Mumbai: Underground Metro work kills 900 MTNL phone lines across Mumbai Central, Mahalaxmi, Dadar

Jul 05, 2018, 11:10 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Over 900 connections affected in Mumbai Central, Mahalaxmi, Dadar and many other areas where underground work for new train lines is going on

Mumbai: Underground Metro work kills 900 MTNL phone lines across Mumbai Central, Mahalaxmi, Dadar
Phone cables and those of other utilities lying exposed in the rain. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Thousands of MTNL users in Hutatma Chowk, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai Central, Dadar and Sitladevi temple areas have been cut off for over a fortnight, courtesy dead landline connections. Residents have made numerous complaints to MTNL, which has, in turn, passed the buck to the Metro, saying its ongoing digging work has damaged cables.

MTNL has said it would take more than a week to get matters resolved completely. Dr Wiqar Shaikh, 63, who runs an allergy clinic in Mumbai Central, said, "My landline has been dead for the past 17 days. I rely heavily on the landline as most of my patients from all over the country only have that number."

Road diggers in the ongoing Metro III work seem to have damaged MTNL cables in parts of the city. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Road diggers in the ongoing Metro III work seem to have damaged MTNL cables in parts of the city. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Dr Shaikh added, "Even more unfortunate is that owing to network problems with my mobile phone, resident doctors at JJ, where I am professor and head of medicine unit 5, and the Nagpada Police hospital, where I am honorary physician, cannot reach me once I am at my clinic in the afternoon. The best way to reach me is my landline phone, which has been dead for two weeks."

He said, "I have made umpteen complaints to MTNL, but other than giving evasive replies and false promises, the landline continues to be dead." Another resident, Major N R Ajwani, 81, a retired Army officer, who runs a private security agency at Navjeevan Society, said, "I have two MTNL numbers at home and both have been dead for nearly a month. When I complained to MTNL, I was told Metro work was to blame."

Umar Shaikh Qasam, who has lost business thanks to his dead landline
Umar Shaikh Qasam, who has lost business thanks to his dead landline

Not good for business
Umar Shaikh Qasam, 28, a pharmacist at Krishna Pharmacy, Lamington Road, is facing a major hurdle with his senior citizen customers unable to reach him to place their regular orders or call for any emergency medicine.

On an average, around 60+ customers call in a day asking for home delivery. That number has reduced by half because the phone line is dead, says Qasam. "We have started sharing our mobile phone numbers, but they have network issues and are unreliable," he said.

Not our fault: MTNL
Ajay Kumar Shau, general manager (North), MTNL, said, "Over 900 MTNL connections have been impacted due to the cable being damaged near Mumbai Central and Famous Studio, Mahalaxmi, where underground Metro digging work is in progress. We are hoping that in the next few days we will be able to resolve the problem by laying new cables."

Major N R Ajwani says both his landline connections have been dead for nearly a month
Major N R Ajwani says both his landline connections have been dead for nearly a month

Shau added, "We have seen that 10 to 20 metres of cables have been damaged at certain places and we have written to the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) and are coordinating with them."

Another reason for the cables getting damaged is water-logging as some areas that still have old style cables in which the water seeps in and damages them. "We are replacing them with Polyethylene Insulated Jelly Filled cables (PIFJ) which protect the wires from damage during the rain," explained the officer. A senior MTNL official, who did not wished to be named, said MTNL cables along the entire 33-Km stretch of Metro 3 work would not be impacted as the pillars pass through the centre of the road at certain spots, and not the edge.

Will send repair bill to MMRC
About the cost for changing the damaged cables, the officer said, "A PIFJ cable and its laying cost and labour charges will be around Rs 3,000 per metre. The bill for the damages will be sent to MMRC."

The officer said each cable may have between 1,600 to 2,000 pairs, so if one cable gets damaged nearly 800 to 1,000 connections get affected. On why it takes MTNL so long to resolve an issue, he said, "A lot of time goes into detecting the exact damaged cable, but once identified, it should not take more than 24 hours to solve the problem. However, BMC does not permit us to carry out any digging work when it is raining, which means we can do the work only when it is dry."

He further stated, "As a rule, we attend to calls within the stipulated time period of a maximum one week, and any delay beyond that means we are liable to give customers a rebate to their bill."

Also read: Mumbai: Work on Metro lines in Dahisar-Andheri East, DN Nagar ready for next level

MMRC refutes charges
A spokesperson from MMRC, who did not wish to be named, said, "Damages caused to the MTNL lines are not due to any Mumbai Metro Line 3 construction activity. Damages to utilities are repaired by the utility providers, in this case, MTNL, and not by MMRC. At these locations right-of-way is made available to MTNL by MMRC for repair work and required steps are initiated accordingly."

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