The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City hostage to graffiti gang

Calcutta, Nov. 18: If the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government had any doubt, here’s the writing on the wall: 88 per cent of Calcuttans who took part in an opinion poll have said they want to protest against a bill that seeks to legalise political graffiti.

But fear of the collective political might runs so deep that as many as 70 per cent feel they have little option but to “request” or “discuss with” parties to spare their walls.

The figures — and the helplessness of citizens — were thrown up by the poll commissioned by The Telegraph to gauge the mood of the people after the state government decided to scrap the existing anti-defacement act and table a toothless draft in the winter session.

The outcome of the survey, carried out by Mode through 100 interviews with landlords and tenants, makes it clear that the proposal does not enjoy public support.

Given a choice, over 83 per cent of those polled will not allow graffiti — whether political or commercial — on their walls.

“The government is trying to get swank malls and smart offices in town. On the other hand, it is supporting something as bizarre as wall graffiti… We are going to vehemently oppose this move,” said Bonani Kakkar of People United for Better Living in Calcutta (Public).

The existing law provides for a fine of Rs 1,000 or six months’ imprisonment or both for violation of the anti-defacement law. But the proposed bill leaves people with no option other than asking the municipal authority to clean the walls.

Over 61 per cent respondents are of the view that the act will violate the constitutional rights of an individual.

“We do not have power to protect our homes. The chief minister should know that anybody can splash colour on our walls. We will lose the right to even complain to police and will be reduced to mere onlookers,” said Jayant Mishra, who has a house in the city.

Mishra’s fear was echoed by several others. Asked how they would respond if the new law is pushed through, 45 per cent said they have little option but to request political parties to spare their walls, while 25 per cent said they would hold discussions with the wall writers.

As many as 60 per cent still have faith in the chief minister and do not think that he is the architect of the bill. Only 40 per cent feel that he is to blame for the legislative drive.

But will Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee address the concerns of the people'

If Bhattacharjee is not convinced yet that he should, here’s a reason compelling enough for a chief minister striving to live down the Left Front’s past: 87 per cent felt that such a bill will give a black eye to Calcutta’s image as a metro back on the move.

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