All well that ends cell

Published: 07 December, 2012 08:20 IST | Hemal Ashar |

Cell phone tower on Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Dr D Subbarao's Carmichael Road home brought down after amicable exchange

It was not business as usual at the quiet, leafy environs of Carmichael Road in South Mumbai. A clutch of residents gathered outside the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor's bungalow on the road (just a couple of steps away from the Japanese Consulate) in the area. They were seeking an appointment with Dr D Subbarao, governor, RBI because of a cell phone tower coming up on the roof of his house.

Discussion: U Subbarao (second from l) talking to people outside her bungalow. Pics/Bipin Kokate

Alert residents spotted the tower being put up yesterday morning and alarmed at the thought of “even more radiation” in the area, they congregated outside the gates of the RBI governor’s bungalow by 1.30 pm, hoping to, “create awareness and express the citizen's sentiments” to bring that tower down. “We knew that we had to act fast, because once the tower comes up it is near impossible to bring it down,” said the proactive Prakash Munshi, part of the Indians for Safe Environments group. The Indians for Safe Environments is the umbrella body for a cluster of SoBo organisations working to create awareness about the dangers of cell phone tower radiation on residential buildings, schools and hospitals.

Structure:  The tower on the bungalow 

Said Munshi who was outside the gate of the bungalow, his militant maroon t-shirt matching his mood, “As soon as I heard that this tower is coming up, I swung into action. I telephoned a number of departments like the building dept, estates dept. I got a very positive response from a person from the RBI, who assured me he would look into the matter immediately and address our concerns.”

Action: Prakash Munshi, activist working to spread awareness about cell tower radiation, believed a quick response was key

Dilnar Chichgar, resident and part of Indians for Safe Environments said that her mother had first noticed the tower, since she lives directly opposite the building. She said that she feared for her mother's health especially, as her mother, Dr K Karanjia was now 85. The feisty Dr Karanjia soon joined the others at the gates. Another resident claimed she had trepidation about the tower, since her 1.5-year-old granddaughter lived opposite the bungalow, while S Agarwal another resident of the area, claimed that she was there to express support, though she herself lived in a building where there were more than 15 cell phone towers on the terrace.

Meanwhile, there was a buzz amongst the waiting residents about the lack of support of others in the area. They also spoke about the difficulty in getting an appointment with Dr D Subbarao, as he was out of town. They were optimistic though that the bungalow occupants would see reason and the tower would come down.

A few minutes later, a car stopped outside the high, black gates of the bungalow, with Dr D Subbarao’s wife, U Subbarao in the backseat. The car went into the driveway and then U Subbarao stepped out and walked outside, as she saw the gathered residents requesting her for an interaction. She heard the residents and said she would enquire about the tower; she had no idea that it was being installed.

“I assure you something will be done,” she said, allaying fears. She said she would check with certain persons and said that, “Though I am not RBI and not making a commitment I will speak to the people concerned. It takes two hours to dismantle the tower, I am told,” she said graciously. U Subbarao also reassured the women, saying, “Ladies, I am not protesting at all, I am going to find out.” By then, there was a warm, neighbourly feeling permeating that air.

That fuzzy feeling though quickly dissipated when U Subbarao saw this reporter outside the gate. Clearly irked at press presence she said curtly, “I am not talking to you, am I? I am talking to the residents.”

Meanwhile, the group was satisfied that the promise that she would at least, “find out what was happening,” had fructified into removal of the tower, it was being brought down quickly, even as they left the gates of the premises.

Munshi said he was relieved things had been resolved. On that road a signboard read: ‘Quiet. Birds Singing.’ Carmichael Road seemed quiet again on that warm, Thursday afternoon, a little past lunchtime. Strain one’s ears and one could truly hear the birds singing. The only thing radiating there was happiness.  

Point of Contact
Contact Indians for Safe Environments, c/o Prakash Munshi, Raj Niketan, B G Kher marg, Mumbai 400006 or email: controlradiation2012@ about health problems faced by citizens on account of mobile towers. The data is being compiled to send to the concerned Govt. ministries to appeal to them to create safer guidelines and regulations for mobile tower installation.  

From Top of the Hill about Carmichael Road
In the September 2009 issue of the Altamount Road Area Citizen's Committee (ARACC) newsletter titled: Top of the Hill, a news snippet on the back page is headlined: Beware. It does not name the buildings but it is obvious that the buildings in question are Usha Kiran and Vijay Apartments. An excerpt from the news item reads: 'A skyscraper on Carmichael Road has had three cases of brain tumour in a span of seven months. On further inspection it was found that the cases occurred on floors that were in the same bandwidth as cell phone towers in the opposite building. These towers face the skyscraper.

Permissible radiation levels are from 0-50 but when a flat on the affected floor was tested it showed radiation levels of a staggering 2,000! Is there a correlation between these cases and the cell phone towers? While scientific evidence linking the two irrefutably is yet to be found, the writing is on the wall. Buildings would do well to avoid getting lured by rich sums paid by cell phone companies to host these towers.’  

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