A civic-conscious couple seeks to make Delhi poster free

By Cindrella Thawani, IANS
Monday, January 10, 2011

NEW DELHI - It all began with an idea to remove soggy, half-peeled posters that made walls around his home look ugly after the rains. And now, over a year later, septuagenarian Shivraj Kumar hopes to make Delhi a poster-free and visually clean city with a campaign to remove all such unwanted advertisements that deface buildings and disfigure street furniture because “this heritage city needs to be cared for”.

With the support of his wife Laxmi, 73, and through his network with resident welfare associations (RWAs) and Bhagidari (Delhi government’s residents partnership initiative), Kumar is getting support from the citizens of Delhi in this effort.

The 78-year-old retired army colonel and founder secretary of Munirka Vihar started the ‘Poster Hatao’ campaign in August 2009 with the help of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).

With his persuasive mission to make the capital a poster free city, Kumar spoke to Amiya Chandra, MCD’s additional deputy commissioner. MCD’s advertisements and remuneration project cell then planned the drive with 12 teams in 12 MCD zones.

Each team, comprising an inspector and 20 staff members, moves around their designated area in a truck to spot and remove posters.

Shivraj Kumar told IANS: “We use bottle openers and iron plates to scratch the posters. The pavements are not littered after the removal.

“Around 2,000 posters have been removed so far. There are approximately one crore (10 million) posters in Delhi. If one crore residents remove at least one each, the city will be free of posters in five minutes.

“With the MCD’s cooperation, we started the campaign from Malviya Nagar. After cleaning 500 yards of wall in two hours, I realised it’s a major task and cannot be done without fellow citizens’ help,” he said.

He added that the MCD had sent notices to advertisers for unauthorised hoardings.

“Citizens are not conscious of the fact they are defacing public property by wall writings, sticking handbills and posters,” he rued.

According to the Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Property Act of 2007, which came into force in March 2009, sticking of posters, banners and wall-writings on public properties is a cognizable offence.

The penalty is a fine of up to Rs.50,000, a jail term of up to one year, or both.

“The problem in our country is the implementation of law. We need more awareness and education among the citizens,” Kumar said.

The septuagenarian has also created a ‘Poster Hatao’ Facebook page and even writes blogs to spread awareness on the issue.

After over a year of tough grind, Kumar is sure of the success of his drive.

“I even discussed it with the Delhi University Students Union. During the students’ elections last year, posters were almost negligible,” he said.

“I am very much clear about my goal and hopefully by the end of 2011, Delhi will be a poster-free city as the police are getting aware. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is also concerned about the issue,” he added.

Shivraj Kumar is also planning to discuss the campaign with the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) to extend this campaign to other metros of the country.

(Cindrella Thawani can be contacted at thawani.cindrella@gmail.com)

Filed under: Society

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