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Prasad questions NGOs’ sinister campaign against mobile towers

Seeking to link the call drop problem with the campaign by some NGOs against mobile towers, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said the so-called radiation from such towers has never been an issue for these organisations in the US, Europe or even China. Prasad said misplaced concerns of mobile tower radiation could seriously jeopardise India s path to greatness as seamless mobility could be affected by such unfounded fears. 

“This question troubles me a lot. Why this is not an issue in the US, Europe, China, why some of the biggest NGOs have taken this issue in India, why should you presume,” he said at a conference on ‘Electromagnetic Emissions in Mobile Telephony and its Health Impact’ at IIT-Delhi.

The conference was jointly organised by IIT-D and Maulana Azad Medical College, in association with Health Environment Foundation, New Delhi. Citing WHO reports, he said, there is no concrete evidence of any harmful effect from such radiations as of now. “When I became the minister...I saw all the WHO reports and then I found that as of now there is no evidence to suggest that radiation effects are there...I see 30,000 samples of WHO clearly saying there is no harmful effect, repeatedly over the years,” Prasad said. In India, the government has fixed the EMF radiation limit which is 10 per cent stricter than the international guidelines and whenever there is any violation, a fine of Rs 10 crore is imposed.

“Till now we have imposed about Rs 10 crore as fine on those whose towers were found to be emitting radiations beyond the permissible limits,” he said. He also noted that complain against call drops and campaign against towers cannot go hand-in-hand. “If there is a technology that (suggests) without towers or BTS, mobile signals can go, tell me,” he said. Kenneth R Foster of the University of Pennsylvania, USA said: “Radio frequency fields are among the most highly researched potential hazards. There are thousands of papers in literature and health agencies have reviewed all of them many times. Virtually all agree that there are no demonstrated hazards from exposure to RF energy at levels below international (and Indian) limits.” 

Meanwhile, Indian electronics and hardware industry is expected to reach $112-130 billion by 2018 on the back of rising consumer demand, growing disposable income, declining electronics prices and various government initiatives like Digital India, an Assocham-EY study said. The Indian electronics and hardware market grew 8.6 per cent year-on-year to reach $75 billion in 2015, driven by local demand uptick and growing disposable income. The study said demand for electronic products in India is poised for a significant growth in the next few years, aided by a strong economic outlook. In addition, adoption of high-end technology devices, transitions such as rollout of 4G/LTE networks and the Internet of Things (IoT) are driving accelerated adoption of electronic products.

“Moreover, the Government of India (GoI) has announced several programmes such as Digital India, Smart Cities, the cloud initiative, solar power, UIDAI projects and the National Knowledge Network initiative, which will boost the domestic consumption of electronics content,” it added. However, India’s local production of electronics products is not sufficient to meet the overall demand in the country. Currently, the electronics demand is largely being met through imports and there is a widening demand-supply gap. “Hence, the government is focusing on establishing a robust ecosystem to boost local manufacturing,” it said. According to the study, demand of around 50 60 per cent for electronic products and nearly 70 80 per cent for electronic components is met through imports.

“The Make in India initiative, combined with global manufacturers looking to relocate their manufacturing base from China to alternative locations such as India, Vietnam and Indonesia due to mounting labour costs, provides a strong impetus to the Indian electronics and hardware industry,” Milan Sheth, Partner and Leader (Technology), EY, said. The study pointed to challenges in ease of doing business, taxation, end-to-end manufacturing value chain including the component ecosystem, skilled labour and infrastructure bottlenecks. “Although the government has undertaken steps to promote India as a manufacturing hub in the last two Budgets, certain areas are yet to be addressed,” it added. 
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