Latest trend in Patiala-“no need to pay rent to MC, just place MLA photo on the flex and evade charges”
Kanwar Inder Singh/ royalpatiala.in
While on the one hand the newly elected Bhagwant Mann led Aam Admi Party in Punjab looks for new ways to improve taxation, the local bodies department is losing large scale revenue due to the evasion of outdoor advertising revenue, courtesy its own party MLAs.
After the Aam Admi Party won the Punjab assembly election with thumping margin in March 2022, most of the time, the prime outdoor advertising gantries, arc media, unipoles in Patiala, under the jurisdiction of Municipal Corporation, Patiala carries the advertisements of various local advertisers carrying the photo of MLA Patiala Urban Ajitpal Singh Kohli and MLA Patiala Rural Dr Balbir Singh and other leaders, evading the government admissible charges.
The Patiala MC issued challans to the owners of business establishments who flout the outdoor advertising laws but the MC does not issue challans to political leaders who also install flex boards illegally and in violation of the Outdoor Advertisement Act. Nobody in the MC dares to remove such flex boards and posters. This is despite the fact that apart from causing defacement, the practice of installation of illegal flex boards of all kinds leads to loss of income for the Municipal Corporation.
As per available information Patiala Municipal Corporation has 5 gantries, around 83 unipoles, 11 Arc media unipoles and electricity pole hoardings.
As per sources, even the state government is paying the rent to the Patiala Municipal Corporation for displaying its achievements, announcements, schemes on these gantries and arc media unipoles as all 5 gantries and 11 Arc Media Unipoles that are with Patiala Municipal Corporation, reserved for Punjab government advertisements.
Patiala has 5 gantries with 2 gantries on Patiala-Rajpura road, one on Sirhind road, one at Bhupindra road, one on Mall road. Most of the time on these gantries the supporters of local MLAs placed their photo on the flex along with the advertisements of their products or wishes any religious functions and evading the fees of Patiala Municipal Corporation.
An official of the Municipal Corporation Patiala on the condition of anonymity said , “presently the MC authorities has given the two out of five gantries (Bhupindra road and one at Rajpura road ) to private parties on around Rs 1:00 lakh per month per gantry (including taxes), after they got the request application from them. We took sanction and gave the gantries to them. Gantry advertisement is the costliest advertisement amongst the outdoor advertisement options available to advertisers. Only, a big brand, corporate houses take this costly media after taking prior approval from us. But no money is deposited on the rest of the three gantries.”
At present the remaining three gantries have private advertisements with MLAs photos on them. On the condition of anonymity another official of the MC said: “the concerned department of the MC removes all illegally installed flex boards from time to time. But we don’t touch,remove the political advertisements or advertisement having political leaders photo, due to their influence. There is fear of action from senior political bosses in case we issue challans for their hoardings or remove them before their intended time.”
When contacted the Patiala Urban MLA Ajitpal Singh Kohli, he feigned ignorance about the evasion of government fees by his supporters and said he will check it.
Meanwhile Dr Balbir Singh, MLA Patiala rural also feigned ignorance about this and said “presently he is in Delhi and will respond after getting the fact checked.
When contacted one of the advertisers who advertised in the past, said ” a person named Harman came in our office and took 15,000 for one month gantry advertisement (which costs around Rs 1:00 lakh for one month). That gantry advertisement remained for few days but after that our advertisement was removed. We even complained to him about this and he promised to display our advertisement for balance days at the earliest. When questioned that gantry is normally not sold to private party as its a MC property, he added that he don’t know about this, but, yes we paid Rupees 15,000 to Harman for that gantry advertisement.”
“This act of AAP MLAs was not expected. They are the caretakers of the city. Rather they should ask their supporters to deposit the requisite fees to the MC and help the government in its developmental projects. The MLAs should set a trend. Why their supporters are using govt media ? Just because something is fishy in this whole process” said a local businessman, Narinder.
On the other hand, 83 unipoles are given to a private advertising agency for display of advertisements. Out of these 83, the advertising company had already surrendered 28 sites to the PMC and retains the 55 sites.