Amid the debate over adverse health effects of mobile phone tower radiation, the Centre has asked state governments to ease regulations restricting installation of towers near schools and hospitals, among other things.
The instructions, from the Department of Telecommunications, Union Ministry of Communications and IT, clash with the recently announced draft telecom infrastructure policy of Rajasthan, which has regulations on installation of cellphone towers near schools and hospitals.
The DoT letter, accessed by The Indian Express under the RTI Act, was sent to chief secretaries of all states on January 4, asking them to “re-examine” existing local policies so that they are aligned with the DoT guidelines issued in 2013.
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The Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), it says, has written to “Hon’ble MoC&IT regarding challenges being faced by telecom infrastructure providers across some of the states for infrastructure network rollout”. The letter highlights that “hospitals, educational institutes and residential areas are the biggest beneficiaries of mobile services”.
“Mobile services are required (by) hospitals for their therapeutic consultations and service delivery; (by) educational institutes for knowledge sharing; and (by) residential areas for enhancement of quality of life,” it says. “While in general, state governments/local bodies are following the guidelines issued by DoT, it is observed that some… have issued mobile tower installation policies (with) provisions that are not aligned (to DoT guidelines). For instance, provisions regarding restriction on installations of tower in specific buildings, requirement of multiple documentation, or charging of high permission fees etc are not in alignment of DoT guidelines,” the letter says.
The Rajasthan government’s recently announced draft telecom infrastructure policy 2015 has several such restrictions, including on installation of mobile phone towers around schools, hospitals, certain rivers and water bodies, railways and protected archaeological monuments.
No telecommunication infrastructure tower and allied activity shall be allowed “within the lands and buildings of Schools (excluding colleges & University), Hospitals, and Jail; and within 15 meters from the boundary of such Schools, Hospitals; and within 500 meters from the lands and buildings of such Jails,” the draft policy states.
However, the DoT letter points out that “telecom sector is a central subject” and telecom operators were allowed to “seek way-leave from any person including public authorities…state governments or central government (for) providing telephone service”.
“It would be pertinent to note that mobile towers are used to support telegraph and power to make rules for the conduct of telegraphs… has been conferred on the central government under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885,” it adds.