“Action has been taken against these advertisers for defacing public places. The civic administration has appealed to citizens not to put up publicity materials without proper permission. But some people have done it repeatedly, so criminal cases have been filed against them,” said Madhav Jagtap, the head of the PMC‘s anti-encroachment department.
The PMC has decided to carry out a drive at night against illegal advertisements. It has decided to send teams between 10pm and 2am to catch offenders. Many offenders put up illegal advertising materials at night. The civic body has been losing out on revenue due to these offenders. The civic body charges Rs500 per board for putting up illegal banners and posters. It is hoping to earn around Rs150 crore per year from illegal advertisements.
The civic administration has fixed rates based on the advertising policy (2003) of the PMC. On an average, advertisers need to pay nearly Rs222 per sqft for 3ftx3ft space. The civic administration charges fees of Rs5,000 for up to ten legal flexes. After that, each flex cost Rs500.
The Maharashtra Prevention of Defacement of Public Property Act, 1995, provides for punitive action for defacing public property.
According to civic activists, political pressure and vested interests of some civic officials have allowed illegal advertisements to flourish. Apart from being an eyesore, advertisement banners also block traffic views and pose a serious accident hazard. “The action against illegal flexes and banners is an eyewash. Many of these materials cause problems, especially at traffic signals. Action is taken only after some mishap occurs, but dies down after a few days,” said Sanjay Shitole, an activist.
Activists have blamed the PMC for not taking stringent action against the offenders. Not just banners and posters, even hoardings are erected illegally, they said. “Even though the cost to remove these illegal sky signs, flexes, banners and posters is monumental, the PMC rarely recovers this from the violators. It is done at the cost of taxpayers’ money,” said Qaneez Sukhrani, a civic activist.
As per the PMC’s survey, the civic areas had 2,624 illegal hoardings, of which 1247 were demolished last year. The PMC areas have 1,932 legal hoardings. PMC spent Rs 4.5 crore on removing illegal hoardings and collected a fine of Rs 52.5 lakh.