At times of power outages in trans-Yamuna area in Allahabad, there is something else the residents of the area are deprived of - mobile phone network. Thanks to a nexus between the temporary staff of the cellular companies and some farmers, diesel provided to keep the mobile towers running during power cuts is allegedly sold to the latter at discounted rates.
Around a dozen localities of the trans-Yamuna area, 30 kilometres south of Allahabad, have to live with the double whammy everyday.
The area has towers of all major companies like Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), Idea, Reliance, Vodaphone, Aircel, Airtel etc. Small towns and villages like Jari, Danagawan, Kaundhiyara, Kapadhiha, Dando, Chamu, Bara, Kanti, Akodaha, Gauhani, Nari Bazar etc have 4-5 mobile towers each to cater to subscribers of different mobile service providers. The companies have appointed temporary staff for running the generators that are fitted near the towers to keep the network functioning during power cuts, which are a common feature for the area.
"However, these towers seldom function since diesel meant for their generators is allegedly sold off. This results into total collapse of mobile service during long hours of power cuts," says Govind Saran, noted social activist. "There are at least 70-80 cellular phone towers in the 10-kilometre area. In some places, two to three companies share the same tower. Due to absence of mobile network, internet users who avail mobile network for the same too suffer," he adds. According to Saran, the illegal activity is fast gaining popularity among farmers and other rural residents as they get diesel, used to run tractors and water pumps, for Rs. 40 per litre, around Rs. 10 less than the market price. "The generators are kept in sound-proof units due to which residents cannot understand whether they are running or not. They attribute loss of mobile connection to network problem," he adds. Saran said he has complained about the matter to Bara's sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) who said an inquiry would be conducted into it. No representative of mobile service providers could be contacted despite attempts.