Living with radiation as a backdrop
In 2000, Ashok Kaickar of Defence Colony’s D-block agreed to get a mobile phone tower installed on the terrace of his two-storey house. And it’s been nearly 12 years of living in regret.
He fears that mobile phone towers can cause problems such as headaches, anxiety, insomnia and cancer. Kaickar is even ready to take cellular operators to court. "I’ll be consulting my lawyer. We can’t risk our health for the money we get as rent," he added.
“Back then, I did not know about the possible health hazards of radiation from mobile towers,” says Kaickar, 55, who runs a chain of gymnasiums in the city. “I got the tower erected after getting all the necessary permissions. Now I want it removed, but can’t. I have a 20-year contract with the company,” he said. A desperate Kaickar has approached the cellular operator Reliance and also written to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to allow him to remove the tower.
For erecting a cellular tower, a one-time permission is needed from the civic body. “We give one-time permission and there’s no provision for renewal. After that, if an individual wants to get the tower removed from his property, it is between him and the telecom company. We can’t do anything,” said Yogender Singh Mann, director (press and information), civic bodies.
Fashion designer Jyoti Bhatia, 36, works from home and was diagnosed with breast cancer in the first week of May this year. “I have no genetic history of cancer and fear it is due to radiation from a mobile phone tower, which is hardly 50m from our home,” said Bhatia, a resident of B-block in Lajpat Nagar-1.
Her husband Harpreet, who works for an event management company, also gets nausea and headache when he’s home. “The radiation from these towers kills slowly. You don’t realise it initially, but in the long run, they affect your health adversely,” Harpreet said.
In Jaipur’s Dev Nagar colony on Tonk Road, 50-year-old Madhu Modi owns a house with two mobile phone towers. But she turned off their power supply after residents protested the death of two women from cancer within six months. The cellular companies came the next day and disconnected the towers themselves when faced with protests.
But the companies returned the very next day with police and connected the towers again. “We are exposed to high-level radiation, which was proved by the radiation measuring instrument,” says Modi, showing the high radiation levels on a measuring device.
The residents of the colony sent an application to the municipal corporation in the last week of May this year, but no action has been taken so far.
Just last week, in Mumbai’s Shiv Prabha Society on the Andheri-Ghatkopar link road, residents took the decision of removing mobile towers from its terrace even though it meant giving up on R6 lakh every year. “After reports in newspapers about the ill-effects of radiation, all of us decided to get the towers removed immediately. We will send a notice to the cell phone companies soon,” said Manoj Bhor, one of the committee members of the society.
After complaints such as sleeplessness, dizziness and other health problems from residents, the committee decided to keep itself away from these towers. The mobile phone towers were erected nearly 10 years ago, and their lease will expire in a few months. Not only do the residents not want to renew the contract, but they are also unwilling to wait till it expires.
“We are ready to pay extra for maintenance, but we don’t want health problems. We will refund the companies the money and even pay them for removing the towers two months before the lease expires. It is better to remove them as early as possible,” said Prashant Ankushrao, a resident of the building.
Sent her grandson away
Bought a radiation detector
Priti Kapur, a resident of B-block Defence Colony, has become the most sought-after person in her neighbourhood ever since she bought a hand-held radiation detection device. Now she is frequently invited by her friends and neighbours to measure the radiation levels in their homes.
After two mobile phone towers were installed on the rooftop of a building opposite her house, she started getting migraines. She even sent her six-month-old grandson to Dehradun with his mother to keep him away from radiation.
“I recently got this radiation detector for Rs. 6,000 and found that radiation levels were very high in my bedroom. Now, I have ordered radiation-proof curtains, at the cost of Rs. 5,000 per meter online from a US-based company,” says Kapur.
Pets bear radiation brunt
Her dog died of tumour
Even pets seem to be at the receiving end of cell phone tower radiation. “I have a cell phone tower next to my bedroom. Last month, one of my dogs died of tumour. The other one has developed rashes,” says homemaker Devika
Jaina, a resident of C-block, Defence Colony.
Others in the area too have similar stories to share. “A cell phone tower was installed on the rooftop of a house
opposite mine around 15 days ago. Since then, my dog has become depressed and has stopped moving around. I’ve also developed a constant severe headache,” says Anjali Dewan, another Defence Colony resident.
With P Srinivasan in Jaipur and Vaishnavi Vasudevan in Mumbai.