Meet Shivraj Kumar who is spearheading a campaign against posters that deface public walls

Col. Shivraj Kumar is 81, but has not slowed down in mind or body. He still sees himself as a fighter, but in a different setting. He is waging a war against posters that deface public walls. Through what is called ‘Poster Hatao’ campaigns, this retired colonel from Delhi has managed remarkable victories in New Delhi and Mumbai, including considerable reduction in the use of posters during the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) elections, all in 2012, and is keen to take the fight to other cities. In Chennai until end of February, Col. Shivraj has met senior police officers and plans to dialogue with civilian authorities to clear the decks for an onslaught on posters in the city.

During an interview, the retired colonel says: “First things first. We are not an NGO. We do not collect donations. We see all citizens of India as members of this campaign.” He claims no proprietary rights over the different names under which the campaigns go — Poster Hatao, Poster Hatao India and Poster Hatao Delhi. And he has no regular team at his disposal, except, of course, his wife Laxmi Kumar (75), who has stood with him in this battle. “Through education, guidance and example, we build groups wherever we go and move on,” says Col. Shivraj. “These groups form the nucleus of subsequent campaigns.”

Drives are undergirded by a sure-fire system, which involves enlisting the support of the local welfare association, the local councillor and getting necessary permissions from the Corporation and the police. A presence on Facebook has also helped in taking forward the initiative. “Contacting us for inputs and guidance, citizens have spearheaded drives in their cities and towns,” says Col. Shivraj, happy his campaign is citizen-centric, as planned. “Posters are a problem of the nation. Every citizen has to feel it, which includes the authorities. A campaign can’t be effective without support from the authorities. This is possible, because law forbids posters on public walls.”

In effect, Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Property Act 2007 (which came into effect only in March, 2009) and Maharashtra Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1995 are his reliable allies. In Chennai too, he has found one: The Tamil Nadu Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, 1959, as amended.