On one hand where Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Pathak is claiming that the PMC officials have initiated action against illegal hoarding in the city and by next month all such hoardings would be pulled down, social activists on the other hand alleged the civic body of exhibiting reluctance in taking action despite the high court’s directive. Commenting on the issue, Pathak said in the last one month, the civic body has taken action against illegal hoarding and has removed over 120 hoardings.
“There are about 350 illegal hoardings in the city. All these will be removed by the next month. There is a procedure to remove hoardings and the time taken to remove them depends on their size. But despite all this, we have been taking quick action ward-wise.” Though the RTI query revealed that the number of illegal hoardings in the city was 1,900, activists refused to believe it.
“The total number of illegal hoardings is probably twice in comparison to the legal ones. Despite the high court directive, ordering removal of all illegal hoardings, the PMC hasn’t taken appropriate action and even today hoardings have defaced several chowks. The hoarding lobby is very strong as it is a business worth crores. The PMC officials are also involved in installation of illegal hoardings,” activist Sandeep Khardekar said.
He added, “Former deputy municipal commissioner Ramesh Shelar is responsible for mushrooming of illegal hoardings in the city. We are going to demand a police inquiry against him and other civic officials.”
He added that new hoardings take the place of the ones that are pulled down within no time. Khardekar suggested that besides removing the illegal hoardings, the PMC should fine offenders. Pathak said there is no provision in the law to fine people for installing illegal hoardings. Interestingly, Pathak had suspended Shelar from the post he held in the anti-encroachment and sky sign department. The action was initiated after an activist sought information about properties owned by Shelar through an RTI query.
The reply had revealed that PMC’s tax assessment and collection department had not assessed the property tax of 13 flats in a building at Warje-Malwadi since 2003, which were allegedly owned by Shelar’s wife, Sharda, and other family members. At present, Shelar is facing a departmental inquiry.
Congress corporator Ramesh Bagawe, who has been pursuing the matter, said, “We recently held a meeting with the PMC officials, asking about the action they had taken against illegal hoardings. They told us that a special drive would be conducted from July 15. We don’t know whether it has started or not.”
He also said that according to the 2003 hoarding policy, the distance between a chowk and hoarding should not be less than 25 metres and hoardings should not be installed on footpaths or close to the roads. Bagawe also alleged that not a single hoarding put up in the city is according to the 2003 policy, which means all hoardings should be removed.
Madhav Jagtap, who currently heads the anti-encroachment department, said “Several hoardings having permission, but they are crossing the size limit. Such kinds of hoardings are also considered illegal. We have identifying such hoardings and taking action against them. We started special a drive from July 15 and have removed 20 hoardings in the last three days.”