On Tuesday afternoon, the Karnataka High Court observed that the flex banners erected all over Bengaluru fall under the ambit of the plastic ban imposed by the government in 2016. On Tuesday night, a 10-foot tall cut-out of Shantinagar MLA NA Haris and his son could be seen at the Brigade Road-Residency Road signal.
Haris was the self-proclaimed poster boy in the fight against the erection of illegal hoardings in 2015, after the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike went on a drive and tore down the flex banners.
Now, his posters can be seen in many parts of the city, including near Garuda Mall, 100ft Road and the KFC signal in Indiranagar.
In January 2015, Haris and his party workers had stood before the Holy Trinity Church near Trinity Circle and took an oath to never put up a single hoarding.
"I have urged other leaders to keep our city free of illegal hoardings and use paid hoardings to keep our pavements and walls free of billboards, and also urged supporters and followers not to put up hoardings in places which are restricted by the civic body. And ensured all the supporters took a pledge along with me to follow the same," Haris had written on his Facebook page on January 15, 2015.
On Tuesday, the Mayor of Bengaluru, Sampath Raj, expressed his shock over the banners and said that BBMP had, in fact, taken down illegal banners on Tuesday morning.
“BBMP engineers had taken down all the illegal hoardings by Tuesday evening, and by midnight, more banners have come up. The BBMP has now issued an order to shut down the printing presses in the city where these flex banners are made as the High Court has now banned them. We have shut down a few of the printing presses already. The drive is on,” Sampath Raj told TNM.
The Mayor also said that the reason why such hoardings keep cropping up is because the fine forthis offense is very low.
“For a 5ft x 5ft flex, the fine is Rs 50. The people who put up these banners don’t care because they don’t have to shell out a lot of money. We will increase the fine amount. I have also ordered the BBMP engineer for east division to tear down these hoardings in Indiranagar and near Brigade Road within an hour. If more hoardings pop up, then the concerned engineers will be pulled up and suspended,” the Mayor added.
What the High Court suggested
“Prima facie, the ban on plastic includes a ban on the manufacture, supply and sale of such banners, buntings and flex,” the court observed on Tuesday.
In 2016, the HC had upheld the validity of a government notification banning the manufacture and sale of plastic bags and other plastic products containing 40 microns or less of plastic.
The implementation of the ban was only for plastic bags in retail outlets and not on flex banners, because they contain more than 250 microns and are recyclable.
Speaking to TNM, BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad said that after the court’s observation, all flex banner printing units in the city will be shut down by the end of the week.
“We have already issued notices to manufacturers of flex banners and also the printing presses which work exclusively for printing such banners. Other printing presses have been issued a notice to stop printing flex banners. We have also shut down many units,”Manjunath said.
A BBMP engineer told TNM that no matter how many times drives are conducted to bring down the hoardings, they always pop up.
“These political party workers erect these banners at night after the drive is complete. The problem is that it is difficult to figure out who is doing these things. In the morning we bring down the banners and at night, they come back up. There has to be some kind of patrolling to catch these miscreants, but the problem is that the BBMP is short-staffed and cannot overwork existing employees,” he added.