the police about 1,731 of them. What’s worse, the police only took action in 4 per cent of the cases.

Illegal hoardings have long defaced this city, and the High Court has even rapped the BMC several times, asking the body to take action under the Maharashtra Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1995. But why weren’t more FIRs filed in the matter? Several reasons were given for this, such as the fear of offending high-profile people putting up the hoardings.

The fact that the ads keep cropping back up with shameless resilience shows that offenders, including political parties, have little regard for the law. In a city where space comes at a premium, these violators want prime advertising space free of cost. Most banners are placed at traffic junctions and high-visibility spots that would go for a hefty price. During the festive season, political leaders bestow their wishes on Mumbaikars, smiling down patronisingly from these hoardings. At other times, their followers put up birthday wishes or congratulatory messages.

New-age political leaders should issue a diktat against any posters featuring them on the city’s walls. This will earn them more goodwill than posturing and self-promotion. If, as some corporators claim, banners are being put up despite them telling party workers not to do so, writing letters or simple reprimands will not work. There must be strong punitive measures, decided internally.

Several banners are religious in nature as well, so the authorities may be wary of pulling these down. Yet, illegal posters, whatever the nature, must not come up in the first place. People must have the civic sense to desist from this. If not, stricter consequences may act as a more effective deterrent.

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