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Visual pollution caused by political hoardings

April 3, 2008

The political establishment in Mumbai was feeling in a mood to pull down illegal hoardings (billboards) particularly of the political kind as they are all illegal. The municipal corporation of Mumbai moved a proposal to ensure that political hoardings come up only on “on space earmarked for commercial advertisements.” In fact there was a drive recently to pull down these illegal hoardings. Some 20,000 hoardings have been pulled down.

The pictures I have published below are to showcase a city made ugly by the haphazard growth of these hoardings. Advertisement billboards are bad enough by themselves, but the political hoardings are worse as they are put up anywhere and everywhere and one on top of another and in spaces not meant for hoardings. Most of them are put up for trivial and laughable reasons – to felicitate political leaders on their birthdays (!), congratulate them on some minor achievement, welcome them to the city and so on. The intention of the photographs below is not to show the ineffectiveness of the drive against the political billboards as some of them have gone now, although many remain, particularly in the suburbs of Mumbai. The drive leaves much to be desired no doubt, but it’s a start. I can only hope that it’s not a mere flash in the pan and not restricted to elite areas of the city.

Some of the photos below were taken in the suburbs of Mumbai, some in central Mumbai, some in Thane and a couple in South Mumbai.








How can one expect people to follow the rules and not speak on the phone and drive when the government itself breaks the law?


And it’s not just the hoardings which make a city ugly, it’s also the way the shop-keepers put up signs. There should be some rule as to the size and placement of the signs.


Related Reading: Billboard epidemic in India
Visual Pollution during the Ganesh Festival

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2008 8:46 am

    Here’s a simple solution. Neighborhood residents get organized (you just need 3-4 like-minded people) and at night, indulge in some guerilla tactics using black paint (to deface the political ads) or hooks-and-ropes (to bring down and trash the political ads), to send a strong message.

    Or, there’s the long road through PILs to make the parties who deface the neighborhoods accountable for following some protocols and removing their ads after x days.

    Or, with globalization, will come PR firms which will make such ads redundant, as TV ads take over.

  2. Bharath permalink
    April 3, 2008 11:21 am

    Yes, city looks too ugly, especially Mumbai at the moment. Almost Every 10 meters on road I find such scrap hoarding.

    The material used for hording “flex” which is being imported from china is a plastic waste. It’s time to ban such wastes in our country.

  3. April 3, 2008 12:19 pm

    Amit, thanks for that suggestion. It is an excellent one. The only problem is that here we have goondas who are hired by political parties to suck up to the bosses and keep things in control. Citizens will therefore get intimidated. Also there is an apathy in the ordinary citizen to participate in such things, and that is why we all deserve what we get I guess. But I am going to forward this idea to organized citizens groups in Mumbai of which there are plenty. They have political clout.

    Bharath, yes you have made an excellent point. I have noticed that these banners are not made from cloth as they used to be in the old days, but are made from plastic. I don’t know what this world is coming to, plastic I see being used even for visiting cards these days! It should be banned I agree!

  4. April 3, 2008 12:20 pm

    Court should just fine advertisers, thats it, be is political party or who ever.

    Like Himachal Pradesh Govt. did to Pepsi etc, for painting their logo on rocks and hills.

    Baki, BMC kya kuch kare, Log Gutter ke dhakkan tak to chori kerke le jaate hai, its a huge business. While Municipal Corp. is trying to clean up hoardings, burglars are cleaning up the entire city by robbing manhole lids, Fiber optics, Sign Boards etc. etc.

  5. April 3, 2008 12:25 pm

    Anshul, not just gutters, even waste bins, they are all stolen. What a pitiable state it is indeed. Fining is a great idea, but the people who will have to push these are the very people who get a kick out of seeing “Happy Birthday!” written on waste plastic banners all over the city! I feel so angry!

  6. April 3, 2008 12:39 pm

    there was a court judgment on abuse by pvt hoarding
    something has to be done on political hoardings front so as to control their spread
    amits commando action can have some very negative effect as we know how much of goons political supporters can be

  7. April 3, 2008 1:07 pm

    Hey I have seen a nice solution to this board typos. In my town Karad, Maharashtra, a youngster group was very irritated by frequent boards hanging at every place showing dumb faces of dumb local politicians and wishing them happy birthday. So they made a big board in very same style but with a big DONKEY in center, surrounded by more donkeys. The text read ” Happy birthday to our beloved Mr. Donkey from ………..”
    It made a big effect on the town and was so famous that now no one dares to put a board saying Happy Birthday to any politician.
    hows that?

