The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Inspection buries safety tag
- Survey finds 11 Reliance cables too close to surface

At two out of 20, the score-sheet is just not good enough. And when the figures deal with ‘killer’ cables, it could be reason enough to push the panic button.

A random survey carried out by a government-appointed joint inspection team has drilled holes into the Reliance Infocomm claim that it had buried the optical fibre cables — one of which had claimed the life of Amit Dalmia on May 12 — “properly” under the city road surfaces.

Of the 20 spots scrutinised, the cables were found to be below the mandatory 80 mm level at only two — opposite the Institute of Jute Technology on Ballygunge Circular Road and in front of 6/2, Moira Street.

The inspection was carried out last week by a team constituted in the third week of May, comprising members of the city civic authorities, the police, the CMDA and Reliance.

All this comes in the wake of Amit Dalmia’s tragic death at the wheel after he drove over an exposed metal strip of the optic-fibre cable laid by Reliance on Camac Street. The metal strip, jutting out of the road surface, had pierced the undercarriage of the 26-year-old’s car and ripped through his body.

The inspection team submitted a two-page report burying the Reliance safety claim to mayor Subrata Mukherjee early this week, a copy of which is with Metro. The probe team set off on the premise that the galvanised iron casings on the optical fibre — or cables used as protective coverings — were required to be buried at a minimum depth of 80 mm under the road surface. During inspection, it was found that at least at 11 spots, the casings were at depths between 20 mm and 40 mm.

According to the report, only at two places in south Calcutta were the cables found embedded at the stipulated depth. The spots inspected by the team included Market Street, Chowringhee Place, Kyd Street, AJC Bose Road, Karaya Road, Ekbalpore Road, Belvedere Road and Gopalnagar Road.

In the New Market area, near the ‘fish range’, the cable was discovered at a depth of only 20 mm. At three places on Muktarambabu Street, Kalakar Street and Tarak Pramanik Road, the metal casings were found exposed. “But the exposed portion had been cut off just before inspection,” the report says.

“We had repeatedly told the government that Reliance was not conforming to the safety norms. The inspection has proved my point,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee, holding up the inspection report.

Reliance, of course, is sticking to its blame-it-on-other-factors stand. “Under the direct buried cabling method, the optical-fibre cables are laid in a six-inch-deep duct below the road surface. During the joint inspection, in some places, the protective metal strips over the cable were found at much less than 80-mm depth. This was due to the unevenness of the road surface,” claimed Kalyan Sarengi, of Reliance Infocomm, on Friday.

Sarengi added that at least at 70 to 80 spots, the company had already taken steps to set right the metal strips jutting out of the road surfaces, without waiting for feedback either from the police or the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC). “We have tightened our surveillance to ensure the metal strips are not jutting out to endanger road safety,” assured Sarengi.

Reliance has laid nearly 300 km of optical-fibre cables, out of a total of 700 km in the city, as part of its country-wide project. In Calcutta, the project cost has been pegged at around Rs 2,200 crore. But neither the government nor the CMC had taken any steps to monitor the quality of Reliance’s road restoration till Amit Dalmia’s death.

According to the mayor, the state government had waived supervision of the Reliance cable-laying project. “In the agreement, there was a provision for supervision against payment. But this particular clause was not adhered to, on a request made by the government,” clarified Mukherjee.

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