With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, a large number of hoardings portraying political leaders in different moods and postures, have come up along almost all important national and state highways in Punjab in violation of the Supreme Court orders.
In this royal city, huge hoardings and banners have been put up at almost all vantage points, be it busy junctions, rooftops, green belts, footpaths, and along the National Highway-64, a stretch of 158km, widely known as the Bathinda-Chandigarh road.
The Municipal Corporation of the city remains a silent spectator and has done nothing so far to stop the blatant violation of the SC orders which prohibit the erection of these hoarding along the highways.
As Patiala and Sangrur are the only two important cities located on this road, countless fresh hoardings have been installed by leaders of the region to prove their 'fidelity' to the political bosses ahead of the coming elections.
The attractive hoardings that feature pictures of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), BJP and Congress leaders, are painted in such a way as they are able to draw the attention of the commuters even on the busy stretch.
Talking to the Hindustan Times, Patiala Municipal Corporation Commissioner PS Gill, said it was not the case that they did not take any action, "Almost every month we remove these hoardings but, surprisingly, the next morning we again find the same hoardings installed. We don't know at what time they come to install these hoardings".
Similarly, calling it a gross violation of the court orders, Sangrur Deputy Commissioner Indu Malhotra said instructions have been issued to local bodies for immediate removal of all hoardings and banners along national and state highways and to take stringent action against these people. But, it was difficult to catch these people as they usually erect these hoardings during night hours.
No doubt, the national highway authority of India (NHAI) and the Punjab public works department (PWD) have launched drives to remove these hoardings but very they come up again at a different place the very next day.
It may recalled here that the Supreme Court in 1997 and the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 1998 had passed directions to remove hoardings and advertisement boards on roadsides, which were considered hazardous and an impediment to the safe movement of traffic.
Recently, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had also directed the NHAI to ensure that all hoardings within 40m of national and state highways and major roads were removed.
However, in spite of repeated court directions, the situation remains the same. Rather it has aggravated further with the approaching elections.
It is now an established fact that these hoardings were also one of the reasons behind the increasing number of road accidents in the state, where an average 5,000 people lose their lives in road accidents annually.
Sadly, of the total accidents in Punjab during 2012, 50% occurred in districts of Patiala, Bathinda, SAS Nagar, Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar.