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'Reliance Jio evading Rs 52-lakh illegal digging fine since 3 months'

An RTI query has revealed that a penalty of Rs 43.2 lakh for illegal digging and Rs 9.31 lakh for damaging water pipelines, levied by the BMC on May 31, has not been paid till date and that the civic body has taken no action so far

While Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL) has found itself under the BMC scanner time and again for damaging pipelines on the road while laying its 4G cable network (see box), the company’s non-payment of a Rs 52.51 lakh fine for one such incident in Kandivli three months ago, and the lack of action on the BMC’s part have raised eyebrows amongst activists.

According to a notice issued to the company by the BMC on May 31, RJIL had been carrying out unauthorised digging/trenching on Marve-Charkop Link Road and Kadsiddheshwar Road in Kandivli in the month of May, even after its permit had expired on April 30.

The civic body had fined RJIL Rs 43.2 lakh for illegal digging and Rs 9.31 lakh for damaging water pipelines on the same stretch. The notice, issued by the R/South ward office’s maintenance department, had ordered RJIL to pay the fine within seven days.

However, a recent RTI query has revealed that the corporation has not received the money from the company yet, and has initiated no action against RJIL. “Why has the BMC not taken any action against the company despite the supply of residents’ basic necessities being affected? Officers from the ward are deliberately delaying the process for the company’s benefit,” alleged Vinay Dubey, who had filed the RTI query.

Dubey has also written about the delay to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, BMC Commissioner Sitaram Kunte and Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh on August 5. “The copy of the notice, which was sent to RJIL, clearly mentions that the fine had to be paid within seven days, but no action has been taken yet,” added Dubey.

BMC speak
“As I was not present when the notice was issued, I will have to check with the department whether the fine was collected and, if not, what is the reason for the delay,” said Assistant Municipal Commissioner S R Gaikwad from R/South ward.

The other side
A Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL) spokesperson said, “As there was no basis for levying the penalty, we have refuted the claim amount. The damage to the water pipelines was also repaired by us. In addition, we have sent a reminder letter to the concerned authorities, and the civic body has called us after the Ganesh festival ends.”

Not the first
There have been many incidents in the past when Reliance Jio Infocomm had damaged water pipelines while laying the optic fibre. The company was fined R17.35 lakh for damaging water pipelines, but RJIL had paid the amount. Another fine amount of Rs 39.13 lakh was paid by the company in April.

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