BBMP order will cost us a lot of money: traders
M. Balaji, who owns a furniture shop on Central Street, Shivajinagar, informed The Observer: “I had spent Rs 25,000 to change the board eight months ago. Now, BBMP is asking me to change it again. I don’t have any other option since it is a government rule, but it is going to cost me a huge part of my income.”
As per Rule 24A of the Karnataka Shops and Establishments Act, 1961, it is mandatory for all commercial establishments to allocate 60% of the space on their signboards to Kannada.
On October 31, BBMP announced that from November 1, it will be compulsory for all establishments to ensure that 60% of every signage is in Kannada. The rule applies to renewals as well as applications for new licences.
BBMP commissioner B.H. Anil Kumar said they would start serving notices from November 1, but will extend the time till the end of November, by which time all establishments should comply with the rule.
Owners of small shops are worried about the expenses they will incur on new signages. A good board costs between Rs 10,000 and Rs 25,000.
“I will change the board only when I receive a notice from BBMP. I changed it three years ago and never thought of changing it. I don’t know how to manage it,” said K Jamshae, the owner of a departmental store.
The owner of a shop on Infantry Road said: “As I’m forced to change the board, I have to figure out how much it will cost. It is not going to be a big loss or expense, but it still matters.”
The new rule will also affect big establishments that had spent a lot of money to make their buildings look posh.
“We planned our elevation very carefully, but now we don’t know what to do. The front look of the building is going to be changed totally. I have no idea how we are going to manage it,” said the owner of a toy store on Church Street.
It is still unclear how the BBMP will measure 60% space.
The rule was imposed on a recommendation by the Kannada Development Authority to the urban development department, which ordered BBMP to ensure all display boards in its limits display Kannada letters prominently.
“As a citizen, we should abide by the law,” said Sajjan Raj Mehta, a trade activist. “But 60% is too much. BBMP should try to be a little lenient about it. We respect both the language and the government rule. But rather than threatening traders, BBMP should warn signage makers. If it is strictly ordered, they won’t make any boards that don’t comply with the rule. For now, the agencies are yet to get official notice from BBMP. Before taking action against traders BBMP should call a meeting with them.”
The Karnataka High Court had stopped the state government from prescribing language use for shops and establishments when the Vodafone Essar South vs State of Karnataka case came before it. The state had then claimed that the labour department could impose the use of Kannada on signboards under Rule 24A.
B.K. Vijendra, chief health officer, BBMP, said: “A plain name board costs between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000. If traders want their signage to look posh, we can’t help it. We have started issuing notices to traders to change their boards. We have also given one month for the same. But after that, severe action will be taken. We will cancel the trade licences of those who don’t comply with the rule.”
Ten years ago, the Supreme Court dismissed the Karnataka government’s plea for mandatory use of Kannada on signboards. However, the Kannada Development Authority and the Kannada and culture department drafted a law to regulate signboards. The idea, according to authorities, is to ensure that Kannada occupies a prominent space on signboards of all shops and establishments in the state, particularly Bengaluru.
This is not the first instance of the rule being implemented. Previously, whenever the rule came into force, BBMP cracked down on traders but soon relented.