Monday, April 27, 2009

Soon, secure mobile towers in Gadchiroli

27 Apr 2009, 0144 hrs IST, Soumittra S Bose, TNN

NAGPUR: Mobile telephone operators wary of erecting towers in Naxal-affected Gadchiroli areas will soon have secured places like police stations and government premises at hand to ensure better connectivity.

Poor communication facilities in Gadchiroli district often hamper smooth functioning of the police and forest departments besides the people in general. Except for public sector undertaking Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), the private companies are reluctant to install mobile towers due to repeated threats from Naxals who view the strengthening of communication facilities as strategic support for the police machinery and its informer base.
Naxals had destroyed two towers of different companies and an unmanned telephone office in 2006 and targeted villagers keeping mobile phones, suspecting them to be police informers. Following the attack, the police had to provide security to enable the cabling work for telephone lines.

District collector Atul Patne said that mobile telephone companies have been invited to set up installations in Gadchiroli. “Police stations and other well-guarded premises are ideal places to erect towers as total protection could be given to service providers. The initiative would also save the companies from identifying safer places in the Naxal-dominated areas, he said. There are 43 premises of police department. These include 14 police stations, 13 subs-stations and some armed outposts.

Although the government had okayed this proposal about a year ago, but no initiative on this front was taken in Gadchiroli so far. Patne said that mobile connectivity will be a boon for both the government machinery and villagers. “Forest guards and officials find themselves in a spot due to lack of proper connectivity inside deep jungles. If mobile companies installed bases, these personnel could give quick information about incidents like tree-felling and poaching.

“Better mobile connectivity would lessen the dependence of the police department on wireless communication which is regularly intercepted by Naxals,” said Patne. He has plans to use police premises for educational and recreation purposes for school dropouts and other children.

Proper connectivity would also help villagers during emergencies. “Villagers can contact the district administration in case of emergency situations like flood or epidemics. They can also use mobiles for contacting hospitals for getting ambulance services,” said Patne.

Additional director general of police Pankaj Gupta, chief of the anti-Naxal operations cell, said that the proposal to install mobile towers was under the consideration of central government officials. “Mobile towers have always been in Naxal crosshairs. Police also understood the need to ensure special protection to the towers but the idea could not take off as no mobile companies came forward,” he said.

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