MUMBAI: After months of headbanging over the issue of electric poles, the Assam Power Distribution Company Limited (APDCL) seems to finally have a respite. After an order from the Guwahati High Court on 29 January, the Greater Guwahati Cable TV Operators Association (GGCTOA) has decided to pay Rs 10 as the electric pole usage fee for the month of February to APDCL. It was decided today at a meeting held in Guwahati.
“We have resolved to pay the bill of APDCL in compliance to the High Court order,” says GGCTOA general secretary Md Iquebal Ahmed. The payment will be made by 25 February. “This is an interim arrangement as we do not want any contempt of court,” adds Ahmed.
Recently, APDCL fulfilled the demand of GGCTOA as they gave them the data of electric poles used by cable operators in the city. A survey conducted by APDCL revealed that 8,287 electric poles are used by cable operators in Guwahati electric division of North, 6,136 electric poles in central division, 8,311 electric poles in the south Guwahati, 7,275 poles in east division and 3,268 poles in the west division, the total tally coming up to 33,277.
While GGCTOA has agreed to pay for now, they have written to APDCL for a clarity on the number. “We have been given random figures of the five zones. We need clarity on the area where the poles are being used by cable operators. Also, data on the number of electric poles used by each cable operator needs to be specified,” informs Ahmed.
To ensure smooth collection of payment, GGCTOA has come up with a temporary arrangement. “We are short of time and thus have asked the multi system operators (MSOs) to collect 12 per cent extra revenue from the local cable operators. We cannot collect it from the LCOs and so we have roped in the MSOs,” he informs.
The association has to pay Rs 3.5 lakh for using close to 33,000 poles for a month. “Every LCO will be given a payment receipt by the MSO which will be issued in the name of GGCTOA. Also, the MSO will get a payment receipt from us,” says Ahmed, who feels that this process will ensure clarity on payment. “If any MSO collects extra money from any LCO, we will be able to track it through the receipts generated from our end and will ensure that it is refunded,” he adds.
However, in the letter sent to APDCL, the cable operators association has questioned the basis of making GGCTOA responsible to collect the electric pole fee. “We have around 250 LCO members who are operating in their own capacity and utilizing the poles, without any information sharing regarding the infrastructure. So holding GGCTOA responsible is incorrect,” says Ahmed, who has appealed to APDCL on billing the operator directly and on the actual number of poles he uses.
The association which is currently gearing up to collect the electric pole fee as ordered by the High Court will approach the court again on 28 February if APDCL doesn’t respond to its letter. While on its part, the Association will make the payment on 25 February.