Submitted by Rashmi on Thu, 2016-07-07 14:51 Standing in the middle of the city, have you ever tried looking up at the sky? Instead of “a slice of the sky” you will get to see hoardings featuring advertisements of apartments, schools, jewellery showrooms, political leaders, and many more staring at you. It is very difficult to imagine a city sans hoardings. But Hyderabad has shown a way out. Flexis from all hoardings and unipoles have been pulled down by Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), making Hyderabad a hoarding-free city. It all started this April when Hyderabad HC acting on a PIL criticised the GHMC for not taking any steps to remove illegal hoardings. The court lashed out mainly at hoardings put up by political parties. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao had already ordered civic officials to strictly act against any unauthorised hoardings, posters, banners or flexis which were obstructing the beauty of the city. In April, Minister for Municipal Administration KT Ram Rao had also instructed GHMC officials to remove all publicity materials immediately including those belong to ruling party. He also threatened to file criminal cases against those putting up illegal hoardings. This directive could have met the same fate as many other government orders and remained inside a file. But, no, the GHMC acted on it and removed more than 2,000 illegal flexis and hoardings in GHMC limits. If this was the end, Hyderabad wouldn’t have been hoarding-free city because of the authorised hoardings, and the many illegal hoardings which escaped GHMC action. But pre-monsoon thunderstorms changed the climax of the story. On May 20, a big unipole near KBR Park, right in the heart of the city, collapsed due to strong winds. No one was injured but the massive unipole smashed luxury cars parked outside a car showroom causing huge loss. This kick-started a series of events, starting with an emergency meeting where it was decided to remove all flexis from hoardings immediately till the end of this monsoon. The government also ordered advertising agencies to remove all illegal hoardings or face criminal charges. It was decided to identify vulnerable and structurally weak hoardings. A committee consisting of engineers was formed to check the stability of all hoardings and unipoles. These initiatives helped Hyderabad to become hoarding-free for the past one month. The committee has identified around 200 structurally weak hoardings and unipoles and those which have violated structural norms by increasing the size or by using poor quality metal. The GHMC was asked to demolish them because of safety concerns. So Hyderabad now has only skeletons of those hoarding structures without flexis. But the situation may not remain the same for long. As per official records, Hyderabad has 2,864 hoardings and 350 unipoles, making it a big profit making business. (Last year GHMC was caught on an illegal hoarding scam to the amount of 500 crores. According to official statistics there were only 2400 hoardings generating 100 crore revenue. But in reality more than 6000 hoardings were erected in the city causing 500 crores loss to GHMC). After this mission to “bring down hoardings”, all advertising agencies want them back in action so that they can get back to business. They have already met GHMC officials, requesting them to allow flexis as they are facing heavy losses. But the committee inspecting the hoardings hasn’t submitted its final report yet. Advertising agencies have lost a month’s income including the rent being paid to the GHMC. It had been decided earlier that flexis from the hoardings had to be removed by the end of the monsoon. Naturally, advertising agencies are pressurising the GHMC to allow the display of advertisements on hoardings. So before long the bare hoardings might be clothed with new advertisements. They might come back in same old manner without any extra safety laws or tests. But the exercise was worth it because the illegal hoardings menace has been contained and hoardings with weaker structures are getting replaced. And, of course, Hyderabadis got a rare opportunity to enjoy an unimpeded view of the cloudy monsoon sky.