The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Permission, what permission' They just come and write on the wall

He may have won 1,27,837 votes in his constituency last month, but on Thursday it was tough to find even one vote being cast in favour of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's pet project: grabbing private walls for political graffiti.

On a round of the chief minister's Jadavpur constituency (Assembly Constituency 108), Metro found residents speaking out in one voice against the decision to repeal the anti-graffiti Act.

From Nazirbagan to Jadavpur Central Road and Palbazar to Santoshpur, the message rang out loud and clear: spare our walls.

'I'm completely against it. With so much dirt and filth all around we have to keep things clean ourselves. After that, the walls being turned into eyesores by political parties is an unpardonable crime,' said a housewife in the Jadavpur Central Road area.

What's the problem if the house-owner willingly allows the use of his walls for graffiti, the chief minister had asked.

The answer came, not from his Cabinet, but from his constituency. 'The fact is, no one willingly wants his walls to be defaced. If the members of the ruling party come and ask, you have to oblige or face the consequences,' rued a resident of Dhakuria.

And if former chief minister Jyoti Basu said on Thursday that political parties should not proceed without the permission of the house-owner, the writing on the wall is quite different, irrespective of party colour.

'Permission, what permission' The parties don't even bother to inform us that they have written on our wall,' said an irate retired government employee of Nazirbagan, pointing to the Trinamul symbol adorning his boundary wall.

'As compensation, they should not only whitewash the walls but also the rest of the house,' he added.

The House Owners' Association warned of greater trouble ahead. 'They are going after the walls today. Tomorrow, they will break down the door and come inside. And we will be asked to do nothing about it,' grumbled a member of the association residing in the chief minister's constituency.

In April 1996, the association had gheraoed Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) headquarters, protesting against wall graffiti. They met then mayor Prasanta Chatterjee, but nothing came of it.

Subrata Mukherjee was open in his support of the defacement. 'Whoever bothers to seek permission before writing on a wall' he had asked when then chief election officer Basudeb Bandopadhyay had said house owners could lodge a complaint if they were against political parties defacing walls.

This time, the association has decided to write to the three ministers on the committee set up by the Cabinet to review the matter ' law minister Rabilal Moitra, urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya and panchayat minister Surjya Kanta Mishra.

But they will wait till next month as the committee has been allowed two months to work out how to repeal or modify the West Bengal Prevention of Property Defacement Act, 1976. The association will go to court ' and maybe march to Writers' ' if their demands are not considered.

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