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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Addressing Illegal Hoardings in India – the Need of the Hour

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Illegal hoardings have become a pervasive issue in India, not only compromising urban aesthetics but also posing significant safety risks and raising serious concerns. Recent actions by the Bombay High Court at Goa to combat these unauthorised advertisements highlight the urgent need for a comprehensive and responsible approach to this problem. The implications of addressing illegal hoardings extend beyond legal compliance and delve into the realms of public safety, environmental responsibility, and urban governance.

Public Safety and Responsibility

One of the most pressing concerns regarding illegal hoardings is the threat they pose to public safety and we have very many instances to speak about. For instance, the collapse of a giant hoarding in Mumbai, which resulted in the deaths of 16 people and injuries to over 70 others, underscores the catastrophic consequences of neglecting this issue. These incidents are not isolated; similar tragedies have occurred in Pune and Coimbatore where we lost many significant lives, raising serious questions about the accountability of those responsible for erecting and maintaining these structures.

From the standpoint of responsibility, it is imperative that authorities prioritize human life and safety over commercial interests. Human life is the least cared for today, everyone is simply running after money. The presence of oversized and unauthorized hoardings directly within the line of sight of drivers on busy highways, as highlighted by Senior Advocate Saresh Lotlikar in the Goa case, exemplifies a blatant disregard for the well-being of citizens. Authorities seriously have a duty to enforce stringent measures against such practices to prevent further loss of life.

Environmental Responsibility and Urban Aesthetics

Illegal hoardings also pose significant environmental challenges. The removal of these structures generates considerable waste, exacerbating the already pressing issue of solid waste management in urban areas. From an environmental responsibility perspective, it is crucial to consider sustainable practices in both the erection and dismantling of hoardings. Municipal bodies must enforce regulations that not only prevent the installation of unauthorized advertisements but also ensure that any removal process minimizes environmental impact.

Moreover, the proliferation of illegal hoardings detracts from the urban aesthetics, contributing to visual pollution and undermining the beauty of cityscapes. This degradation of public spaces reflects a disregard for communal well-being and the shared environment, raising concerns about the responsibilities of both advertisers and local authorities in maintaining the integrity of urban landscapes.

Governance and Corruption

The governance issues surrounding illegal hoardings reveal deeper dilemmas related to corruption and administrative inefficiency. The lack of effective enforcement of advertising policies, often due to corrupt practices within local bodies, enables the continued proliferation of unauthorized hoardings. This corruption not only undermines the rule of law but also erodes public trust in governmental institutions.

There is a compelling need for transparency and accountability in the management of outdoor advertising. Municipal bodies must adopt and rigorously implement clear and time-bound procedures for the removal of illegal hoardings. For instance, The Delhi Outdoor Advertising Policy, 2017 and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Advertisement Rules, 2021 are regulations designed to manage outdoor advertising in Delhi and Bengaluru. These policies aim to control and regulate the installation of hoardings and advertisements to ensure safety, aesthetics, and compliance with the law. The Delhi Policy, 2017 aims to regulate outdoor advertising in Delhi by specifying locations for advertisements, setting guidelines for hoarding size and type, and outlining the procedure for obtaining permissions and paying fees. However, enforcement has been inconsistent due to corruption and lack of accountability among local authorities. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Advertisement Rules, 2021, regulate outdoor advertising in Bengaluru by defining permissible advertising zones, establishing standards for hoarding size, design, and construction, detailing the application process for advertising permissions and fees, and emphasizing the removal of unauthorised hoardings. However, effective implementation requires diligent application and oversight, sometimes hindered by administrative inefficiency and corruption. The governance of urban spaces necessitates a commitment to integrity and the public good over private gains.

Economic Fairness and Legal Compliance

Illegal hoardings also create an uneven playing field for businesses. Legitimate advertisers who comply with regulations and pay requisite fees face unfair competition from those who circumvent the law. This situation is problematic as it rewards dishonest behaviour and penalizes those who adhere to legal and responsible standards. Ensuring fair competition in the advertising market is essential for maintaining proper business practices and supporting lawful enterprises.

Furthermore, the loss of potential revenue for municipalities due to illegal hoardings represents an issue of fiscal responsibility. Local governments rely on advertising fees as a source of income to fund public services and infrastructure. The evasion of these fees by unscrupulous advertisers deprives communities of necessary resources, highlighting the imperative for strict enforcement and equitable contribution to public coffers.

Way Forward: Responsible Solutions

Addressing the issue of illegal hoardings in India requires a multifaceted and responsible approach.

  1. Transparent Advertising Policies: Municipalities should institute clear and transparent advertising policies that outline the procedures for addressing illegal hoardings. These policies must include provisions for public complaints and specify the actions to be taken against non-compliant advertisements.
  2. Inter-departmental Collaboration: The formation of inter-departmental bodies can enhance the effectiveness of monitoring and enforcement. Collaboration between traffic departments, municipal officials, and safety engineers can ensure comprehensive oversight of outdoor advertisements.
  3. Technological Integration: The use of technology, such as QR codes on authorised hoardings, can facilitate easy verification and monitoring. Citizens should have access to platforms where they can report violations, ensuring community involvement in maintaining urban order.
  4. Public Awareness Campaigns: Educating the public and businesses about the legal requirements and hazards associated with illegal hoardings is crucial. Awareness campaigns can foster a culture of compliance and responsible advertising practices.
  5. Regular Civic Elections: Ensuring regular elections for civic bodies can strengthen local governance and accountability. Elected representatives are more likely to address community concerns, including those related to illegal hoardings, with greater diligence and transparency.

Conclusion

The implications of addressing illegal hoardings in India are profound and multifaceted. Prioritizing public safety, environmental sustainability, and fair business practices while combating corruption and enhancing governance are essential components of a responsible approach to this issue. The recent actions by the Bombay High Court at Goa serve as a critical reminder of the urgent need to address these challenges comprehensively. By embracing principles of responsibility in governance and community engagement, India can move towards a safer, more aesthetically pleasing, and just urban environment.

 

Fr. Carlos Luis SAC
Fr. Carlos Luis SAC
Carlos Luis is a Pallottine Priest born and brought up in Varca, Goa. He is an avid book critic, blogger, poet, and short story writer. He is the author of 'Rays and Ripples' (2016), 'Silent Whispers of Winter' (2017), and 'Suenito' (2022). Currently, he is a freelance journalist for the 'Gomantak Times' and the associate editor of 'Pallottine Call' magazine.

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