Stronger anti-banner policy needed

The High Court took exceptional notice of illegal banners smothering open spaces in the city. The court finally put its foot down and acceded to submissions by the BMC’s counsels that the hoardings be swiftly removed.

The court compared Mumbai’s civic body to that of Satara, which had managed to remove all illegal banners within a week. There was then, in the court’s opinion, no reason the BMC couldn’t do it in a day. In 2011, the court had even asked for the pricing of political hoardings to be brought on par with ad hoardings.

If a person wants to put up a hoarding, he has to apply to the BMC’s licensing department. Each sanctioned hoarding mentions the date on which permission is given, the amount paid and the number of days the hoarding is permitted to be exhibited. But there are loopholes.

The ratio between the number of hoardings permitted by the BMC and the number actually put up is skewed. An applicant may receive permission for 10 hoardings, but he only has to photocopy the receipts and paste them on the hundreds which he puts up. Sometimes, politicians also intimidate BMC officers to ensure their banners aren’t taken down.

Politicians and BMC biggies are against illegal banners. But privately, they admit that it is the only way parties can say what they’re doing. The exercise then degenerates into a blame-game parties accuse each other.

Another conundrum is distinguishing which hoardings have been paid for and which haven’t. With no concrete system, there is every chance that “legal” hoardings may inadvertently be removed instead. It remains to be seen just how far the BMC’s word to the court will hold in days to come. 

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