The twin towers atop Jasbir Singh’s residence at New Layout Area in Jamshedpur on Monday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
The recent furore in Rajasthan over mobile towers installed near schools and hospitals triggered a similar protest in Jamshedpur, though on a smaller scale, but the district administration remained clueless on what to do, citing lack of clear-cut directions from the state government.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court came down heavily on mobile towers near residential areas, hospitals and schools, calling them hazardous due to radiation. Dismissing the petition filed by Cellular Operator Association of India, it upheld Rajasthan High Court’s interim order to remove the offending towers.
In Jamshedpur, residents and two schools have lodged complaints with East Singhbhum against Vodafone and Reliance mobile towers in New Layout Area, Sitaramdera.
Over 600 schoolchildren and 2,000 residents in the area are exposed to the towers.
But surprisingly, East Singhbhum district administration does not know what action to take.
The rooftop of a house owned by one Jasbir Singh in New Layout Area has two mobile towers, something that nearby Bengal Muslim Middle School, GEL Church Middle School and Singh’s neighbours have objected to.
But when they approached the district administration on September 22, authorities seemed bemused.
Additional deputy commissioner (ADC) East Singhbhum Ganesh Kumar admitted before The Telegraph that though they had received complaints related to the proximity of mobile towers to schools and homes, they were helpless as they lacked clear state guidelines.
“We know that mobile towers have an adverse effect on human health. But there is no clear-cut directive from the state government or legal provision to act against the presence of such towers. If we get a directive, we can definitely ask the special officer of the local civic body (in this case Jamshedpur Notified Area Committee) to remove the towers,” said the ADC.
This helplessness has not amused the complainants.
Pritpal Singh (64), a resident of Holding Number 439 Sitaramdera New Layout, said they had personally requested Jasbir Singh to remove the towers from his rooftop but he had refused to do so.
“Jasbir Singh told us he got Rs 8,000 per month from each of the cellular service providers and would not remove them till the district administration ordered him to. That’s why we went to the administration,” said the elderly man.
“The administration and mobile tower operators must realise it is a grave issue. Bengal Muslim Middle School has 200 students, GEL Church Middle School has more than 400 students. So, more than 600 children are exposed to radiation everyday,” said Kishore Kumar, acting principal of Bengal Muslim Middle School.
Though the administration pleads helplessness, youths are more clued in.
Jugsalai-based first-year commerce student Nikhil Sharda (18) of Jain College has made a three-minute film, Radiation Showers.
“I made the short film after getting to know from a doctor about people suffering from cancer, brain tumour and hearing deficiency due to mobile tower radiation. My survey revealed mobile towers were even installed near schools and diagnostic centres,” Nikhil said, adding that he had uploaded the film on YouTube, given a copy to Tata Steel and was planning to give another to the district administration and BSNL officials.
Do you stay, study or work near a mobile tower?