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Row over objectionable ad on LED screen near Golden Temple

Commercial advertisements on LED screens installed along the newly-constructed Heritage Street leading to the Golden Temple have not gone down well with the ‘sangat’.

punjab Updated: Apr 12, 2017 11:54 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Golden temple,objectionable ad
An LED screen installed along the heritage street leading to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. People took objection to an advertisement with ‘scantily dressed’ models screened on it.(Gurpreet singh/HT)

Commercial advertisements on LED screens installed along the newly-constructed Heritage Street leading to the Golden Temple have not gone down well with the ‘sangat’.

Devotees visiting the shrine and those residing or running shops in the area find the ads, which are a source of revenue for both the Amritsar municipal corporation (MC) and Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA), objectionable.

They have especially taken objection to an ad of a smartphone company that showed “scantily dressed” models. The authorities came into action after people vented their ire on the social media and stopped the screening of the specific ad. Other ads are still being screened.

“Darbar Sahib is the holiest Sikh shrine and screening of such nudity is highly condemnable and shameful. How can such a practice be allowed at a sacred place blessed by the Gurus?” questioned Papalpreet Singh, a devotee.

Rajiv Gupta, a resident, questioned: “Have these screens been installed only for showing ads?”

Five screens installed on PPP mode

On the wall of Saragarhi multi-storey parking, five such screens have been installed on the pattern of Times Square in New York, USA. At 100-by-30 feet, the screen at the centre is reportedly the largest in India. On the sides of the building, two pairs of smaller screens (30-by-30 feet) have been installed.

Initially, the authorities had claimed the screens will be used to play gurbani hymns and videos on Sikh history and heritage of Punjab. When HT team visited the area on Tuesday, it saw commercial advertisements being displayed on the biggest screen that is opposite Gurdwara Saragarhi. Gurbani being performed at the sanctum sanctorum was being screened on smaller ones.

“Only an hour and a half has been dedicated to the screening of gurbani and other non-commercial content to be decided by the district administration. The remaining time is meant for advertisements. The MC is to collect revenue on the ads, which would be in lakhs,” said Surjit Singh, PUDA executive engineer.

The project is being executed under the public private partnership (PPP) mode. Its contract has been given to Jaipur-based NS Publicity firm. PUDA, which is the custodian of the project, is charging ₹5 lakh annually from the firm, which has installed the screens and other related equipment.

Sources in the PUDA said the firm has started screening commercial ads despite the project being under trial. “The civic body is yet to give a no-objection certificate to it,” they said.

“The matter has come to our notice. The firm screened the objectionable ad mistakenly during a trial run. We will ensure such a thing doesn’t happen in future,” said Surjit Singh.

On being questioned on the issue, MC joint commissioner Sorabh Arora said: “I will look into the matter.” Calls to the Jaipur firm proved futile. An employee, who attended the call, refused to speak on the matter, arguing he was not in a position to give a statement.

First Published: Apr 12, 2017 11:54 IST