Pune News: Activists Raise Concerns Over PMC-MahaPreit Deal For Digging 500 Km Of Roads For Data Cable Installation

Pune News: Activists Raise Concerns Over PMC-MahaPreit Deal For Digging 500 Km Of Roads For Data Cable Installation

As part of the agreement to establish an optic fibre network, the civic body is required to remove existing overhead cables in the city

Indu BhagatUpdated: Thursday, May 30, 2024, 02:07 PM IST
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Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) | Anand Chaini

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has signed an agreement with the government entity MahaPreit to dig 500 km of roads for laying data cables. However, activists in the city are raising concerns that this deal is one-sided and kept confidential, exclusively favouring MahaPreit's interests.

Vivek Velankar, president of the Sajag Nagarik Manch, and Sarang Yadwadkar, an environmental activist, voiced their concerns at a press conference on Wednesday. They alleged that the PMC and MahaPreit signed an agreement to build optical fibre connections throughout the city, giving the contractor responsibility over city roads for 20 years without incurring fees for PMC. They estimated this decision would severely impact the civic body, causing an estimated loss of ₹500 crore.

As part of the agreement to establish an optic fibre network, the civic body is required to remove existing overhead cables in the city. Despite having a policy for the removal of overhead cables, the civic body has failed to do so for the past two years. However, PMC has now accepted the responsibility of removing all existing unauthorised overhead data cables and installing them underground on 500 km of roads. But the civic body lacks a competent system for this, requiring the hiring of another contractor at the expense of crores of rupees.

Mahesh Patil, Deputy Commissioner, PMC, stated, “Following the construction of the metro line, the city will undergo further excavations to install a 500-km optical fibre network. This network will connect all municipal offices, schools, and hospitals. The Central government will provide funds, which will be used to establish an integrated command control centre in the city. The municipality and MahaPreit will jointly implement this project, managing these centres.”

Velankar highlighted that the agreement includes provisions for setting up an integrated command and control centre. However, PMC involved MahaPreit in this initiative without adequate justification. Moreover, MahaPreit has been entrusted with selecting contractors and given extensive rights to lay optical fibre cables, sublease, and sell data for 20 years without PMC's permission.

Velankar said that a clause has also been inserted that this contract should be kept confidential so that no one knows the contents of this contract; thus, the said contract is not available on the PMC website. Fortunately, on Monday's Right to Information Day, we obtained all these documents, shedding light on the matter, he added.

Velankar pointed out that if municipal road space is to be leased on a 20-year contract, this contract has been entered into without obtaining any such approval, as required by Section 79C of the Municipal Corporation Act. Now it is difficult to cancel this agreement until the end of 20 years because if the agreement is cancelled, PMC will have to pay huge compensation to the contractor.

The agreement stipulates that PMC charges ₹10,000 per metre for road excavation, which will cost Pune residents ₹500 crore. PMC expects to receive ₹30 crore over the next five years and ₹6 crore annually thereafter. Additionally, if MahaPreit earns more than ₹60 crore annually from data sales, PMC would receive 22% of the excess amount.

Velankar further noted the promptness shown by the then Municipal Commissioner Vikram Kumar while finalising this contract. On March 15, 2024, the Commissioner placed the proposal in this regard before the Standing Committee, which approved it on the same day. The agreement was signed on the same day. Coincidentally, on the same day, the transfer orders of Kumar also came.

Meanwhile, addressing the issue, PMC Commissioner Dr Rajendra Bhosale said, “Any organisation or individual with concerns regarding the optical fibre agreement is encouraged to submit a statement. The contract file will be revised, and all questions will be addressed.”

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