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Six months after CM visit, village in Alipurduar to get mobile coverage

Now, six months later and days before the polls, work has finally begun to set up the tower.

It is not uncommon to see frustrated villagers at Jayanti in Alipurduar walking around with mobile phones pointing hopefully towards the sky. The only mobile tower in Jayanti, set up hastily before Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s visit in September last year, was “disabled” soon after she left. Now, six months later and days before the polls, work has finally begun to set up the tower.

Jayanti is a small village within the Buxa Tiger Reserve in North Bengal’s Alipurduar — notified as a district in June last year. Mamata had repeatedly emphasised that her government would focus on developing tourism in the area, particularly at the village where the Jayanti river forms a natural border with the Bhutan hills, making it a potential tourism hotspot.

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Mamata’s efforts at augmenting tourism is a significant element of her campaign in North Bengal – an area where the Trinamool Congress has failed to make forays.

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After her promise, the CM launched forest cottages at Jayanti in September last year. Ahead of her arrival, officials of the newly formed district swung into action. Many potholed roads were repaired, garbage from the forest was cleared and a mobile tower – a longstanding demand in the village – was erected. “We spoke to different service providers and finally Airtel agreed and the tower was set up. It was initially planned to be temporary,” said an official.

After the CM arrived at Jayanti and inaugurated the cottages, which were previously destroyed in a fire in 2011, a delegation of villagers met her with one request — to make the mobile tower a permanent feature.

Resham Mondol (52), a resident of Jayanti, said: “Every family has a mobile because there are parts of the forest, especially when you go downhill towards the city, where you get signal. But we have never had any connection here. A few years ago, boiling water fell on my grandchild and he almost died because we couldn’t inform anyone on time. Such incidents are common,” she said.

Forest officials also agreed that a mobile tower was essential. “The Jayanti tourist compound is aimed at getting tourists from all over the world. But we can’t expect them to stay here if they don’t get basic mobile connectivity,” said an official. The district administration, following instructions from Mamata, filed a report saying that the tower was needed, this time adding that the lack of mobile connectivity alongside an international border raised major security concern.

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However, nearly six months later, the mobile tower wasn’t operational. Many issues like funding, disagreement between the administration and the local TMC leadership, transfer of the district’s first DM and bureaucratic red tape delayed the process, until earlier this month when the matter was taken up urgently.

A senior official of the district administration said, “The work has begun. There were a number of problems with the tower. Firstly, service providers didn’t want to do the work and then we had some trouble with the cost. But it will now be operational in a few days.”

First published on: 14-03-2016 at 03:34:30 am
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