August 20, 2021 8:00:00 am
DESPITE SEVERAL official notices, and at least one legal complaint, Jio Digital Fibers Private Limited — which has erected poles and allegedly encroached upon government street lights/ electric poles in parts of Haryana — is yet to take down any of its aerial cablings. The cables, officials say, have also been put up in violation of the Haryana government’s Communication and Connectivity Infrastructure Policy (CCIP).
Panchkula civic body nod in violation of CCIP
The matter has a long-pending history in the city, with the issue finding its roots way back in January 2020 when the then Panchkula Municipality Executive Engineer permitting Jio to hoist its overhead telecom cable in sector 24-25 while directing it to obtain permission from “HSVP, HUDA, BSNL or any other concerned department” as required.
A notice soon after was issued by Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam on March 16, 2020, asking Jio to take down its cables and infrastructure as it was in violation of state laws. As per the notice, the private telecom company had in April 2019 asked for permission from Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam to put up overhead cables which was denied by the state department. “It has now come to the notice of Nigam that you have erected poles in sector 12 Panipat, and sector 24-25 Panchkula in violation of norms/clauses of CCIP… the permission obtained by you from Estate Officer/ Municipal Corporation is also in violation of CCIP… you are directed to remove poles installed,” the notice issued to Jio read.
The CCIP states that the underground ducts – that are used by government agencies to lay underground cables – be used by other service providers as well on a sharing basis as well. It also lays down a procedure for submitting an application for seeking permission to lay the communication infrastructure.
Jio Digital Fibers, however, as per the Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam, was never permitted to put up overhead cables under the policy nor the company followed proper procedure for seeking permission in this regard.
Jio offered to pay Rs 10 crore in rent
Jio Digital Fibers then wrote back to Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (UHBVN) asking it to “withdraw” its previous notice while offering to pay the government department Rs 10 crore as rent.
UHBVN, however, stuck to its stance, and stated, “The installation of poles by your firm in area sector 12 of Panipat, sector 24-25 Panchkula and sector 5, 7 of Kurukshetra is in utter violation of provisions contained in CCIP. Besides, poles erected by your firm are in close vicinity of electric poles of the Nigam which are unauthorized and in contravention of Regulation 58 to 61 of Central Electricity Authority… the contention of your firm that there is no scope of any possibility of safety lapse is hollow. Moreover, the contention regarding paying rent of Rs 10 crore as quoted by your firm cannot be accepted at cost of life and property of public.”
Panchkula DC steps in, but Jio adamant
Meanwhile, following the death of a youth in Pinjore due to electrocution from overhead wires, the then DC of Panchkula, Mukesh Kumar Ahuja, on August 21 last year, held a meeting with Municipal Commissioner, Mahavir Singh, and stated that “the connective wires by operators of cable networks are being used without approval of municipal authorities”. He then went on to direct UHBVN to “remove the wires installed along with electricity poles within a period of 10 days.”
As per locals of sector 25, while all local cable connections, which was using electricity poles, were taken down, Jio had managed to set up its own poles and infrastructure as per permissions provided by the civic body. “The authorities did nothing to take those down,” says resident Sanjeev, also the President of CWA 25, which is one of the several fronts fighting for the removal of Jio’s cables in a joint effort.
As per SDO, Arun Goyal, of UHBVN under whose jurisdiction the area falls, “We could not take apart their infrastructure as they had permissions from the municipality for it. Even though the permissions are not legal as per law, we have to abide by them,” he said.
That Citizens’ House Owner Committee had in March 2020, filed a writ petition and issued a notice to Municipality of Panchkula as well as Jio. The matter remains pending before the Punjab and Haryana High Court since then.
The petitioners have only requested the quashing of the permission issued by Panchkula civic body, which is in violation of CCIP policy of overhead cables on poles erected. “The overhead cables are also against smart cities mission of the Ministry of Urban Development and we have pointed out the same in HC as well. My question is how is Panchkula supposed to become a smart city if its civic body does not follow the guidelines issued by the state and Central governments,” says Advocate Prashant Gupta, who is representing the citizens’ association and is also a resident of sector 25 of the city.
Complaint filed by UHBVN in police station, but no action
Having found no respite, the UHBVN Panchkula zone on July 24 this year filed a legal complaint against Jio, suggesting action under Sections 188 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 133 of CrPC for unauthorized installation of infrastructure, overhead cables along the electricity poles, and overhead wires of UHBVN.
With the matter remaining subjudice in the High Court, the Panchkula police are yet to turn the complaint into an FIR, even as Jio Digital Fibers Private Limited continues to expand its web across the state of Haryana without requisite permissions. The company, which started with a sector of Panchkula, has now spread to various other districts and several other sectors of Panchkula itself, including sectors 6,7,8, 24, 25, and sectors of MDC.
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