Bangalore/ Bengaluru: civic issues

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2018: high court gets  illegal banners, buntings removed

Rohith BR, How judicial intervention has made Bengaluru flex-free, September 25, 2018: The Times of India

August 1 is a date to be remembered for Bengalureans…for good reason. As soon as proceedings began in the Karnataka high court in the morning, Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, sitting on a division bench with Justice R Devdas, summoned the counsel for the city’s civic body, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), and set a 2.30pm deadline to remove all illegal banners, buntings and flex boards across the city.

“Remove all illegal hoardings, flexes and banners, as well as prevent their re-occurrence, so as to ensure Bengaluru becomes a flex-free, poster-free, plastic-free city,” the Chief Justice said. The court was supposed to take up a public interest litigation in the matter in the afternoon.

Incidentally, flex boards and banners screaming birthday greetings to a city MLA had flooded the CBD areas, including around the Chief Justice residence and the high court as well, that very day. This may have irked the judges who took a serious view of the illegal flex and banner menace across the city.

BBMP officials, including its chief N Manjunath Prasad, had to jump into action and within three hours of the court rap, civic staff pulled down 5,000 illegal flex boards and banners polluting the city's skyline.

Having learnt that a few BBMP officials on the flex removal drive were attacked by miscreants, the court summoned the city police commissioner the next day and told him to provide protection to civic workers.

Within 48 hours, a total of 18,000 such material were pulled down. The figure later crossed 21,000, which is a record of sorts for the city. About 200 cases were booked in connection with the illegal flexes and several units manufacturing them were shut down.

BBMP, otherwise, had been lethargic about the flex menace as most of them were political in nature. When it came to big hoardings, there was a failure on part of BBMP, which, over the years, never bothered to act on illegal advertisement spaces that caused huge losses to the already cash-strapped civic body.

On August 6, the BBMP council represented by corporators of all 198 wards in the city, also approved a resolution to ban flexes, banners, buntings, illegal advertisement hoardings, wall writings and posters for one year in the city, further raising the hope of it being freed of visual pollution.

During the last week of August, following continuous nudges by the high court that even threatened to supersede the civic body, the BBMP council adopted a resolution for a new and stringent advertisement policy, which is waiting to be notified.

Prathibha MN, a resident of Chamarajpet, one of the old localities in Bengaluru, said, “With no flex and banners around, we Bengalureans are rediscovering our own city. Some of the structures with great architecture and aesthetics were buried behind illegal publicity materials. Hope it stays this way forever.”

Sudhira HS, urban expert and researcher at Gubbi Labs, said it was good that the city was getting rid of visual pollution of flex boards and banners. “No doubt we should thank the high court for its directives, one should not forget the failure of policy makers that facilitated this menace in the first place.

The need of the hour for the state government is to form adequate policy and rules to ensure such visual pollution is not repeated. What we are witnessing now is that the courts are forced intervene to make civic agencies act, be it the issue of garbage, potholes and what not,” he added.

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