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A harsh rap on BBMP’s knuckles

The Karnataka High Court has called the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) the “No 1 enemy of the city” for its continued failure to keep a check on unauthorised hoardings and flex banners.

The court’s rap came while hearing a batch of PILs that complained about the hundreds of illegal advertisement hoardings, boards, billboards and banners dotting the city. Most of these have come up without the mandatory approval of the BBMP Chief Commissioner.

These unauthorised hoardings have not only contributed to the “uglification” of the city, but also led to loss of revenue for the BBMP, the court observed. While directing the BBMP to conduct a survey of all hoardings, the bench also sought a report in tabular form on how many of them were standing beyond the period for which permission was granted.

Curiously, while hundreds of illegal boards and flex banners can be spotted in the city at any given point of time, the BBMP submitted that it had imposed a total fine of just Rs 5 lakh in 47 cases in eight zones under its jurisdiction.

The civic body assured the court that in the first phase, it would remove illegal hoardings on 1,400-km of arterial and sub-arterial roads within three months. Those on the remaining roads in the city would be taken up during the next three months.

Out-of-home (OOH) advertising has been in the eye of a storm ever since 2018 when the High Court directed the BBMP to make Bengaluru free of hoardings.

The civic body had then submitted that it had removed 22,000 structures, which accounted for 95% of the hoardings at the time. Subsequently, the BBMP council passed a resolution banning all forms of outdoor advertisements, barring those on skywalks and bus shelters. Hoardings that were erected on private properties were also ordered to be removed. However, a bigger nuisance than hoardings that advertise products are the thousands of flex banners put up by politicians, which are an eyesore.

Today, nobody is clear about what exactly the outdoor advertising regulation policy of the BBMP is, given the numerous court orders and observations, not to mention the confusion within the civic body itself. Instead of taking piecemeal decisions, it is high time the BBMP evolves an OOH policy keeping both the city’s aesthetics and present-day requirements in mind.

While it should act strictly against wrongdoers, particularly politicians and their followers, who are the biggest offenders, it should also initiate action against jurisdictional officers for their negligence and complicity in the matter. But unless a comprehensive advertising policy is published in consultation with all stakeholders, no amount of court orders or bureaucratic interventions can help solve the problem.

(Published 16 October 2023, 20:29 IST)

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