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Whiplash to clear city of billboard mess

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 29: The corporation has begun cracking down billboards put up illegally.

The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) started a 16-day eviction drive yesterday to clear the mess created by unauthorised hoardings in the city.

The drive will conclude on February 15.

On the first two days, the corporation officials razed a number of hoardings erected without prior permission of the civic body. The corporation also collected around Rs 40,000 from defaulters who had not paid licence fees to erect the hoardings and banners.

Sources in the BMC said permission had been granted to 40 advertising agencies to put up hoardings on private land. Besides, Team Ad Mark, an advertising agency, was given the right to put up hoardings on government land under BMC’s jurisdiction for three years after submitting a bidding amount of Rs 5.40 crore with 20 per cent enhancement every year. The agency has been asked to pay Rs 45 lakh per month in the first year, Rs 54 lakh and Rs 64.8 lakh in the second and third year, respectively.

Earlier, the corporation had decided to prepare a database of the authorised advertisement agencies and their functioning. Sources in the BMC said the corporation was losing lakhs because of the mushrooming of illegal hoardings.

Billboards have been a major source of revenue generation in the city. In 2009-10, the corporation had collected Rs 5.5 crore and nearly Rs 6 crore in the financial year 2010-11.

The civic body generated revenue of Rs 6 crore in the financial year 2011-12. It has set a target of around Rs 7 crore from trade licence and advertisements during this financial year.

S. Mishra, branch officer of the licence section of the BMC, said the corporation had served notices to the defaulters to pay their fee. “We have also sought the help of the police for smooth conduct of the eviction drive,” said Mishra.

The corporation collects taxes on the basis of the size of hoardings, but it is often alleged that private agencies, with the help of corrupt officials, conceal the size of the billboards to evade taxes.

However, lack of manpower still seems to be the major hurdle while dealing with unauthorised hoardings.

“We do not have enough manpower to crackdown on the illegal hoardings throughout the year,” said a BMC official.