The 10-year old's voice booms across the street, inviting morning walkers and passers-by. A jogger stops to volunteer and is soon scrapping layers of paper and paint off a lamp post. Like him, about 200 Bengaluru citizens have taken it upon themselves to strip the city of illegal posters, hoardings and bills — ugly eye sores that don pillars, lampposts and walls of public utility buildings.
"It's taken three of us 20 minutes to clean one pillar," says another volunteer Lalitha. "There are about seven to eight layers of bills stuck on top of each other," she tells us as he sprays water on the pillar to soften the posters and then scrape them off, inch by inch.
The posters, bills and hoardings made of flex are of all shapes and sizes. The content too is as varied. There are larger than life faces of local corporators and MLAs, dotted by smaller faces of areas representatives, sidekicks and me-toos. Then, there are posters of films that you wouldn't normally see advertised in the papers. As you peel the layers from the walls, you find a world of information — bills that say "house for rent", "cook available", "call for massage" and a lot more.
Of course, it's anybody's guess as to how many people stand in the middle of the road, take down numbers from these bills and make the call.
These posters staring at us at every nook and corner have ruined the city's façade. In 1981, the Karnataka Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act came into force. The High Court too has rapped the civic authorities on several occasions, directing it to control the "menace". But despite a 30-year old law, there is no stopping the law breakers.
"There is no point cribbing", says Kavitha Reddy, one of the organisers of 'KillBills', the drive against illegal posters. "Citizen participation is equally important for ensuring that the city is cleaner, greener and visually less polluted. There is no point in cynicism. We need to reclaim the city from polluters. Hopefully this will also wake up the BBMP."
On day one of the #KillBills drive, citizens managed to scrape off illegal posters from 12 areas in Bengaluru, including Indiranagar, HSR layout, Sanjay Nagar and Bellandur. Twenty-four tractor loads of illegal bills and posters made their way to the scrapyard. So far 30 kilometres of Bangalore has got ridden of visual pollution. But this is just the very beginning. There are still 680 square kilometres more to go.