Pune, 28th March 2023: An RTI query has revealed that out of the 2,028 mobile towers present in Pune, only 268 of them have received permission to operate legally, meaning that 1,760 of them are illegal.
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is to take action against these illegal towers, which pose a serious threat to the environment and the health of citizens. Furthermore, most of the owners of legal towers have not paid taxes for years, resulting in the PMC losing out on tax revenue from the companies, which is affecting the development of the city.
The RTI application has identified some of the leading national and multinational telecom companies as being responsible for erecting illegal mobile towers across Pune. The list of companies includes Vodafone Cellular Ltd, Ascend Telecom Infra, ATC Telecom Tower Pvt. Ltd., Indus Tower Ltd, Airkonnects Network, Viam Network Ltd., Reliance Jio Infocom, Internet, Tata Teleservice, Bharti Airtel Ltd, Unity Telecom Infrastructure, Tower Vision India, Idea Cellular, GTL Infrastructure Ltd., Chennai Network, and Vodafone Mobile Ltd.
Lalit Sasane and Pradeep Naik, RTI activists, had sought to know the actual number of legal and illegal mobile towers in the city. Sasane stated that he found only 284 towers had the authority’s permission, and the rest were illegal. He questioned why the PMC has not taken action against these illegal towers and why many tower owners have not paid any taxes, incurring financial loss to the PMC.
Vikram Karve, a social activist and writer, said that citizens’ health is being affected by this illegal activity, and builders are also guilty because, for a return of rent, they allow the construction of towers on the roofs.
The PMC has failed to take action against the illegal mobile towers despite the seriousness of the issue. The radiation emitted by mobile towers causes severe health problems, and the presence of so many illegal towers only increases the risk of radiation-related health problems.
Despite follow-ups, the PMC is still waiting for guidelines from the Bombay High Court, and the issue depends on the court order – either the PMC can recover the arrears and regularize the tax or take action as per the order.