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Mobile Towers Source Of Graft For SDMC?

How hard is it to spot a mobile tower? South Delhi Municipal Corporation has not been able to count those in its area even after trying for a year. The data is already available with the telecom department, and the companies that set up the towers. The tower operators have submitted GPScoordinates of each tower to the corporation’s nodal officers, but so far only 1,297 of the more than 4,700 tower locations have been physically verified, raising doubts about large-scale corruption by local officials.

Consider this: 550 towers had been verified till December 2018. In the seven months since, only about 750 more have been verified. Corporation officials admitted on Tuesday that only 30% of the job has been done in a year.

With the tower business largely operating without authorisation, the corporation is losing crores in property tax and also has no idea about the health and other safety issues at thousands of tower sites.

Crores lost in revenue from unverified mobile towers

South Delhi Municipal Corporation is losing crores of rupees in revenue from the thousands of unverified mobile tower locations in its jurisdiction. Additional commissioner Ramesh Verma said that verification of 750-odd towers since December has brought in additional revenue of Rs 3.14 crore. Verifying the remaining 3,400 towers would increase this revenue manyfold.

However, during the standing committee meeting on Tuesday, the property department said details of the mobile towers had not been shared with it, making it impossible to charge higher property tax rates from the landlords.

Standing committee deputy commissioner Rajpal said property owners have set up unauthorised towers in collusion with local officials. In fact, the committee had earlier directed officials to stop issuing permissions for new towers as it suspected corrupt dealings.

Representatives of the tower operators, who were present in the committee meeting, said they had provided location details to the corporation’s nodal officers and were willing to cooperate with the authorities. They, however, demanded that all approvals for towers be granted within 30 days. Former mayor Narender Chawla agreed the verification should be done within a strict time frame as the communication network is already stressed and the unauthorised towers can’t be shut down.

Data provided by the mobile tower companies should be reconciled with the data available with the municipal corporation within the next four weeks, standing committee chairman Bhupender Gupta said, adding, “After this deadline, we will initiate legal action against the towers that are not in this database.” Verma assured that the work would be done in four weeks.

After the data is vetted by the civic body, the list of towers will be sent to individual councillors. “We will ask all 104 councillors to check whether there are any other towers,” Gupta said.

Even then, the corporation will face the challenge of working out fines for each unauthorised tower.―Times of India

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