Till now, Mumbaiites had no choice but to wait for the under-staffed and under-equipped Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring (TERM) cell in the city – it has 150 pending cases – to deal with their complaints of suspected high radiation levels from mobile phone towers in their localities.
However, with the Union department of telecommunication launching its fast-track complaint handling system on Thursday, citizens can now call a helpline and register their complaint or file an online complaint.
While the TERM cell inspected three sites in a week, the new system is expected to have staff testing 20 sites in a day, and improve the existing radiation monitoring mechanism. There will be five monitoring teams that will ensure that every citizen complaint is addressed within 10 days.
“At present, the TERM cell in the city is not fully equipped to attend to citizens’ complaints. By building up capacity and making the system accessible to citizens, we will be able to regulate violations,” said Milind Deora, minister of state for communications and information technology, who plans to set up similar systems in all metros.
In response to citizens’ complaints that private operators hired to measure radiation levels are over-charging them — they charge around Rs. 35,000 — the DoT has decided to provide the service at a subsidised cost of Rs. 4,000. If the test reveals radiation levels higher than the permissible limit, the complainant will not have to pay; instead, the service provider will have to pay Rs. 10,000 for the test and a fine of Rs. 5 lakh. “We decided to make both citizens and mobile service providers accountable,” said Deora. “The cost of measuring radiation levels can be shared by residents of a building, which will further reduce individual expense.”
Some citizens say the DoT needs to reduce the permissible radiation levels further. “The revised permissible level of 450 milliwatts/sq m [from 4,500] is high. Also, this system could lead to a nexus between operators and officials. Flouting radiation norms must be made a constitutional violation,” said Milind Bembalkar from the Mobile Tower Grievance Forum.