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Resolution in sight for Guwahati electricity pole charge dispute

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MUMBAI: The Assam Power Distribution Company Limited (APDCL) and Greater Guwahati Cable TV Operators’ Association (GGCTOA) are finally coming to a resolution over payment of a fee for use of electricity poles in Guwahati.

The issue first cropped up in September 2013, after the APDCL decided to charge cable TV operators in Guwahati for using electric poles to lay cable wires.

The first step towards resolution of the issue was taken on 6 March, when representatives from APDCL and GGCTOA met and agreed to together conduct a survey to ascertain the number of electricity poles in the Guwahati region.

It can be recalled that when GGCTOA moved the Guwahati High Court on the issue of APDCL’s decision to levy a charge for use of electricity poles, the court had asked the GGCTOA to pay Rs 10 per electricity pole per month for the period 22 January to 28 February.

The last date for the payment of the fee as directed by the high court was 26 February.

APDCL had thereafter said cable operators are using a total of 33,000 electricity poles in Guwahati. The GGCTOA challenged APDCL’s claim and demanded that a joint survey be conducted on the number of electricity poles being used by cable operators.

Even after the court directive, the settlement of the dispute was not a smooth affair. The GGCTOA paid Rs 1 lakh of the Rs 3 lakh that they had to pay the APDCL in compliance with the HC order. The association, however, threatened to disconnect cable TV signals on 25 February to press for a survey of electricity poles in Guwahati. Assam’s power minister Pradyut Bordoloi intervened and also granted more time for the association to pay the balance charges to APDCL as directed by the court.

“We now have time until 15 March to clear the electric pole fee,” informs GGCTOA general secretary Md Iquebal Ahmed.

APDCL and GGCTOA will start a joint survey from Monday, 10 March to ascertain the number of electricity poles being used by cable operators.

“In the meeting that was held on Thursday, we have suggested two rates to the APDCL: Rs 10 per electric pole, where we will have exclusive collection rights to collect electric pole fee from the cable operator and also the other players including the telecom and ISPs or Rs 6 per electric pole, in which we will not have any such exclusive right and will pay to the APDCL for using the electric pole for laying cable TV wires,” said Ahmed.

The GGCTOA has also requested the APDCL to come out with payment modalities for the association. “APDCL expects us to collect the fee from the cable operators. For all this, we will need to deploy a work force. We have asked the electricity board to work out a formula which will help us pay wages to these members involved in survey and collection of electric pole fee,” he said.

The association has agreed to pay electricity pole charge for 10,000 poles on adhoc basis for the month of March until the joint survey is completed.

Not only this, the APDCL also needs to specify the safety measures the cable operators’ association needs to take. “While they have asked us to bear the expenses of the safety equipments needed for the safety and security of the electrical wires, we have asked them to provide us the specifications of the design and the estimated expense. We will decide on whether we will alone bear the expense or will share the expenses with APDCL, after they give us the estimates,” said Ahmed.

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