PMC officials blame resolution by standing committee has rendered it ineffective in sticking with the HC mandate on illegal hoardings
In a clear violation of the Bombay High Court mandate that banned defacing of city skylines with billboards and banners, politicians in Pune have licensed themselves to exploit the festive fervour of Ganeshotsav, crowding in on the city’s public space with their publicity material just days before the code of conduct for the upcoming Assembly elections is set to kick in. And steered by its political bosses, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is looking the other way, unmindful of legalities.
On August 28, the standing committee took a decision to do away with charges collected for setting up pandals and arches during the festival. Taking a cue from this resolution, PMC officials have allowed a free-for-all as politicos across parties rushed to make the best of the window, setting up flex-boards, posters and banners on most thoroughfares and at different pandals.
“With the standing committee resolution regularising ads and flex-boards for Ganeshotsav, we are unable to take any action,” said Avinash Mahaddalkar, assistant commissioner of PMC. Having said this, he, interestingly, also insisted that regular action against illegal flexes is continuing.
With PMC on the blink, politicians have gone all out to jostle for eyeballs, with their ads flanking roads, perching on lamp posts, fluttering over arches and taking over pavements. Such is the frenzy that many are not content with just one board to their name. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator Deepak Pote has put up seven banners, big and small, between Tilak Road / Alka Talkies Chowk and Shastri Road, four of which are at the junction itself. Though all banners carry his picture and name, Pote insisted that they were hoisted by his followers. “Our party workers wanted to make the best of the opportunity to reach citizens. However, I will be careful next time,” he told Mirror.
Likewise, Hemant Rasane, another BJP corporator and aspirant for an Assembly election ticket from Kasba Peth, has decorated several spots with his visage. Other corporators from the ruling party, Sushil Mengade and Rajabhau Barate, who represent Karve Nagar, have jointly set up a flex-board welcoming the chief minister’s Mahajanadesh Yatra at Nal Stop, intruding onto the pavement. “I’ve applied for permission for this flex and expect it soon,” claimed Mengade.
Not to be left behind, leaders from other parties have also joined the publicity bonanza. Congress leader Gopal Tiwari has put up several hoardings listing out the failed government schemes and claimed, “When the ruling party leaders have dotted the cityscape with their flexes, others inevitably followed suit. The ones with my name on them have been put by my friend circle. But this is a medium to create awareness about me and I am exposing the government through them.”
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Prashant Jagtap has his hoardings along the stretch between Wanawadi and Hadapsar. His colleague from Aundh, Balasaheb Ranawade, has his banners up at the visarjan ghat. “We have undertaken social messaging, persuading people to immerse their idols in tanks provided by PMC. Also, our flex is parked on a pandal erected by a dhol pathak,” declared Ranawade.
For the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the free ride seems to have been a godsend, given budget constraints. The party’s banners can been seen on lamp posts along Senapati Bapat Road and at Deccan Chowk. Mukund Kirdant, city president of AAP, admitted, “Our party workers and supporters set these up. We are aware the exercise is tantamount to defacement, but the fact is that we can’t afford legal hoardings.”