The rules on the erection of banners and cutouts in the Union Territory have been watered down by successive governments over the years, thanks to poor enforcement by local bodies and promises by political parties remaining only lip service.
The flagrant violation of the directions of the government banning the erection of cutouts and other graffiti can be seen quite often; particularly the parties which champion the point that no banner should be erected are the first to violate when they come to power.
In 2016, the government tweaked the conditions laid down in the Puducherry Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement Act) 2009, which envisaged a blanket ban on erection of banners, flex boards, and hoardings in order to meet the demands from various corners and to bring some revenue to the cash-starved local bodies.
The Local Administration Department notified 20 designated places each, within the jurisdiction of Puducherry and Oulgaret municipalities, for putting up banners. It decided to allow banners at designated places and protect the town's aesthetics.
But both the ruling and opposition parties continue to violate the order and put up banners and hoardings everywhere in the town. The stand taken bythe political parties while in opposition changes the moment the party comes to power.
According to T.R. Gayathri Srikanth, founder of Iraivi, a women’s forum, “This can be seen in Puducherry over the last two decades irrespective of the party in power. The banners and flex boards are mostly tied to electric posts and medians.”
“In case of strong winds or rain, the banners are likely to tilt, causing accidents. Though the electric posts are maintained by the Electricity Department, it has turned a blind eye to the banners that could endanger lives or cause damage to electric installations.”
“Local bodies are at a loss to implement the ban order as the rules under the Puducherry Municipality Act on all forms of advertisements and hoardings had been subsumed under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act in 2017,” said an official of the Local Administration Department on anonymity.
“The Department is now working on drafting a bylaw for banners, including advertisements. However, whether this act will come into force remains to be seen,” he said.
According to K. Jaya Kanthan, a resident of Kamaraj Nagar, "The lack of penal action against violators of law has been the reason for the erection of innumerable illegal hoardings. When the hoardings are erected for political leaders, who will dare to take action against the people responsible for such hoardings?”
“While banners were earlier put up near government buildings, temples and schools, their numbers have now increased at vantage locations, distracting motorists,” he said.