A human rights body in the state on Saturday urged the union government to scrap the Indian Telegraph Act,1885.
Himachal Pradesh Human Rights Forum (HPHRF) president Ravinder Sankhyan alleged that the Act was “grossly misused” by power companies to lay high-voltage power lines, which damaged the environment and was against the interests of the farmers.
“Farmers have to suffer as laying of lines damages their land and crops, especially since the power companies build huge towers, covering 600 to 900 sq m, without initiating proper land acquisition process,” he alleged.
Saying that the Act had been notified to set up poles, standard stays, struts or other such minor structures above the ground for carrying, suspending or supporting telephone lines, he alleged that the power companies were trying to grab prime agricultural land by misusing the Act and “comparing huge towers to a pole”.
Sankhyan said the companies offered only one-time crop or tree damages, that too only for the area below the tower or transmission line, even though they banned the owners from planting trees or constructing structures within a 50-m area.
Quoting a report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO), he said the electromagnetic fields generated by these high-voltage lines caused headaches, skin rashes, dizziness and even diseases like leukaemia and lymphoma.
“Reports also say that people living near high-voltage lines are 50% more vulnerable to leukaemia,” he added.
He urged the government to consider amending the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and the Indian Electricity Act, 2003, besides ensuring that cables were either laid underground, or a single overhead line was used, as done in the developed countries.
He also demanded that companies should adopt proper procedure for land acquisition, besides paying royalty or rent to land owners, as was being done in Koldam and Chamera dam projects.