A toast to safety, perhaps.
After a decade or so of indifference, the Ranchi Regional Development Authority (RRDA) has launched a major crackdown on illegal mobile phone towers in the state capital. On Friday, a five-member team sealed five illegal base stations at Mahilong in Namkum and the promise is to weed out every unauthorised tower to prevent apparently harmful exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
A rough survey shows around 500 mobile phone masts in areas under the Ranchi Municipal Corporation’s (RMC) jurisdiction. Official records suggest only 23 are guilty of “unregulated construction”, which means they didn’t secure or violated clearances from the RRDA and Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB).
These have been raised by at least 10 different telecom operators. The felled five are Tata Indicom, Tata Docomo, Airtel, Reliance and Aircel.
Deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey, who is also the vice-chairman of RRDA, on Monday said he had ordered the crackdown on unauthorised cell towers a few months ago, but the same could not be carried out owing to Lok Sabha and mayoral poll engagements.
“Hence, the drive was launched last week,” he said, adding that it would continue until the rest 18 rogue mobile phone masts were sealed.
“We are keeping a watchful eye. No-objection certificates are provided to only those telecom operators who construct base stations in adherence to guidelines.”
Mobile towers are said to be hazardous because they emit microwaves at a frequency of 1900MHz. Studies have shown that the intense radioactivity from such a station adversely impacts every biological organism within one square kilometre. Hence, installing towers at a safe distance is a primary criterion.
The Supreme Court has imposed a ban on installation of mobile towers near schools, college, hospitals and residential areas because microwave radiation is often perceived as “potentially carcinogenic”.
Surendranath Dubey of Namkum, atop whose home a Tata Docomo tower is installed that has now been sealed, opposed the crackdown. “I have all clearances. How could they just block the signal like that?” he said.
Deputy commissioner Choubey admitted that some beneficiaries had opposed their drive, saying cases were pending in Jharkhand High Court. “We asked them to furnish the stay orders, which they couldn’t. So, we went ahead and sealed the mobile phone masts,” he said.
RMC’s deputy mayor Sanjeev Vijaywargiya backed Choubey. “If, on the one hand, we are receiving applications from mobile phone companies for installation of base stations, on the other hand, we are also reviewing clearance papers of existing ones,” he said.
Vijaywargiya added that they would take up the matter again during a board meeting scheduled on Thursday. “Our priority is to stall mushrooming of illegal cell towers in the capital.”