Aircel: an out of reach company leaves its towers in Shopian unattended, poses threat to locals

Representational Photo
Representational PhotoFile/GK

Shopian: Mohammad Yaqoob Gatoo alias Mitha Gatoo is looking with pensive eyes at a lofty defunct cellular tower in his courtyard at Bongam area of south Kashmir's Shopian town. Gatoo has serious apprehensions that the unmaintained giant metallic structure may collapse at any time and cause damage to both life and property in his neghibourhood.

In 2005, Gatoo rented out a square piece of land in front of his house to a mobile telephony company--Aircel. An agreement was signed between the two parties for a period of nine years, which was later extended till October 2022. Every thing went like clockwork till 2016, but since then, Gatoo was not paid the rent by the company.

Aircel began operating in Jammu and Kashmir in 2005 and installed signal towers across the length and breadth of the region. However, beset by the financial trouble, the company went belly up in 2018 and ceased to operate in different states of India including Jammu and Kashmir. While the company left its 34 lakh subscribers in the lurch.

"I requested the company umpteen times to pay the outstanding amount and shift the tower but to no avail", said Gatoo.

He said that the structure was spread over 1600 square feet and he was unable to use the space for any other purpose.

As the repeated requests of Gatoo went unheard, he moved the court seeking termination of the tenancy & recovery of the rent.

The court summoned the telecom tower and infrastructure companies-- GTL Infrastructure Limited, Mumbai and Chennai Network Infrastructure Limited (CNIL), Jammu several times but they failed to appear before the court.

"The installation has not only occupied my property, but its inadequate maintenance has been posing a threat ", said Gatoo.

He said that the unmaintained tall structure was unsafe for them and other residents living in the neighbourhood.

"It don't know what to do with this ghost tower now", said Gatoo.

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