Rushing to follow the Bombay high court’s order to clear the city of all illegal hoardings, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Thursday pushed its machinery and removed as many as 2,684 illegal banners and posters within a few hours.
An ambitious proposition to not issue licences to put up any banners, posters or hoardings of a political nature was also announced.
However, the civic body’s past record belies its own plans as questions continue to be raised if such isolated action has the potential to permanently rid the city off illegal banners and posters.
Out of the 85,003 banners, posters and boards that were removed from January last year till March 13 this year, the BMC initiated prosecutions only in 78 instances while only 35 complaints were filed with the police.
Civic officials said several logistical and practical hurdles will continue to thwart this drive from translating into a sustained campaign.
Lack of powers vested with the BMC to directly issue notices or impose fines on political parties that put up illegal posters has stopped it from taking stringent action against offenders. According to the procedure, the civic body is required to initiate prosecution or file a complaint with the police in every case of illegal banner that is put up.
“However, unless the culprit is identified, we cannot send notices directly to political leaders whose photos appear on these banners. Even when prosecution is initiated, political functionaries often claim that they were unaware of any hoarding being put up with their names and photos,” said a senior official from the BMC's licence department.
Civic officials also said that they face several hindrances while removing unlicensed banners.
“The process of removal of banners is always hindered by political functionaries who threaten our labourers. Also, to avoid the public eye, most of the political banners are put up after midnight when there is less pedestrian and vehicular traffic,” said another official.
Another reason given by the BMC is lack of police protection during such action.