‘States, civic bodies must not rush to frame their own rules on cell towers’

Minister of State for Communications and IT Milind Deora has said that state governments and municipalities must not take individual decisions on the safety parameters for cellphone towers.

"Where we have to be a little careful as a society is that every state government and municipality should not start saying that they think it (the towers) is unsafe. It is actually the job of DoT (Department of Telecommunications) to decide what are the norms, and enforce those norms. We are doing it from a national perspective and from a perspective of what's good for cities and villages. We are not doing it based on what is good for Mumbai alone," Deora said during an interaction with The Indian Express on Thursday.

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has recently sought suggestions on a draft policy which proposes a ban on cellphone towers on the premises of hospitals and schools. BMC has also set up a committee under KEM Hospital dean Dr Sandhya Kamat to draw up guidelines for erecting the towers in the city.

According to Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI), a body of private cellphone operators, Mumbai and Delhi are witnessing the most opposition to the towers, with about 120 and 110 leases respectively having been cancelled or not renewed.The Rajasthan High Court order directing the removal of mobile phone towers installed overhead or in the vicinity of schools and hospitals, is being heard in the Supreme Court. According to existing BMC policy, cellphone tower antennae should not be allowed on school, college and hospital buildings. Deora said DoT has written to all states giving them a model set of guidelines. "We have told them to ask every municipality and panchayat to follow the norms while giving permissions (to set up cellphone towers)," he said.

It is important, Deora said, to have a balanced view. "We are trying to tell people to follow the model norms and let us do the research part. One should focus on how best it can be implemented. But when states or municipalities get into a thing of 'we think it (cellphone towers) should not be near a school', the first question that comes to my mind is how are people in office buildings safe, but school children unsafe? To me, that's a little bit illogical. If you react adversely, you may destroy something that does not need to be destroyed, like connectivity," he said.

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