The municipal corporation Bathinda (MCB) has been turning a blind eye towards the mushrooming illegal hoardings in the city, a majority of which are political advertisements and slogans of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
The party already faces a petition that seeks probe into the murky business of advertising of the MCB as submitted with additional chief secretary of local government Satish Chandra.
The urban body has allegedly changed the auctioning process to favour big advertising firms by floating single tenders for the whole city instead of auctioning sites separately.
Illegal hoardings stain city
With less than three months left for the Punjab assembly polls, illegal signboards, mainly by SAD and Congress, have flooded the city. Despite MC authorities claiming that they are working on removing these, the campaign seems to be a damp squib as such hoarding can be easily spotted across the city.
Meanwhile, joint commissioner BD Singla said that they are removing the illegal hoardings. But notably, two huge boards, one by the SAD government and one by the urban body itself are right outside the MCB office.
Also, inside the district administrative complex, illegal hoardings of the Punjab government have been installed.
On a complaint by city resident Ranjeev Bansal, additional chief secretary of local bodies department Satish Chandra had summoned municipal commissioner Anil Garg on the issue of illegal hoardings. The department has ordered the MCB to float new tenders for auctioning the sites and also to remove the illegal hoardings besides presenting details of the revenue earned through these advertisements.
Bansal, in his complaint, alleged that many private players were using the advertisement sites despite their contract having ended.
Ad firms not interested in tenders for ads
Notably, the civic body is struggling to auction the advertisement sites as in the last three attempts, inviting tenders against the reserve price of `2.80 crore only saw one application.
An officer expressed that advertising firm not coming forward to apply in the tendering process is a pressure tactic by them to lower the reserve price to earn more profits which is why the MCB invites a single tender for the whole city instead of auctioning sites separately.
Mayor Balwant Rai Nath said that for now, majority of the advertisement places are hired by the Punjab government and rest are with the contractors, so no financial loss will be suffered. He, however, said that might have to face financial loss after the code of conduct for Punjab assembly polls will be in force as state government will then have to remove its advertisements and sites will remain unsold.
Meanwhile, mayor Nath said that some private players had put up their advertisements on the places hired by the state government but the same have been removed. He, however, expressed helplessness in identifying these people and taking punitive action.