THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:The Power Department has permitted a private telecom company to use electric posts of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) for drawing optical fibre cables at a time when a similar request by public sector telecom giant Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) is gathering dust at the KSEB HQ. In fact, the request made by the BSNL in October 2014 had listed its need as ‘’urgent,’’ but nearly four months later, no decision has been taken on it. But a few days ago, the Power Department had issued orders granting Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL) permission to draw aerial optical fibre cables on KSEB poles for its 4G service for a period of five years. But this has kicked up a controversy and two of the unions in the KSEB - the KSEB Officers’ Association and the KSEB Workers’ Association - have demanded an immediate roll-back of the decision.
Interestingly, the BSNL had initially approached the KSEB in 2009, but was given permission to use only those electric posts which were not being used by cable TV operators for stringing TV cables.
In a letter dated October 10, 2014, the General Manager (S&M-CFA), BSNL, Kerala Circle, urged KSEB chairman and managing director, M Sivasankar, to let BSNL use all KSEB posts irrespective of whether anyone else was using it.
‘’At present, BSNL Kerala Circle is allowed to draw cables through the poles of KSEB which are not allowed to other cable TV operators. “As BSNL Kerala Circle is in urgent need of drawing OF Cables and other cables through poles, it is requested that permission may kindle be granted to draw cables through all the poles of KSEB including the poles allowed to cable TV operators,’’ the letter said.
No decision has been finalised on this request yet, M Mohammedali Rawther, Director (Distribution and Safety), KSEB, said when contacted. According to him, RJIL was given permission by the State Government (Power Department). “The KSEB director board had referred the RJIL request to the government. It was the government that decided to allow RJIL to draw the cables,’’ he said. According to the Power Department order, the KSEB director board which met on August 16, 2014, had decided to let the government take a ‘policy
decision’ on the RJIL proposal. The government, in turn, asked the KSEB to get the telecom company’s offer on pole rental.
On November 27, a committee headed by the KSEB CMD and the directors for Finance, Distribution and Safety and Renewable Energy and Planning had negotiated with RJIL representatives.
It was decided that the total payment for five years would be Rs 1800 per post for those in urban and semi-urban areas and Rs 900 in the rural sector.
The Power Department, in its order, said that the permission was “a purely temporary measure’’ and should not be extended beyond the five-year period.