THE TELECOM Ministry has rejected requests from two MPs, including one from the BJP, to stop the construction of mobile towers in specific areas of their constituencies due to public health concerns over electromagnetic radiation, according to records obtained by The Indian Express under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
RTI records show that Manoj Sinha, Minister of State (independent charge), Department of Telecommunications (DoT), denied the requests stating that the tower “has not yet been operational” in one case and that the amount of electromagnetic radiation emitted has been “found to be compliant as per the DoT norms” in the other.
RTI records show that the requests to stop the construction of towers were sent last year by Daddan Mishra, a BJP Lok Sabha MP from Shravasti in UP, and Sakuntala Laguri, a BJD Lok Sabha MP from Keonjhar in Odisha.
According to the RTI records, Mishra wrote to the then telecom minister Ravishankar Prasad on April 17, 2016, stating that Indus Towers — India’s largest telecom towers company and a joint venture of Airtel, Vodafone and Idea — was establishing a mobile tower near a “populated area” and a “school” in Motinagar village without a “no-objection certificate (NOC)”.
“As per the report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), electromagnetic radiations emitted by mobile towers invite serious diseases,” wrote Mishra. The MP asked Prasad to take “strict action against Indus Towers” and give directions to “concerned officers” to “remove the telecom towers from populated area and school area”.
Mishra also claimed that the towers were being established without NOCs. To back his claim, the MP attached a letter written by the Nand Kumar Pandey, the then pradhan of Motinagar gram panchayat. In the letter addressed to the district collector, Pandey wrote: “I think the company must have submitted the NOC with the fake signature to the department concerned. However, the village administration, school administration as well as students have been opposing the establishment of this mobile tower.”
On July 6, 2016, Sinha replaced Prasad as Telecom Minister. And, On August 17, 2016, he replied to Mishra: “In the instant case, the Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TERM) cell of UP(E) circle was directed to get the radiation level measured for the mobile towers in question and to submit a detailed report on the representation. The report from TERM cell of UP(E) circle states that the tower under reference has not yet been operational. Also, a NOC for the mobile tower in question was obtained from the concerned gram pradhan Nand Kumar Pandey (complainant himself). I hope you may agree with the position in the matter.”
Indus Towers did not respond to requests seeking comment by The Indian Express.
On September 30, 2016, BJD MP Laguri, in a letter to Sinha, wrote that telecom operators have either established or are going to erect telecom towers in “school, college, hospital and residential vicinity areas of my constituency, including two such towers in district headquarter hospital area of Keonjhar”. In his reply, dated January 25 this year, Sinha wrote: “In the instant case… the report from TERM (Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring) cell of Odisha circle states that the radiation level at these locations have been measured and found to be compliant as per DoT norms.”
On the impact on health of electromagnetic field emissions from mobile towers, Sinha wrote to Mishra and Laguri that the World Health Organization had had concluded, based on “an in-depth review of scientific literature”, that the “current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields”.
Sinha told the MPs that the DoT has laid down precautionary norms, which are ten times more stringent than the existing limits prescribed by International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), for exposure limit for a radio frequency field.