In a major drive, over 20,000 illegal hoardings were removed from buildings in Hyderabad by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) on Tuesday. The operation was carried out in the areas of Maitrivanam, Ameerpet and SR Nagar, which are notorious for cramped coaching centres and other commercial establishments.
GHMC Additional Commissioner, Musharraf Ali Faruqui said that over 300 employees with over 30 vehicles, four JCB machines and other specialised machines worked for over 12 hours and yet only managed to clear 50% of the total illegal hoardings in the area.
Speaking to TNM, Musharraf said that officials found several violations of safety norms.
"Any commercial trader or establishment can have only one display outside his shop. But in Ameerpet and the other areas, many of the boards are advertisement hoardings. For example, a coaching centre which may be present at one location has its board in ten locations. Even at the location, they can only have one display board at the entrance. Anything else will be considered illegal advertising," Musharraf said.
"As far as the fire safety aspect is concerned, all these buildings are having unsafe electrical wiring connected to these hoardings for the lights in the evening. Even if one thing goes wrong, then it will be a catastrophe," he added.
Locals also narrated past instances to officials where a few hoardings fell down on the road even as pedestrians and motorists were passing by.
"Even the corridors have display units and fancy lights which are connected with dangling wires, which have loose connections. Each corridor on every floor had 40 to 50 such electric boards," Musharraf said.
Officials said that directly or indirectly, the violation of norms put public safety at risk.
"Even with so much manpower and machines, we could clear only 50% of the total hoardings or so on Tuesday. We will continue the drive till we clear all such violations and make the area safe for the public again," Musharraf said.
Earlier this month, GHMC Commissioner Dana Kishore inspected fire safety measures at various coaching centres situated in Ameerpet and told Vishwajeet Kampati, director of the Enforcement, Vigilance and Disaster Management (EVDM) wing of the GHMC, to conduct a detailed survey of all institutes and submit a report.
Accompanied by several senior officials, Dana Kishore pointed out that several thousand people throng to the buildings every day and a potential disaster was waiting to happen.
He urged the management of all the institutes in the area to ensure that adequate fire safety measures are in place, failing which they would be forced to shut down or even have their licences revoked.
The GHMC action comes in the wake of a ghastly incident last month where as many as 22 students studying at a coaching centre in Surat's Sarthana area in Gujarat lost their lives in a huge fire.