Stimulating examples of turning disfigured walls into motivational spots
Intro: Tired of seeing defaced walls in your city or town! Karnataka cadre IAS Shri Bharat Lal Meena as Commissioner of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike introduced a noble idea, which not only sparkled the city walls but also turned them into picnic spots thereby educating people about rich Karnataka heritage. He got majority of the city walls painted with fascinating art work related to heritage, culture and wildlife. Similarly, the people in Mohad and Baghuwar villages under Narsinghpur district of Madhya Pradesh made best use of the walls by writing inspiring quotes on them, writes Pramod Kumar
The municipal authorities in every metro city or small town are confronted with the sticky situation of defacing of the walls—both public and private properties. The spoiling is done in different forms like sticking cinema or political posters, ugly bills, graffiti writing with slogans or promotional activities. It is not confined to just bus stands, underbridges, flyovers, crossings or the main markets it is equally visible even outside city roads including the highways. Even the signboards on roads or streets are found covered with posters. During elections the menace assumes iniquitous form when despite clear orders from the Election Commission, the walls are covered with posters and the crossings are flooded with small or large hoardings and banners leaving behind ugly patches on the walls. The nature of the problem maybe different in diverse cities the solution adopted at one place can be worth emulating for others too.
In 2010, the municipal authorities in country’s IT hub, Bengaluru, took an interesting initiative to get rid of this menace. Shri Bharat Lal Meena, a bureaucrat with out of box thinking, took the charge of city corporation, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike as Commissioner. As he is known for taking unconventional initiatives in many parts of Karnataka, he decided to reclaim Bengaluru city’s title of ‘Garden City’. Along with his officials he planned to roll out a host of initiatives aimed at turning the lakes, parks and empty spaces of walls into patches of green cover and art corners.
“The city walls, both of public and private properties, were then in so much grubby state that they presented a very bad look to those coming outside or even from different parts of the state. Walls were not safe even inside the residential areas and they were slicked with vulgar cinema posters or promotional bills. In the beginning, we tried to clean them, but that made no difference. Finally, we decided to curb this problem permanently. We wanted a kind of solution that the people indulging in this practice are spontaneously discouraged. In that discussion the fascinating idea of painting the walls with the art work of rich heritage, tourist places or wildlife clicked. The idea received applause from all. After thorough discussion we identified the walls and places all over the city where the walls had to be painted and also started hunt for the traditional painters, who could finish the task perfectly.
“We decided some themes for a particular area like the roads leading to Mysore to be painted with the heritage art work, etc. Different themes were decided for diverse areas. When the idea was discussed with the painters they happily agreed to do it. The work began on August 15, 2010 simultaneously all over the city. The work was finished within the stipulated time. We paid them Rs 20 per sq. ft for those paintings. It developed a charm not only among the tourists visiting the city but the permanent residents also started especially visiting them. The attraction among children was huge. They enquired their parents about those places and then insisted them to visit there. It also enhanced the knowledge of the people about Karnataka,” says Shri Meena. Finally, the walls began sporting the ancient temple architectural beauty and its rich flora and fauna. Scenes of cascading waterfalls and dense forests sprang up in and around the city. Efforts were made to incorporate sculptures and other art work at junctions and various other spots adding a touch of beauty to the IT capital. This beautification programme was also translated into an economic activity by generating jobs for scores of artists.
When asked how the idea clicked Shri Meena says, “I encountered the same problem in different cities. The idea was in my mind for long because such experiments have already been done not only in some foreign countries but also in different parts of our country like in Bhopal and Ahmedabad.”
The impact of the experiment is that some foreigners conducted study on it and then it was emulated by many other cities like Shimoga and Belgam in Karnataka and Chennai in Tamil Nadu. “The entire campaign was for beautification of the city and it spread a positive message in the society. It not only provided employment to city painters but also educated people about our rich heritage and motivated them to preserve it,” Shri Meena added.
It is not that the entire campaign simply went on unhindered. First the Cinema Hall owners protested. Then many other people came out against it. Political pressure was also there. “We listened to all and provided remedies like earmarking space for cinema posters after making some reasonable payments. Some people were also booked for it when they repeatedly violated the rules. We ensured that those who are committing wrongs should not be spared at the cost of prestige and cleanliness of the city,” he added.
Compare to cities, the density of the problem in village is however low. The people in Mohad and Baghuwar villages under Kareli tehsil of Narsinghpur district in Madhya Pradesh came out with a fantastic idea to use the walls as a medium of educating the fellow villagers. In both the villages, the walls of almost every house have been used for writing motivational and inspiring quotes or the information related to general knowledge or moral values. The brain behind it was former RSS Akhil Bharatiya Gram Vikas Pramukh the late Surendra Singh Chauhan. The idea was then emulated by many villages in the country. It proved to be the best use of the walls.
Both these experiments show how even the walls whether in cities or villages can best be used for constructive activities. It can, if emulated, change the picture of all the cities which are confronted with the problem of defacing of the walls.