Created by a Congress leader to publicize the promise of right price for agriculture produce after the party assumed power in Punjab in 2017, several wall paintings – on public properties such as flyovers on the National Highway from Sangrur to Patiala via Bhawanigarh – have now turned into eyesores.
Reason: Faces of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and cabinet minister Vijay Inder Singla, painted alongside the message have been blacked out – with green paint.
These wall paintings in Bhawanigarh, a part of Sangrur assembly constituency from where Singla is MLA, were covered with paint after the model code of conduct was imposed during recently concluded Lok Sabha polls.
Singla confessed that he had got these paintings done to motivate the farmers after Congress came to power. We got these paintings done to motivate the farmers and to discourage them from committing suicides. So the motivational slogans were also painted along. I did not misuse my position as then Public Works Department (PWD) minister. These were done before I took the charge as a minister .
Singla, who is now school education minister, further claimed that most such paintings were either removed or blacked out during Lok Sabha polls.
Singla claimed that aim never was to deface the public property in any way. But when code of conduct was enforced, they had to be covered. At most locations, we got them removed entirely.
Sangrur Deputy Commissioner Ghanshyam Thori said that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) should answer how political paintings were allowed to be painted on the flyover. We got most of them removed during LS polls and in some others, faces were painted as per rules. Many locations were repainted with graffitis related to voting. If some are left, we will see (that they are removed), the DC said.
Contacted PWD superintending engineer NP Singh too passed the buck onto the NHAI saying it was their property.
Asked how they allowed misuse of public property for political promotion, NHAI project director Vishal Gautam said he cannot answer the query.
However, a senior NHAI official, requesting anonymity, said, In this case, police should have taken action when flyover was defaced as NHAI has no magisterial powers. Police could have booked the offenders under the National Highways Act and the Punjab Prevention of Defacement of Property Act .
Section 3(1) of the Punjab Prevention of Defacement of Property Act calls for six months imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000 and makes it a cognizable offence.