By bappaditya paul
The Election Commission has asked all private mobile telephone operators to abolish mobile shadow zones in and around all polling stations and counting venues in Bengal. A mobile shadow zone is one where the signal strength is very poor and cellphone users find it difficult to connect a call.
The private mobile telephone operators have been specifically asked to ensure unhindered mobile telephony at the polling stations from two days in advance and after the day of poll, and from a day in advance of the counting date at the counting centres. West Bengal has 77,241 polling stations and 47 counting centres.
The state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Mr Sunil Kumar Gupta, today held a meeting with representatives of seven private mobile companies wherein they were given a polling booth-wise list of mobile shadow zones identified by district level election officials. The private mobile operators represented in the meeting include Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone, MTS, Reliance and Tata DoCoMo. The CEO has already held a similar meeting with the state owned BSNL.
“We have asked the mobile operators to ensure congestion-free and unhindered mobile telecommunications facility in all election related establishments such as EVM and ballot paper distribution centres, polling booths, counting centres and security control room etc. Unhindered mobile telephony will be a must as there are a number of SMS based monitoring, tracking and reporting mechanisms, which will be extensively put to use for the polls,” said the CEO.
Joint CEO Jaydip Mukherjee, said that the number of mobile shadow zones are especially high in areas such as the Sunderbans, Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum, Dajeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar.
“The operators have been urged to undertake physical verification of the shadow zones identified by our officials and take corrective measures. We have urged them to arrange portable devices that can function as Base Transmission Stations (BTS) wherever necessary and install generators for uninterrupted power where required,” he said. During the meeting it was also decided to undertake a SMS campaign urging people to cast their vote fearlessly.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 08 March 2014.)