  8. April 3, 2008 1:44 pm

    I guess there would be nothing stopping the politicians to hang their portraits around the city.
    They put our country to shame and create a hell lot of waste with their pictures on it.
    I think the election commission should be stern on the political parties to remove the posters once the elections are done. At least then the mess after the elections would be cleared. And the city corporation should charge the politician for advertisement fee (as applicable to other companies for putting their posters) and take them to court if they have illegal hoardings.

    I can’t see that happening in near future. 😦

  9. April 3, 2008 1:53 pm

    Free Country my friend, Free country.

  10. April 3, 2008 3:00 pm

    Ignore my mail, and see this comment 🙂
    What I said in above comment is real. You understand marathi I guess. If you allow, I can write the exact lines on that board and I am sure you will need to roll over 100 times to absorb them.

  11. April 3, 2008 3:32 pm

    Prax, Xylene, Suda, Anshul, thanks.
    Suda, I have no doubt that you were quoting a real life incident and it is extremely funny precisely because it is real! 🙂 I laughed for one full minute after reading that comment, it’s absolutely the funniest thing.
    You are welcome to quote the lines in Marathi. That will be even funnier! 🙂

  12. April 3, 2008 3:44 pm

    lol….its good that we are staring of some where…:)

  13. April 3, 2008 4:03 pm


    These hoardings do spoil the beauty of any city.And improperly maintained advertisement hoardings are quite dangerous as the iron corrodes and can collapse.It has happened a few times in my city.Some citizens are waging a court battle against these illegal and unsafe hoardings.A few of these hoardings are being taken down by the Corporation in my city.

    And there is another big nuisance in my city-the flags and festoons of political parties whenever they hold meetings.The “decorations” are never removed once the “meetings” are over 😦

  14. April 3, 2008 4:20 pm

    It is still bearable in Maharashtra. If you see in Tamilnadu, no wall or a vertical surface is spared. Either it is painted with political slogans or pasted with posters. Further you can also find life size cutouts, arches, flags all around whenever there is a birth day,anniversary or visit of these politicians in that area. We have enough politicians to keep the walls occupied for the whole year.

  15. April 3, 2008 5:34 pm

    Ok as I promised, here are the real captions in Marathi:

    Consider A big donkey(smiling) at center(with biggest TIKA of Kumkum in the picture)
    Title: एकच वादा गाढवे दादा
    श्रीयुत गाढवे याना हार्दिक शुभेच्छा!

    Left side is for the MLA of area
    आमचे श्रद्धास्थान शीयुत मोठे गाढव

    Other many Closeup donkeys with TIKA of Kumkum
    युवा नेते —> थोडेसे तरुण गाढव
    and आजूबाजूला अजुन caption: समर्थ साथ >> black गाढव
    also धडाडी चे नेते caption: सगळ्यात मूर्ख गाढव

    I dont have the real photo but it was published in all newspapers. I will try to find it for you to post here.

  16. April 3, 2008 7:37 pm

    hahaha! Thanks Suda! I think this is a great idea that needs to be seriously taken into consideration! 🙂

  17. April 3, 2008 9:13 pm

    I’m surprised the graffiti “artists” haven’t come out to place their mark on the signs. Just wait until the youth get fed up with something, they’ll come around with their spray paint. At least India doesn’t seem to have that kind of problem yet.

    I noticed how the signs obstruct the view of beautiful trees and ancient architecture. You’re right to bring this to the attention of the powers that be. Do you think that sometimes we just don’t “see” our surroundings? Kind of like a husband and wife after twenty years together, they just interact on the surface, without looking. Your article does a great job of raising our consciouness.

  18. April 3, 2008 11:17 pm

    In my town Karad, Maharashtra, a youngster group was very irritated by frequent boards hanging at every place showing dumb faces of dumb local politicians and wishing them happy birthday. So they made a big board in very same style but with a big DONKEY in center, surrounded by more donkeys.

    That’s what I’m talking about – one has to get creative and come up with innovative ideas to battle this scourge. 🙂

  19. April 4, 2008 8:14 am

    Christine, we had this problem in Mumbai last year but these youth were unfortunately targeting rich individuals with fancy cars. That was sad. What they need to develop is a social service mentality and do things that are beneficial to society and not out of jealousy. I have heard of the graffiti artists in the US and I guess they do it for fun or to be a menace!
    and yes in India this happens a lot, not really seeing the surroundings. People shut it all out, the ugliness, as it gets too overwhelming at times. After I started taking photos I have become more conscious, strangely! As I zoom in to a photo I see things I did not notice with my naked eye while passing by.

    Amit, yep agree wholeheartedly. Suda’s suggestion is not just creative, he’s shown that it works. Worth thinking of doing exactly the same thing.

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