Towering Problem
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Residents believe that electromagnetic radiations emitted from cellular towers are affecting their health adversely, although no conclusive evidence has been established

Mandi/Kullu, July 22
Communication towers installed by telecom service providers have created a problem of sorts in the state. Besides dotting the beauty of the hill state, these towers pose a health hazard for residents, who bear the brunt of noise pollution and harmful radiations.

Not only this, the telecom companies in connivance with the authorities are making mockery of the Town and Country Planning (TCP) Act as in most cases as these service providers are neither paying the installation fees nor the renewal fees fixed by the state government to the local bodies.

It is mandatory for telecom companies to get NOC and pay fees to the local bodies. We will ask the electricity board to snap their power connection if they do not comply with the rules. We have detected dozens of illegal towers and will take action in all cases. — Town planner Mandi-Kullu-Hamirpur A.N. Gautam

Enough is enough!

  • There are more than 3,000 communication towers in the state while another 2,000 are in the offing.
  • Telecom companies are neither paying the installation fees nor the renewal fees to the local bodies.
  • Diesel-run generators are being used to operate the towers, which emit noxious gases and create noise pollution.

More is less?

As one leaves Manali town and follows the National Highway-20, he is most likely to encounter BSNL mobile signal problem. It is more evident in Bijani village where BSNL mobile connections virtually receive zero signal despite the fact that the village is located on the important highway, just 2 km from Mandi. The disheartening fact is that a tower erected in the area about four months back has not started functioning yet. This has been causing inconvenience to the people of this fast growing region. The company must step up the work to make the tower operational and help its subscribers.

Aadi Vaidya, VPO Bijani, Distt Mandi

From temple town of Mandi to hill station of Manali, the communication towers have become eyesores marring the beauty of the landscape.

At most of these places, the mobile towers have become health hazards and create nuisance for residents of the surrounding areas.

Lal Chand Thakur, president, Bagwan-Kisan Janhit Sangharsh Samiti, Naggar, said, “The towers are a nuisance and affect the health of residents, particularly those who suffer from depression and others disorders. The telecom companies pay some compensation to farmers on whose land towers are installed while other residents are not consulted”.

In the state, various telecom companies, including Airtel, Reliance, Tata Indicomm, Aircel, BSNL and Vodafone, have erected more than 3,000 communication towers while another 2,000 are in the offing. Most of these are concentrated in major towns of Mandi, Shimla, Dharamsala, Kullu-Manali, Solan, etc.

However, in most of the cases, they are not paying the required installation fees to the local bodies mainly in the central belt of the state, reveal officials and village pardhans.

The companies use diesel-run generators to operate the towers, which emit noxious gases and blow eardrums due to the high decibel noise, complain local residents.  

Meanwhile, the mobile service providers claim that they have obtained NOCs from their central cells through the single window system of the defence, civil aviation and communication ministries based in New Delhi. Thereafter they pay to the authorities of area concerned before they install towers. Sources, however, claim that these companies have been evading the fees.

The state government has fixed rates for the installation of towers in each pocket, ranging from Rs 20,000 as installation fee for Shimla Municipal Corporation and an annual renewal fee of Rs 10,000 for each tower. Similarly, it is Rs 10,000 in council or committee areas, with renewal annual fee of Rs 5,000 per tower.

In Mandi, the local municipal council has recently detected over 30 towers installed by companies, including BSNL, for which no fee has been paid.

Executive officer Urvashi Walia said the council was issuing notices to the service providers as none of them had paid the requisite fees. Over 30 towers had been installed in the area, but the council got nothing for these towers, she added.

The scene is in no different in the Kullu-Manali area where one can find a cluster of towers. In the SADA area of Solang, Rohtang-Marhi, Naggar in Kulu Manali, over 18 towers have been installed illegally, reveal the sources. “Three illegal towers have been detected in the SADA area Ner Chowk in Mandi”. 

Their modus operandi is simple: they strike a deal with the private land owners in key locations and pay them rent and install the towers there, sources say. “Even local JEs are allegedly hand in glove with the service providers,” they say.

Town planner Mandi-Kullu-Hamirpur A.N. Gautam said, ”It is mandatory for telecom companies to get NOC and pay fees to the local bodies. We will ask the electricity board to snap their power connection if they do not comply with the rules. We have detected dozens of illegal towers and will take action in all cases,” he added.

CGM BSNL Anil Kaushal claimed BSNL being a government company was the only firm that got the NOC and paid the fees as per rules. “We have installed over 700 towers in the state as per rules and another 500 towers are in the pipeline,” he added.



Council chamber — the orators’ floor
by Shriniwas Joshi

Mahatma Gandhi had decided to go on fast unto death in Yervada jail in 1932, as a protest against the Indian franchise system arbitrarily decreed by His Majesty’s government after the leading Indians members had withdrawn from the Government’s consultative committee.

