While Swachh Bharat is a laudable initiative, it has only become a photo op for politicians of all hues. The customary cleaning of the roads a year ago has not made any significant change to the overall situation. Here is the story of a Conscientious Citizen who chose to tread a different path for Swachh Bharat, not by customary cleaning of the roads, but by ensuring that rules are followed in letter & spirit.
Swachh Bharat is arguably the most high profile initiative of the NDA government led by Narendra Modi. But since its launch, it has become more of a photo op for politicians of all hues than bring any substantial change on ground. But here is the story of a Conscientious Citizen who chose to volunteer for the Swachh Bharat not by the customary cleaning of the roads but by ensuring that the rules are followed in letter & spirit.
What is the issue?
Disfigurement of open places by unauthorized posters and ads is a menace that every part of the country is grappling with. Like every other city, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh also faces this issue. Unauthorized posters and ads in open places like walls without the written consent of the owner of the property is a cognizable offence in most states. Like other states, Andhra Pradesh also has a law that prohibits ‘Disfigurement of open places by unauthorized posters and ads’. This a cognizable offence under Andhra Pradesh prevention of disfigurement of open places and prohibition of obscene and objectionable Posters and Advertisements Act, 1997
Section 4 of the said act mandates that, anyone who affixes or inscribes or exhibits such unauthorized posters & ads in open places like walls without the written consent of the owner, shall be punished by an imprisonment of up to 3 months and a Penalty.
What did he do?
E Ravi Kiran, describes himself as a volunteer for Swachh Bharat and lives in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. For him, Swachh Bharat meant that these walls are free of unauthorized ads and they be instead used for propagating important social message & information relevant to the citizens.
A few days ago, he found that several government walls of Visakhapatnam were painted with posters of FROOTI (a product of Parle Agro). On noticing this, he took pictures of such unauthorized paintings and sent an email to the corporate communications team of Parle Agro citing the relevant provisions of the prevention of disfigurement of open places act and how this act is an offence. He also cited an order of the Commissioner of Police of Visakhapatnam that instructed the Police to take stringent action against such violations. He told them in the email that they remove these ads within seven days failing which he will lodge a complaint with the police under the said act.
What happened after that?
He received a call from the Parle Agro team the very next day and they asked for a few more details. Within the next four days, the organization instructed the ad agency to immediately remove all the ads and white wash the walls. By the end of the 5th day, the walls of Visakhapatnam were cleared of these days and the ad agency duly sent him the pictures of the white washed walls
The Walls of Visakhapatnam now sport a new look
Not just this, Ravi Kiran worked with the Greater Visakha Municipal Corporation (GVMC) & Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (VUDA) to ensure that the walls of public parks are painted with messages relevant to the citizen. Some of the walls now sport messages relating to ragging as an offence, informing people about the grievance redress portal of the government, warning about harassing women, RTE Act, Segregation of waste etc.
Lesson for Citizens
The success of any government initiative will depend on proper enforcement & implementation than customary functions or photo ops. Ravi Kiran’s story should inspire all of us to take action and ensure that we educate ourselves of these legislations and put them to the right use.