Tower 'torment' spurs stir

Protest prompts Ranchi mayor lens on illegal telecom installations

Mayor Asha Lakra interacts with villagers of Saraitand in Morabadi, Ranchi, who are against installation of a mobile tower (right), on Monday. Telegraph pictures

A base transceiver station of a leading mobile service provider, installed in Morabadi area of Ranchi on Saturday without the mandatory no-objection certificate from municipal authorities, triggered angry protests on Monday, prompting mayor Asha Lakra and police to intervene.

Trouble began at Saraitand village in the morning when workers of Ascend Telecom Infrastructure Private Limited, an installation vendor whose services have been hired by telecom giant Bharti Airtel, reached the premises of lessor and local resident Sanjay Toppo to trigger tower operations.

Fearing radiation hazards, some people asked the company officials to show them the NOC from the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC), which is mandatory for setting up base transceiver stations that facilitate wireless communication between user equipment and a network.

Ascend Telecom officials failed to furnish papers and a mob of 60-odd villagers gheraoed them, demanding immediate dismantling of the 40-metre-high metal structure. They even locked out workers.

Saraitand resident and BJP worker Devidayal Munda claimed that mobile towers were mushrooming in the Morabadi area without permission. "Last year, Toppo had leased out his land to Reliance Jio for Rs 10,000 a month. We had requested him not to rent his property arbitrarily and expose others to radiation. He didn't listen. Now, he has rented his land to Bharti Airtel for Rs 11,000," Munda said.

As the situation threatened to become volatile, the district administration rushed a posse of policemen to the spot. Mayor Lakra and her civic team too reached Saraitand to quell the protests.

"Operations of this base transceiver station will remain suspended till the matter is settled," announced city DSP Sudarshan Kumar Astik who led the police team.

Lakra echoed the officer, saying she had asked the vendor to stop operations. "This is a private land and cannot be leased out for installation of a mobile tower without RMC approval," she said.

Land acquisition officer of the Ascend Telcom Amar Kumar claimed that the Airtel tower was still in its "testing period" and they had already applied for permission.

"Our company applied for the NOC on March 3. Despite repeated requests, the RMC has not responded to our application so far. The delay has increased installation costs," he complained.

Additional municipal commissioner Om Prakash Shah, who was with the mayor, said the RMC would take a decision on the NOC within a week.

Incidentally, in January, a similar protest had been registered in Bariatu area of state the capital. An RMC source said that around 778 applications for installation, renewal or legalisation of mobile towers were pending with the civic body, which grants NOCs under Section 426 of the Jharkhand Municipal Act.

According to a 2011-13 CAG report, released in March this year, there are 311 illegal towers in Ranchi. CAG had compiled figures for Ranchi, Dhanbad and Deoghar, indicating that the government was losing Rs 10.9 crore because civic bodies were being careless.



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