Monday, September 29, 2008

12 forest circles in state use wireless connectivity without licence

Shubhalakshmi Shukla
Posted: Sep 29, 2008 at 0100 hrs IST

vadodara, September 28 Thanks to the Gujarat Forest Department and the Ministry of Telecommunication failing to coordinate with each other, all 12 forest circles in the state, barring Junagadh, have been cocking a snook at the regulations to operate wireless walkie-talkie sets and base stations without a licence.

This has been going on for the past 25 years. Though the state forest vigilance department has been on an anti-encroachment overdrive and also offered toll free numbers to alert it, hardly anything has been done to regularise the use of wireless sets.

Only Junagadh forest circle, which straddles the Gir National Sanctuary has had a valid licence for operating wireless sets, since 1982, according to Bharat Pathak, Conservator of Forest (CF), Junagadh Forest Circle.

The state Forest Department has around 250 forest ranges and purchases base stations and wireless walkie-talkie sets each year, according to Rajeeva, Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF), Vigilance.

He refused to divulge the exact number of wireless walkie-talkie sets and base stations, but forest officials said their department has around 850 wireless sets and 1,900 base stations in operation in the state.

Interestingly, even as the state Forest Department continues to operate wireless facilities without a licence since 1978, the Ministry of Telecommunication (MoT) has neither raised an objection, nor taken any step against forest officials who have been using the frequency, which is common for all Forest Departments across India.

Ajit Soni, Inspecting officer of Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC), Western Region, Ajmer, said a mandatory document signed between the WPC and the other party allowed the latter to use a specific frequency. “There are various conditions, including one that specifies the production of the purchase invoice of all wireless sets from time to time,” he said.

He added that the state forest department never cared to inform the WPC about the wireless sets being bought and used ever since the frequency was allotted to the state Forest Department.

“It is important to update the WPC about the purchase of all wireless sets, but this has not been done so far,” said M C Pandey, Assistant wireless advisor, WPC wing, New Delhi.

Incidentally, the Gujarat Forest Department has not even been paying the royalty and licence fees to WPC, and the arrears would run into a huge sum.

Rajeeva said many attempts were made by his department five years ago in a bid to legalise the process. “We even tried to appoint a nodal officer in the state to decentralise the process, but nothing really worked out,” he added.

Pradeep Khanna, Principal Chief Conservator of forest, Wildlife, Gujarat said it was the PCCF administration and the CCF vigilance, which should be looking into the problem. “I am not responsible for it,” he said.


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