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Dhaka Tribune

Billboard grabbing fest

Update : 27 Apr 2013, 06:06 AM

More than 100 billboards in the capital are forcefully occupied by Bangladesh Krishak League, an associate body of the ruling Awami League, displaying everything from pictures of political leaders to Bangladesh Games’mascot.

From the city’s Mirpur-10 circle to Motijheel,Farmgate and Shahbagh, hoards of billboard showcased the on-going Bangladesh games that started from April 22 and will end April 28.

Meanwhile, boards at BijoySharani displayed several Krishak League leaders’ pictures ahead of their council on April 28, most likely trying to get the attention of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, a frequent user of the road.

These boards were allegedly placed over existing advertisements without obtainingpermission from the billboard agencies or companies, who advertised their products or services. Despite financial losses of both companies and agencies,none of the two parties dare to protest.

Billboard agencies claimed that they lost hundreds of millions of taka in a single week, but are helpless as all the grabbers are powerful political leaders.

“It might sound like a minor grabbing, but even when many of our billboards are looted permanently, we can’t speak up,”said HaziMdRashde, secretary of the Outdoor Adverting Association told the Dhaka Tribune over phone.

All the Krishak League’s billboards displayed both the Prime Minister and Bangabandhu Sheikh MujiburRahman’s picture along with the leaders who grabbed the billboard.

At Shahbagh,a billboard was taken over on April 23 and now bears the name of a candidate for Secretary General of Krishak League Dhaka (North), GolamRashul Khan.

“We just put up the billboard five or six days ago. It can’t be calledgrabbing,”GolamRashul Khan told the Dhaka Tribune.

“Billboardsare the main way to send our message to common people and it also demonstrates one’s muscle power.”

He added that, if they used any billboards, it would be for a very short time. So the stakeholders should ignore it.

On the other hand, Bangladesh Games organisers occupied more than 100 billboards,forcing thecountry’s largest mobile operator Grameenphoneto lose dozens of their billboards,at Kawranbazar and Shahbagh areas.

“Grameenphone faces this problem frequently. Grabbers never care to inform us. Suddenly we find that some of our billboards are occupied by someone else,”said a Grameenphonespokesperson while talking to the Dhaka Tribune.

He also mentioned that some billboards in the Kawranbazar area, having been taken over by the Bangladesh Games authority were also tagged with "Sponsored by Grameenphone."

Sources informed that the Bangladesh Games authority pressurised vendors of the billboards to cover them up with new digitally printed banners.

Grabbing billboards and using it for political purposes hasbecome a very common phenomenon in the capital and around the country.

“Wheneverthere is a political programme, political activistsput up digital banners, festoons, posters or whatever they want over billboards at key points of the city,”owner of a renowned billboard agency told the Dhaka Tribune, requesting anonymity.

He also said:"Billboards at Bijoynagar, Gulistan, Paltan, Shahbagh, Russel Square and BijoySharani are the first choicesofpolitical leaders."

“Political activist and leaders never think about how much money is involved in the billboard industry or how much money we loseevery day,”he said.

The Awami League along with its different wings like Jubo League, Shechasebak League and Chatra League are the frontline billboard grabbers. Some Members of the Parliament in the city also engage in the same practice.

Recently, Elias Molla, a member of parliament from Dhaka-16 constituency occupied a billboard on the old airport road celebrating the PM’s birthday. Asked about it,he claimed that he just wanted to demonstrate his influence for a couple of days insisting he did not grab the billboard for a long period of time.

At the other end of the city, HabiburRahamanMollah, ruling party MP of Dhaka-5, grabbed hundreds of billboards in the Jatrabari area of the city.

“People who love me made these things willingly, not under any pressure,”he said.

Last December during thecentral council of Awami League, a lot of middle and grassroots leaders promotedthemselves by using billboards.

The same trend was seen during Chhatra League’s anniversary in the first week of January, as hundreds of billboards were taken overby its leaders, around the capital.

Again in December last year, ahead of Awami League’s council, leaders in the city were busy portraying themselves on billboards withAwami League general secretary MofazzelHoshienChowdary Maya leading the race, followed bycity Awami League leadersShaheAlamMurad, and MP MdAslamulHaq.

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