Billboards installed on forest land adjacent to Kharkai bridge. Pictures by Bhola Prasad
Billboards advertising products and brands along the main thoroughfares of Jamshedpur may be a common sight, but in neighbouring Adityapur, it appears such hoardings have been erected without permission and that too on forest land.
And strange as it may sound, the outdoor advertisers have been paying taxes for these “illegal” structures to the Adityapur Municipal Council (AMC) for several years now.
A survey by The Telegraph near the bridge over river Kharkhai threw up at least 14 billboards of different sizes with their supporting poles entrenched along a 200-metre stretch of protected forest land, in gross violation of the Forest Conservation Act.
Surprisingly, neither forest department officials of Seraikela Kharsawan nor Adityapur Municipal Council authorities appeared to be aware of this blatant violation of government norms despite the billboards being present at high visibility points near the busy Adityapur-Kandra road for more than five years.
Divisional forest official (DFO) of Seraikela Kharsawan A.T. Mishra admitted that the boards had been erected on forest land.
“The patch of land on which the billboards are displayed are under the jurisdiction of Adityapur forest division. However, the billboards have been in place for several years. As per norms, forest department cannot give permission to install any structures. It can only divert the land to some other department. To my knowledge the patch of land has not been diverted,” Mishra said.
The forest official promised to look into the issue. “We will review the entire thing as to how the structures were put up and when,” he added.
Acting executive officer of Adityapur Municipal Council Lakhi Ram Baskey pleaded ignorance about the structures.
“I have been looking after AMC since January and am not in a position to say how those structures were erected on protected forest land. I will look into the matter,” he said.
The official, however, admitted that they had been collecting tax on the billboards from the advertisers.
Vice chairman of AMC Purendra Narayan Singh said the outdoor advertisers had put up the boards to display client’s products and it was a common practice in the city.
“It is common across the city and the country. However, in Adityapur some of the boards have been installed on forest land but we have to inspect and verify the extent of forest land taken away by the billboards in the area,” said the vice-chairman.
Billboard owners pay at the rate of Rs 25 per square feet to the AMC as tax.