The railways has given the advertisements of the Power to Change campaign — an effort to introduce the teachings of the Bible to Mumbaikars — the go-ahead. Over the past couple of weeks, two written complaints had reached the Western Railway, saying that the advertisement was a blatant effort to convert people and also to show religions other than Christianity in a bad light.
The first complaint was filed by a Malad-based private citizen, who approached the authorities at the Goregaon railway station with a written complaint. The second complaint was sent in by a Sikh body based in Kurla.
In its replies to both complainants, WR authorities said that they had found nothing objectionable in the advertisements pasted inside their local trains or on hoardings within the railway premises.
Railway rules strictly prohibit the display of advertisements which are religious in nature or propagate one religion at the cost of another. References to caste and creed are also banned.
A senior railway official said, “The poster shows a few people inviting Mumbaikars to participate in the ‘Power to Change’ campaign like they themselves had done. There is a number on which a person has to call to get a free copy of a book. After the person gets the book, he or she would realise it is about Christianity. Then it is up to that individual to either read or discard it. How can the advertisements be faulted?”
Another official said money plays an important role. With advertisement revenues taking a hit because of the plethora of illegal ads pasted over legitimate ones, missing out on paying advertisements like ‘Power to Change’ would be a bad decision, the official added.
Despite massive footfalls at its stations, the money earned from advertisements is nothing to write home about. WR nets only Rs2.9 crore a year in licence fees at Churchgate and Dadar brings in advertisement revenue of around Rs2.3 crore every year. A touch worse was Central Railway’s experience with the sprawling Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. When the station was put up on a bulk advertising right last year, the base price for the annual licence fee had to be first brought down from Rs4.5 crore to Rs4 crore. Even then, there were no takers and finally the bulk rights were broken into four smaller parts totalling Rs3.5 crore. “This is the kind of money that does not even pay for the upkeep of a particular station, so expecting the railways to take off advertisements which have been paid for doesn’t make sense,” said an official.