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Telecos ruin roads, BBMP looks other way

G Manjusainath, Bangalore, Jan 21, 2013, DHNS :
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The deplorable condition of the City’s roads can be attributed to extensive digging carried out by 14 telecom players and Bescom between 2007 and 2010. According to official figures, they had together dug and drilled 3,146 km of earth along the length and breadth of Bangalore.

Documents accessed by Deccan Herald suggested that the 14 telecom companies operating in the City had extensively dug up the arterial and sub-arterial roads of the City, against a payment of Rs 119 crore to the BBMP. While Rs 92.09 crore was charged as road-cutting fees, the rest was refundable security deposit. Ever since, the Palike has either not received any payment or has not updated its account books.

Sources in the Palike claimed that around 25,000 km of earth was actually dug up, with a telecom major admitting to have laid over 4,000 km of optical fibre cable. The major contributors to the Palike’s coffers were Tata Teleservices and the state-owned Bescom and BSNL. However, the revenue generated is hardly 10 per cent of the expected turnover in the current BBMP budget.

The 14 telecom firms under scanner are Reliance Communications, Aircel, Tata Teleservices, Vodafone Essar, Bharti Airtel, Dishnet, Incable, Tata Communications, Indus Media and Communications, Hathway Cable and Datacom, Idea Cellular, Spectra Net, BSNL and Bell Teleservices.

The BBMP’s Optical Cable Fibre (OFC) division admitted that it did not have full details on the total length of OFC laid across the City. The telecom firms had initially claimed to have laid OFCs along 6,061.926 km. However, after the BBMP authorities alleged that the figures were deflated, they agreed to have laid OFCs along an additional 1,024.074 km.

The Palike has plans to regularise the OFCs laid illegally by levying penalty.

‘Laughable declarations’

Reacting to the declarations of the telecom firms about the OFC laid in the City, Yediyur ward corporator N R Ramesh said: “The telecom companies are in the process of agreeing that they have laid an extra 4,000 km.”

“The information we possess show that at least 35,000 km of road has been dug up.” He added that Reliance Telecom has confessed to laying 4,000 km of OFC. Ramesh said though the telecom firms claimed to have used the Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) technology, they dug up many roads and used the underground sewerage line for laying OFCs.

He added that each OFC laid in the City has 144 fibre wires, while the annual rent collected for every kilometre of fibre wire was about Rs 26,000. “The total turnover of these 14 telecom firms in 2010-11 was about Rs 48,000 crore in Bangalore alone.

To lay these cables, these firms had used 1.77 lakh sq ft of land in a City where the average land price is about Rs 8,000 per sq ft. This way, the value of land used by them in Bangalore is about Rs 16,400 crore. Once these cables are laid, then the land can not be used for any other purpose. So, it is as good as selling out these lands to the telecom firms.”

Palike authorities insist that the telecom firms should pay at least 7 per cent of their earnings to the BBMP. BBMP Commissioner Siddaiah said the Palike managed to generate Rs 120 crore from telecoms players only because it had formulated some policy in 2010-11.

“Had we not pressured the telecom firms to cough up revenue for the damage caused to the City roads and pavements, we would not have got anything from them,” said Siddaiah.

The Palike is serious about collecting revenue from these firms and has introduced rental for laying cables. However, since the matter is sub judice, revenue generated from the OFCs have not met the expectations, said another Palike official.

 

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