Illegal cable: BBMP, fix accountability

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) newly declared war against illegal optical fibre cables (OFC) defacing the city is welcome, but it also begs the question, why was the civic body in deep slumber until matters came to a pass? So far, 80 kilometres of cables have been removed, with another 250 km to go in the city’s East Zone alone. The action, though commendable, has wreaked havoc on Bengaluru, which prides itself as ‘start-up city’, with communication, particularly internet connectivity, being thrown out of gear in many areas. The drive against overhead cables dangling dangerously from treetops and lamp posts, which began on TenderSure roads where underground ducts already exist, is to be extended to other parts of the city. With this, people will have to brace themselves for another round of communication glitches, for no fault of theirs. The genesis of the problem may be traced to the active collusion between BBMP officers and OFC operators for over a decade.

The officer-operator nexus was exposed way back in 2005, when the then district in-charge minister Ramalinga Reddy shot off an angry letter to the corporation reprimanding it for “going soft” on illegal OFCs, long after the deadline to clear them had expired. Predictably, nothing came out of it and in 2013 when the then mayor B S Sathyanarayana set up a committee headed by corporator N R Ramesh to study the issue, the magnitude of the problem was in full public glare. The panel found that 90% of the cables spanning some 55,000 km was laid illegally across Bengaluru by different companies. The length of unauthorised overhead cables was estimated at 8,000 km. With the ever-expanding digital footprint, the problem would only have magnified multifold now, five years later.

Clearly, it is impossible that operators dug up thousands of kilometres of roads and laid cables over every single electric pole and tree in the city without the connivance of the officers concerned. Illegal cables while depriving the BBMP of crores of rupees in revenue give service providers huge savings, which explains why the response of the authorities is always reactive and never preventive. With Bengaluru development minister G Parameshwara cracking the whip, the BBMP has been forced to act, albeit reluctantly. But, going by past experience, one expects that matters will be back to square one once the dust settles. It takes two to tango. The BBMP must identify the guilty officers and hand down exemplary punishment to them. Else, the current exercise, too, will remain a mere eyewash.

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Illegal cable: BBMP, fix accountability

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