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Nashik OOH industry body sets exemplary standard for self-regulation

By Sakshi Sanghavi - April 12, 2024

The Nashik Outdoor Advertising Welfare Association fought as one to coerce the city’s municipal body to end serious deviations in the outdoor advertising contract awarded to a single operator, and is now on the war-path to ensure the parties responsible for the malpractices are brought to book

In recent developments within Nashik's outdoor media landscape, the Nashik Outdoor Advertising Welfare Association has emerged as a beacon of integrity and accountability, spearheading efforts to unravel a complex and multifaceted scam that has sent shockwaves through the industry. At the heart of this scandal lies a web of deceit and manipulation, with numerous deviations from established norms and regulations threatening to undermine the very fabric of transparency and fairness.

OOH campaign in city Nashik

Bending the norms

The scandal, upon closer examination, reveals a series of disturbing irregularities that have cast a shadow over the tender process for open space hoardings initiated by the Nashik Municipal Corporation. Initially presented as a straightforward endeavour aimed at allocating outdoor advertising space across 24 different locations in the city, the tender soon unravelled to expose a litany of deviations and malpractices.

At the core of the scam lies the deliberate manipulation of tender specifications to favour selected individuals or entities. What initially commenced as a tender exclusively for traditional hoardings underwent significant alteration, transforming into a platform that accommodated LED screens and unipoles. This amendment, allegedly tailor-made to suit specific interests, expanded the spectrum of advertising options.    

Furthermore, the scandal deepened with revelations surrounding the permissible placement areas for hoardings. While the tender initially outlined specific criteria for placement, subsequent alterations allowed for hoardings on footpaths, dividers, and traffic islands without the requisite approvals—a clear violation of regulatory protocols designed to ensure public safety and urban aesthetics.

The most alarming deviation, however, came in the form of the unauthorised inclusion of hoarding rights at the prestigious Kumbh Mela event—a sacred gathering of immense cultural significance. This clandestine addition, lacking legal validity and transparency, not only raised questions about the integrity of the tender process but also hinted at potential ulterior motives driving the decision-making process.

Irregularities galore

Moreover, the scale of the scam was magnified by the installation of 63 hoardings instead of the initially intended 28, with an additional 126 planned, exacerbating concerns about the scope and scale of the irregularities plaguing the tender process. The gravity of the situation is further underscored by the revelation that the plan was to install more than 1,000 hoardings, making it clear that the magnitude of the scam extends far beyond initial estimations. With an estimated revenue loss of Rs 200 crore for the municipal corporation due to exceptionally low license fee set for the media, the enormity of the financial impact highlighted the urgent need for swift and decisive action to uphold accountability and integrity.

As the layers of the scam continued to unravel, suspicions of collusion, conflict of interest, and preferential treatment came to the fore. The contract was awarded to one player with business interests outside Nashik, which had a Nashik-based firm acting at its behest and formally managing the contract. 

OOH campaign in city Nashik

Fight for transparency & uprooting of irregularities

In the face of mounting evidence and public outcry, the Nashik Outdoor Advertising Welfare Association swiftly mobilised to confront the scandal head-on. Armed with information obtained through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the association launched a relentless campaign to expose the irregularities and hold the responsible parties to account.

From raising awareness through media outreach to engaging with authorities and decision-makers, the association left no stone unturned in its quest for justice and transparency. Through strategic interventions, including the submission of representations and GPS evidence documenting the presence of illegal hoardings, the association exerted pressure on decision-makers to acknowledge and address the issues at hand.

The Association's tireless pursuit of accountability in the wake of the outdoor media scandal met with significant hurdles, including alleged interference from government officials. Despite these challenges, the Association's unwavering commitment to transparency and justice has been a driving force in uncovering the truth behind the irregularities.

The Municipal Commissioner eventually constituted a committee of four individuals to conduct a thorough inquiry into the matter. After the committee’s investigation took the lid off the malpractices and serious deviations from the ad policy norms, the commissioner ordered the removal of all hoardings not covered under the tender—a significant step towards rectifying the situation. 

However, the Association's quest for transparency hit another roadblock when they received only half of the enquiry report they requested. Undeterred, they issued a stark warning to display the word "ghotala" (scam) on the 200 hoardings under their purview to inform the people of Nashik about the wrongdoing.

In response to the Association's pressure, the commissioner vowed to hold those responsible accountable, with notices issued and promises of legal action. Additionally, plans for a new tender indicate a commitment to rectifying the flaws in the previous process and preventing similar scandals in the future. The association's resolve remains steadfast as they prepare to file a case to ensure justice is served.

The Association's legal efforts, supported by a team of three dedicated lawyers, exemplify their determination to uphold the rule of law and protect the interests of media owners and the public alike. Despite facing formidable challenges, the Nashik Outdoor Advertising Welfare Association remains steadfast in its pursuit of justice and transparency.


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