Vithalbhai Patel wrote to Gandhi on this decision, “You expect His Majesty’s government to modify its actions. Your expectation is based upon the assumption that the British government has a heart that we can touch by our sufferings. It is heartless. ... I, with all Indians abroad (he was in London then), deplore your decision to fast unto death.”

Such daring personality, the first elected president (today’s Speaker) of the Central Legislative Assembly from 1925 to 1930 — the year in which he resigned because of “harassment, persecution and boycott” by the British — had graced the historical chair at the Council Chamber in Shimla, giving impartiality to the post. On occupying the chair, he had said,” From this moment, I cease to be a party man. I belong to no party.” He strengthened the independence of the institution by declining to accept a ticket from any party in next election to the assembly and then fought and won as an independent member to be unanimously re-elected to the chair.

Asserting the president’s prerogatives, Vithalbhai got a resolution passed by the central legislature for the creation of a separate legislative assembly department under the president himself as he firmly believed that no authority other than the president should be responsible to the assembly which later paved way for Article 98 (1) and Article 187 (1) in the Indian Constitution providing independent secretariats to the legislative bodies.

The Council Chamber’s floor here has also observed the rhetoric of S. Satyamurthi who was feared in the central assembly by the official block for his supplementary questions. Sir James Grigg, finance member, had nicknamed Satyamurthi as “Supplemurthi” because he fired supplementary with the rattle of a machinegun. The treasury bench used to acknowledge his greatness outside the floor, “Like the Niagara he was torrential, deafening and unceasing.”

Another orator was Bhulabhai Desai, leader of the Congress party in the assembly. He entered a debate only when it was necessary to do so but when he spoke, he did so with authority avoiding harsh words. There was hardly ever an empty seat in the house when he used to speak. Motilal Nehru and M.A. Jinnah were engaged in tiffs quite often but would support each other too. Once after a rift with Jinnah, Motilal remarked: “We can afford to fight like Kilkenny cats and still be friends”. And here is Jinnah when the British thought that Motilal was not cooperating: “Will you bring Motilal Nehru to bow before the throne at Vice-regal lodge? What has Pandit Motilal Nehru been doing in the assembly? Has he not been cooperating with you? Have you no eyes, have you no ears, have you no brains?”

The oratory of these luminaries was matchless; miniature versions of these in the Himachal assembly could be late Jai Behari Lal Khachi and Shanta Kumar.

The design of Council Chamber was approved in 1920 by Claude Hill (then public works member) Committee comprising 15 legislators. It was the last government building that the British had constructed in Shimla and was inaugurated on August 27, 1925 by Lord Reading, the Viceroy who arrived in a Victoria driven by six horses to the melodic tunes of British regimental bands specially invited for the occasion.

The main hall of the building today has 72 seats whereas then, it had 145, 104 for elected and 41 for nominated members. A historical fixture of Council Chamber is the chair on which sits the Speaker today. Made of Burma teak, it is a gift of the then government of Burma. The chair has been modified by replacing crown on top with the national emblem.

The building meant for legislative body has witnessed conduction of the assemblies of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh after Independence and housing of state secretariat and All-India Radio after 1956. Mercifully Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha has revisited and been functioning here since October 1, 1963.


When he rises to speak, he does not know what he is going to say. When he is speaking he does not know what he is saying, and when he sits down he does not know what he has said.

— Gladstone, British PM on a legislator



BPO boom takes state by storm
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, July 22
Getting a government job used to be the aim of most of the students graduating in the state. However, the scenario is changing thanks to the growing number of business process outsourcing (BPO) companies. Graduates and undergraduates from the state are hot picks for BPO companies in Chandigarh and Delhi.

Swahi Verma of Sidhpur village, a graduate in arts stream from Dharamsala Government College, was persuaded by consultants to move out and make a career in BPO industry, which she did. Presently, she is employed in Convergys and getting a salary of Rs 15,000 per month.

Yagesh Sharma, a resident of Sunhi village in Baroh tehsil of Kangra, completed in postgraduation in science from Himachal Pradesh University. Initially, he tried his luck in getting a teaching job. Later, he chose to work in BPO and managed to get a job in IBM in Chandigarh. Harvinder Singh of Kaswa Nirwana, a small village near Yol cantonment, completed his B.Sc from a local college. Most of his chums opted for B.Ed or M.Sc. However, he chose a job in the private sector.

He is now serving in Convergys call centre at Delhi. Gaurav Sharma, a resident of Nurpur, had just completed 10+2. Earlier, he could hardly any good job opportunity with this qualification. Now, he is placed in a domestic call centre of Vodaphone and is earning about Rs 8,000 per month.

