The advertising hoarding that fell down and killed four people on Friday was “oversized” and thus “illegal”, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) said, claiming that it had sent at least 15 reminders to the railways, the owner of the hoarding, in the last five years to remove it, but received no response.
“Since 2013, the PMC has been asking the Central Railway to pull down the hoardings in its premises that were violating the Advertising Hoardings Rules and Regulations Act 2003, but failed to get any response. The railways also did not respond to the civic administration’s request to allow its staff to pull down the hoardings,” said Vijay Dahibhate, in-charge of ‘Sky Signs’ department of the PMC, which is responsible for granting permissions for erecting hoardings and advertising boards in the civic jurisdiction.
“The latest communication was sent just last month. The PMC had pointed out that the hoardings will have to be pulled down as per the directions of the Bombay High Court (for all illegal hoardings),” he said.
In that communication, the PMC reminded the railways of the previous letters and said it is the civic body which is held responsible by the courts if illegal hoardings are not removed. “Unfortunately, we have not received any response or reply to our (earlier) correspondence about removal of hoardings and actions taken against these illegal hoardings,” it said in the letter.
It also mentioned that the railway administration through railway police force does not allow PMC officials or staff to enter its premises and take down illegal hoardings. “This is a very serious matter. In the interest of justice it is ironic to see that your commercial department is openly safeguarding the illegal hoardings,” it said.
Pune Divisional Railway Manager Milind Deouskar said that he was not aware of reminders having come from the PMC, or that the size of the hoardings were beyond permissible limits. “I am not aware of the notices. At the moment, our focus is on providing relief to those who are injured and to the families of the dead. An inquiry has already been set up and a team from the Central Railway headquarters in Mumbai will visit and look into every aspect,” he said.
The PMC said the maximum size of hoardings allowed anywhere in the city was 40 feet (wide) by 20 feet (high). The hoarding which fell was almost 40 feet high. PMC said there are 1,886 authorised and 114 unauthorised hoardings within its limits.