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Salt Lake civic body in tower trouble

Salt Lake has become the battleground for two private telecom giants, with the municipality facing flak for playing an “unfair arbiter”.

The Salt Lake municipality, despite initially refusing permission to Reliance Infotech Ltd to set up three towers in the township, has allowed Usha Martin Telekom Ltd to set up a Rs-30 lakh cellular antenna on the roof of a residential plot. This has triggered trouble, with angry residents submitting a memorandum to the authorities, alleging that the municipality has violated the rule-book by allowing a residential plot to be used for commercial purposes and okaying a project that could prove a health hazard.

Though the plan to set up a tower on the roof of BF-111 was sanctioned on August 13 in the name of Roma Ghosh, lessee of the plot, Rs 1 lakh was deposited by Usha Martin Telekom (draft number 9547241). on August 8, say officials.

Sabyasachi Dutta, councillor of Ward no. 10, accused the municipality of pushing through an “illegal” deal. “Although the Reliance issue was raised in the board meeting, the sanction to Usha Martin wasn’t mentioned at all, either there or at the chairman-in-council meeting,” he claimed. Dutta also wanted to know how the amount of Rs 1 lakh had been arrived at.

The Reliance issue had dragged on for months, with the authorities refusing to allow the firm to set up towers in the parks even after the urban development department had asked the civic body to grant permission.

For Usha Martin, however, no clearance was taken by the municipality from the urban development department, officials admitted. “The overall government policy is to support the telecom-IT network,” said a senior urban development department official, refusing to comment on the ‘no-Reliance-yes-Usha Martin’ controversy.

Usha Martin chief operating officer Sunil Sood refused to read too much into the tower trouble: “Everything is above board and we are going to produce the municipality’s approval before the urban development department next week,” he said. He added that there were plans to set up more towers for mobile services, as Salt Lake was a “definite growth area”.

Reliance Infotech chose not to comment on the Salt Lake controversy. “We have no views to offer,” an official said on Sunday.

Bidhannagar Municipality chairman Dilip Gupta denied all charges of foul play: “Every matter need not be raised at the board meeting. There is nothing new and or illegal in this. Permission has also been given for towers on the roofs of Sushrut (a healthcare institute) and some other places. We must reap the benefits of science and technology.”

Jayanta Bose, secretary of the BF Block Residents’ Association, however, said residents were more concerned about the health issues involved. “We have read reports that such towers emit hazardous rays,” he said, promising to take up the matter with the West Bengal Pollution Control Board.

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