Similarly, Parveen Kumar of Speda village in Shahpur tehsil of Kangra district, who has done graduation, is also earning handsomely. Much of the credit goes to consultancies that have played a significant role in placements. For instance, Amit Jaiswal and Ashsih Jaiswal, both brothers, started their own venture as a franchise of Visions Unlimited, a placement company, about two years ago. In the past two years, they have placed about 700 students from across the state in BPO companies.

“The beginning was not easy. The students were apprehensive about working in BPO companies. It took a lot of skill and energy to convince the parents that their children would be safe in this environment,” Amit said.

He added, “The inclination of students to get government jobs is another bottleneck. They prefer a government job of just Rs 3,000 per month to Rs 15,000 in a BPO. However, as students from the state started getting placed in private companies, it triggered a chain reaction and now more are coming forward”.



Shimla diary
State looks ahead to Rau’s tenure
Pratibha Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 22
With the new Governor, Prabha Rau, having a keen interest in sports, music and social reforms, it is being hoped that these areas would get a major fillip in the state.

Although Rau, an astute politician, was a strong contender for the post of Chief Minister of Maharashtra and gave a tough time to her archrival Vilas Rao Deshmukh, it now remains to be seen how she will fare as a Governor.

Hailing from an illustrious family of freedom fighters and social reformers from village Rohini in Wardha, she too has made significant contribution to various causes. Her father Gulabrao Wasu, an engineer from Galsgow, joined the Swadeshi movement. Her mother, Manubai Wasu, a qualified doctor, quit service to serve the ailing and needy at the Sewagram Ashram with Mahatma Gandhi.

In fact, Vinoba Bhave’s ashram was initially housed in the Wasu family’s home. Her family ensured drinking water access and entry into temples for the Dalits, who were forbidden from entering the Hindu shrines in those days. Her father donated a maternity hospital to the Kasturba Trust.

Rau is a graduate in classical music and represented India twice at international meets. During her student days she also remained a member of the university athletics team and cultural delegations.

MC’s woes

There seems to be no end to the woes of the local municipal corporation (MC), which has been directed to remove all encroachers but at the same time also rehabilitate them.

After Tibetans, who will be provided an alternate site to set up their shops after the Tibetan market is removed; it is the Muslim hawkers in the town who are seeking similar treatment. The president of Himachal Hawkers Society Liyakat Ali has urged the High Court to direct the MC to issue similar orders with regard to them. He said the MC was harassing the hawkers to remove the encroachments, but they have no other options for lack of a proper place.

“Neither the Wakf Board nor the MC is coming to our rescue, so we urge you to direct the latter to rehabilitate us.,” he urged the High Court.

IGMC eye bank

With the setting up of an eye bank at the Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC), the lives of 3,000 visually impaired persons in the state could witness a sea change.

Even though the facility of corneal transplant is available at PGI, Chandigarh, due to the huge rush of patients there, the poor and needy residents of Himachal had to suffer. But with the state health department finally deciding to open its own eye bank at IGMC, people suffering from visual handicaps will greatly benefit.

It is surprising that despite Central agencies providing all funds and infrastructure for the setting up of the eye bank, the health authorities had earlier declined the offer. Although the formalities for setting up an eye bank in Shimla were started way back in 1986, it is taken years for it to materialise.

It now remains to be seen how enthusiastically people of the state will come forward and offer help in this noble cause.



Muck from Budhil project threatens Ravi
Balkrishan Prashar

Chamba, July 22
There are apprehensions of ecological imbalances in the lush green mountainous region of Bharmour in Chamba district following the reckless disposal of muck excavated from the 70-MW Budhil hydroelectric project.

The project is being constructed on the Budhil rivulet, a tributary of the Ravi, in the district.

According to sources, the disposal sites have been earmarked and approved by the state forest department as well as the Himachal Pradesh Environment and Pollution Control Board, but no one seems to bother whether the muck is being dumped at the earmarked sites or not.

The digging and excavation works for the project are threatening the Ravi on the right bank where a powerhouse is proposed to be constructed.

The plan envisages disposal of muck at the earmarked areas along the river courses and adequate measures like breast walling and providing crate walls in line with sound engineering practice have to be implemented.  

Recently, an NGO, working on the environmental aspects of this hydroelectric project, monitored the environment protection works in and around the project. The NGO would submit its report to the Centre and the state government suggesting remedial measures.



Hamirpur to house hotel mgt institute
Dharam Prakash Gupta
Tribune News Service

Hamirpur, July 22
With the laying of foundation stone of the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition near Hamirpur by Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal here recently, the district has taken a step forward in becoming an education hub of the state.

It also has the distinction of opening the first engineering college of Himachal Pradesh.

Deputy general manager of the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) Ajay Thakur said, “This institute would provide a three-year degree course in hotel management and one-and-a-half year course in front office, F&B and allied subjects”.

Initially, 350 seats in different courses would be available. Admission to these would be made on the basis of all-India entrance test.

A picturesque site for this institute has been selected at Sasan, 4 km from Hamirpur town, he added.





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