Crackdown on illegal hoardings: PMC flexes muscle, political parties in Pune oppose
A large number of politicians, across party lines, and others, have defaced city roads by indiscriminately plastering and installing flex billboards at various points. The PMC has done little to bring down these illegal flexes that are seen on almost every pole, not just that these flexes are also masking direction boards in the city.
Although the Pune municipal corporation (PMC) has been regularly conducting drives across the city and removing the hoardings of the advertising companies, however, when it comes to removing flexes and banners of the political parties, the workers of the sky sign department in the PMC have faced a lot of protest and abuse from political activists.
A senior official in the PMC requesting anonymity said, “We have removed a total of 192 hoardings in the last six months that were purely advertisements from different companies. However, when it comes to removing banners of politicians, we have to deal with huge reluctance and abuse from the political workers of all the parties in the city. It becomes very difficult for us to remove even a single banner or flex of politicians.” He added, “While we have often informed the politicians that the high court order does not allow the use of such banners and flexes around the city, our suggestions are ignored by them.
Sushil Mengade, president, city improvement committee in PMC and a BJP corporator accepted the fact that there are numerous illegal banners and flexes around the city and said, “Flexes and banners are a very sensitive issue to deal with as the workers of all the political parties are emotionally attached to it. Despite repeated instructions from us, party workers often put a flex and banner of their leaders as a gesture of their respect towards their leaders.”
He added, “however, this needs to end soon and BJP has taken a step ahead by not putting up any banner during the birthday of our chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.”
A field visit by the HT team captured various banners and flexes of politicians, advertisements of Marathi film , and banners from the police departments all these flexes are displayed illegally.
While there was a flex put on a tree by the Pune city traffic police department in Deccan, there were numerous banners by the ruling party BJP workers congratulating chief minister Devendra Fadnavis along with the one at Ganesh nagar at the Balkawade chowk.
A similar banner was put on the direction board near the PMC by the congress party, while different organisations and individuals as well had put flexes offering salutations to their family members.
Despite HC order, no action against hoardings
Qaneez Sukharani, citizen-activist in January 2017, had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High court regarding the illegal hoardings in the city, seeking the court’s intervention on the menace of illegal hoardings, banners and flexes around the city.
While the hearings are on, the court had asked the Pune municipal corporation (PMC) to prepare an appropriate hoarding policy for the city and also take immediate actions on the offenders. However, there has been no change in the city, said Sukharani whose PIL is coming up for hearing on December 7.
“PMC has clearly failed to take action against the offenders and the number of illegal flexes continue to rise in the city. Even if the court in its final verdict issues strict guidelines, I fear that PMC will not follow it. PMC has anyway not prepared any policy on the hoardings so far,” she said.
Currently, a total of 2000 hoardings are there in the city, out of which more than 250 has been identified as illegal by the PMC.
Vijay Dahibhate, head of PMC’s sky sign department, said, “It is not true that we are not taking any action. We are regularly conducting drives and we have so far in the last six months have filed cases against 186 offenders and have shared all the details with the Police department. Besides we have also removed 192 hoardings and banners from across the city.”
According to PMC officials, the civic body has already formulated a hoarding policy; however the PMC is awaiting the final approval from the state government which they have not received.
PMC cannot impose fines on offenders
Vijay Dahibate, chief of PMC’s sky sign department said, “Although we have filed cases against the offenders for putting up illegal hoardings, however, we cannot impose fines on these offenders. Only the court has the authority to impose fines.”
PMC likely come up with a policy for small flexes
Sushil Mengade, president, city improvement committee in PMC and a BJP corporator said, “PMC is working on a policy to allow small flexes to be put in the city. Although the exact locations for these is not decided so far, however, we will allow flexes to be displayed at a fixed charge, which is not yet decided. This permission would be given only for 24 hours and will have to be removed later. The policy is in the planning stages.”