Flex boards erected by ruling party remain untouched in the city

MADURAI: Suddenly, all the flex hoardings have disappeared from the Ambedkar Road between Periyar and Kakkan statues. Road vision for vehicle users is clear now, thanks to the Corporation’s drive against illegal hoardings on Tuesday.

However, the authorities have left room for criticism as there are many hoardings put up by the ruling party untouched. “Have all their hoardings obtained proper permission?” asks the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam urban district secretary, V.V. Rajan Chellappa.

No Corporation official is ready to speak on the issue. Officials are also not forthcoming in providing details of those permitted to put up temporary hoardings. “Some of them have permission. Some are in the process of being issued permission,” is all one of the officials could say.

There is also confusion over who grants permission. While a Corporation official claims that the civic body gives only a no-objection certificate and the actual permission is granted by the City police, a police official denies it. “We too give only an NOC and the Collector is the permitting authority,” the official says. But, an official in the district administration claims that the Collector gives permission only to permanent (commercial) hoardings and not for temporary ones.

A Corporation official involved in clearing hoardings says that he does not have any instruction from his higher-ups to remove the ‘Kalaignar TV’ advertisements.

Officials claim that they do not have the exact number of authorised/unauthorised hoardings. “We are now in the process of surveying the unauthorised hoardings. In the first phase, we removed all those flex boards that did not have permission. And those boards erected in connection with functions that are already over.” But, at least, two hoardings meant for a function that was over last month are yet to be removed at Tallakulam.

The State Government, in a fresh order, has directed to allow temporary hoarding only for five days -- maximum of three days prior to political functions/meetings and a maximum of two days after.

“Will the TV hoardings be allowed till September 15?” queries Mr. Rajan Chellappa. “Yes, it can be allowed since the permission was granted before the Government issued the new directive,” the Corporation official says. The AIADMK functionary accuses the ruling party of taking advantage of the new rule to remove all boards put up by the opposition parties. “The TV hoardings should not be treated as those put up by a political party, but as an advertisement put up for a commercial venture. This cannot be allowed at all,” Mr. Rajan Chellappa opines.

K. Mahendran, secretary, Madurai Bench of Madras High Court Bar Association, says that the Corporation and the police cannot issue NOCs for the hoardings that hinder movement of pedestrians on pavements and those blocking full vision of the road. “It seems all are not equal before law,” the former Special Government Pleader feels.

But officials claim that the drive will continue after “clearing all doubts.”