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Govt drive to clean up walls
- Notification to be issued on erasing existing graffiti, divisional commissioners to monitor implementation

Calcutta, March 7: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government is going to erase all existing poll graffiti across the state at its own cost.

The decision to carry out the clean-up act was communicated to the Election Commission today, 40 days before the first phase of polls. Chief electoral officer Debasish Sen has also been informed that all wall writings would be erased at the earliest.

The government is likely to issue a notification to this effect tomorrow.

It had earlier decided not to allow any further graffiti writing and issued a notification on February 23 to invoke provisions of the West Bengal Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1976.

The order followed a poll panel request that the law be enforced across the state.

The act stipulates that there should not be any defacement of public and private property with graffiti, banners or posters anywhere in the state.

However, there was a question mark on what the commission would do with existing graffiti. Today's decision puts an end to all speculation regarding their fate.

After the model code of conduct came into force on March 1, the chief electoral officer had sought clarifications from the poll panel on ways to deal with existing graffiti.

The CPM, too, had been silent on them, saying it would only abide by the commission's directives as it was the 'final authority on poll-related matters'.

The commission recently informed the party brass that no property, public or private, can be defaced anywhere in the state.

'Now that the government has decided to erase graffiti, things are clear. The decision will be implemented in letter and spirit and with immediate effect. The decision has been conveyed to the commission,' the chief electoral officer said.

Writers' Buildings is now directing district magistrates and superintendents of police to start cleaning walls.

In Calcutta, police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee will supervise the clean-up job and the divisional deputy commissioners will ensure speedy implementation of the government's decision.

The entire cost will be borne by the state government, which had earlier earmarked about Rs 60 crore for election expenses.

Erasing graffiti would mean additional expenditure for the government.

According to the commission, the government would focus on erasing poll-related graffiti now as the model code of conduct is in force and election schedules have been announced. 'We will do this on an urgent basis by using the infrastructure available,' Sen said.

A police officer said a round-the-clock vigil to prevent political parties from writing afresh on the walls is on.

Several arrests have been made across the state over the past few days for alleged defacing of walls.

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