Tower and Infrastructure Providers’ Association (TAIPA), an industry body representing telecom tower companies, today said it has approached Punjab DGP to help prevent the malpractices of diesel pilferage from the towers by unscrupulous elements. In Punjab region alone, with approximately 15,000 mobile tower sites serving 35 million telecom subscribers, over 20,000 people are directly and indirectly employed with the telecom industry, TAIPA Director General Tilak Raj Dua told reporters here today.
“One of the major subcomponents in the telecom industry are the telecom towers, also known as the passive infrastructure industry. It functions as the pillar for providing telecom services to various operators in the region, responsible for building and maintaining towers,” he said. Dua said technicians are employed by a third party and stationed at the mobile tower locations, responsible for maintenance and servicing of the towers.
A typical technician services about 12-15 towers to ensure that telecom networks are up and running for the people in the region. Any hindrance in maintaining the towers affects the network and causes disruption of services in the region. Hence the site technicians’ role is very crucial in this regard, Dua pointed out.
“In Punjab, we have found the field technician finds it difficult to perform his duties peacefully because of external influences. While most of the technicians want to do a good job honestly, they are held back by some unscrupulous elements having vested interests. Traditionally, the telecom tower sector has high dependence on diesel.
“Unfortunately, the malpractices of diesel pilferage have continued since its inception and hamper the daily operations even today,” he said. Dua said some unscrupulous elements are engaged in high diesel pilferage in Punjab.
“Some technicians are also involved who then work as mafia in pilfering diesel. They abuse the telecom and power equipment at sites with the objective of pocketing the diesel, thereby causing damage to the towers including fire,” he alleged. “Significant amount of diesel consumed in Punjab is pilfered. More than 15 FIRs have been lodged for serious offences such as damage to property, disruption of telecom networks etc,” he said. He said TAIPA has approached Punjab DGP for support in resolution of this issue, and “we have received assurance that any issue impacting the telecom network will be dealt with appropriately”.
Replying to a question, Dua said total diesel which is used nationwide for 4.78 lakh towers around the country is two billion litres per annum. The countrywide pilfered diesel amounted to around Rs 2,200 crore three years back, he said. He, however, said this problem is more serious in Punjab. “Here what is happening, besides pilferage, they are also causing network disruptions,” he said.
Dua, meanwhile, said a number of initiatives have been taken to reduce diesel usage and improve the carbon footprint, include using renewable energy sources.