When a resident of Whitefield in Bengaluru, Anjali Saini, asked the road diggers on the streets of Whitefield to show the permission by the BBMP, she never knew what it will lead to. What she was shown was a permission given to Vodafone by BBMP, which had many pages filled with various clauses.
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She found many violations to the terms mentioned in the letter. There was neither any barrricade, nor any warning lights or signage in the spot where the work was progressing. There was no indication of when the work would begin or close. The excess excavated mud which is supposed to be cleared immediately was lying around for many days. Following picture shows one such spot, which obviously is the status in many places across Bangalore, not just Whitefield.
Most in such situations would just think “this is how it is in India” and choose to move away. But guess what Anjali did? She got the letter xeroxed, and pointed the clauses which the contractor was not complying with. The staff working on the site fled from the spot for the time being.
The members of Whitefield Rising met the BBMP commissioner and brought the matter to his attention. Says Nitya Ramakrsihnan in her blog: “We proceeded to bring to his attention that his Ward engineering team was failing in their duty to enforce and brought it to his attention that various critical clauses of the contract – example complete violation of all safety requirements – where are the safety signs, barricades, flashing lights a polite “Sorry for the inconvenience”, etc. Failures to restore pavements (Reliance) or roads (Vodafone and Airtel) – while he kept promising enforcement we made it clear that backfilling of pits or seizing their equipment was not an acceptable level of enforcement – WE wanted forfeiture of their security deposits by BBMP to restore our roads and footpaths immediately.”
However, the highly energetic team did not stop at that. To keep the pressure on Vodafone on, they called up the Vodafone. Following this, they got an apologetic email from the contractor, that briefed the “actions taken.”
It has been brought to our notice that there has been inconvenience caused due to the ongoing Vodafone projects in and around Whitefield area. At the outset, sorry for the inconvenience that this work might have caused to the local residents. We have sincerely tried to avoid any inconvenience to the public during executing the projects.
I would like to bring to your kind attention the following:
This is 4G rollout that is being done to start provide the fiber to home services in and around whitefield area as there are lot of potential customers in this locality and eventually provide seamless services to local residents of Whitefield area.
1. Work has been carried by Vodafone in this area. Prior and currently there have been lot of other operators too who have worked in this locality.
2. We sincerely do not want to create any inconvenience to the local residents, we have sincerely tried our best to do this work in a smooth manner.
3. We have been doing restorations to the pits on a regular basis.
4. Asphalting the pits will happen once the cable pulling is completed.
5. Firstly HDD activity will be done. Once HDD is done, pits are restored temporarily with wetmix. Once the cable pulling is done, later we go ahead do the asphalting which is the permanent restoration. You can observe that lot of restorations have happened in and around ITPL, Bigbazzar Road, Partially on the Kundanahalli to Ofarm Junction road.
6. Safety is the primary concern of Vodafone and we sincerely adhere to this requirement. Safety precautions have been taken especially to avoid any public inconvenience. Pls note that sometimes there have been instances that people have used the Vodafone permission to do other works. Unfortunately these are leaks in the system which will have to checked by the authorities on a regular basis.
7. Most importantly please note that BBMP has only opened up giving permission after a long period of well over 15 months. Hence the development projects to enable better telecom services in the whitefield area were over due. Hence you are seeing lot of work being carried out in Whitefield area.
8. Restorations between Mahadevpura – Hoodi Circle – Brigade TechPark – ITPL (KIADB Area) – Mayura Bakery – Kundanahalli Gate have started in full swing as the OFC cable pulling is completed. Entire restorations between this area shall be completed by end of this week June 22nd.
9. Please note that fresh work shall be commenced between Mayura Bakery – OFarm Junction – Saibaba Ashram – HP Petrol Bunk within 2 days. We shall take utmost precautions during this work also.
While I completely understand the inconvenience that this development project might have created, we shall assure you that the restorations shall happen at the earliest. Only the Road between Kundanahalli towards SAF signal, project is going on and it shall be completed in 15 Days. Meanwhile we shall ensure that temporary restorations are done on a regular basis to avoid any inconvenience.
Our project Manager Mr.Raghu shall be available for any further support that you might require for the Vodafone projects.
As Nitya Ramakrishnan from Whitefield Rising puts it, “Vodafone being a multinational company, cannot get away with writing this same email in their home country. Also the breaches would not be acceptable anywhere else. Then why should Indians tolerate this?” Whitefield Rising team took a strong stance and replied with clear facts.
The letter said:
While your intentions seem to be good, we wish to bring to your attention that you are in serious breach of your contract with BBMP the terms of which you most unfortunately seem to be unaware of. Therefore before responding to us kindly take a moment to go through the terms and conditions of the contract as attached.
Here are the actions you need to take: Pls refer to Paras 6,7,8 and 9 of your contract reproduced below for your convenience:
1. BEFORE YOU START A PIT – we need the following in place: (PARA 9 of your contract)SAFETY BARRICADE WITH WARNING LIGHTS AND REFLECTOR CAUTION SIGNAGE
2. CLEAR Signage “Vodafone OFC WORK IN PROGRESS – INCONVENIENCE REGRETTED”
3. OPENING AND CLOSING DATES TO BE DISPLAYED
4. AFTER DIGGING – EXCESS DEBRIS AROUND THE AREA TO BE CLEARED IMMEDIATELY ON SAME DAY (Para 8 of your contract)
5. What restoration you have done is NOT to original surface condition – YOU HAVE TO ASPHALT to smooth finish – this mean you have to run your asphalt over a much larger area than just the pit – there should be NO BUMP in the ROAD – We trust Vodafone is capable enough to understand international standards and the meaning of “original”.
6. PAVEMENTS MUST be restored with ORIGINAL TILE – no bumps allowed – see picture attached.
We are recording all the delays that you are taking and all violations of the contract.
PLEASE BE ON NOTICE that the citizens of WHITEFIELD are fully aware of their rights and any continued violation of the contract terms will result in a POLICE CASE and criminal complaint filed against the MANAGING DIRECTOR and BOARD OF DIRECTORS of Vodafone INDIA for gross negligence and intentional violation leading to hazard and danger to life and limb of Indian Citizens which can result in imprisonment of your officers.
A copy of this email with the contract is being delivered to the Vodafone OFC VICE PRESIDENT and copy to BBMP Commissioner and Chief Minister of Karnataka, Hon Siddharamiah and a copy to the Prime Ministers Office – this is because Vodafone is a large corporation that is FULLY AWARE of international standards of doing work and is fully capable of understanding and executing works in India. Any shortcomings in its execution amounts to simply willful negligence and wrongdoing.
Please note that any attempt to bribe or pay off officials of BBMP or otherwise is a punishable offence under the Indian Penal Code.
The letter made it clear the citizens expect full compliance by international standards by the Vodafone. The letter was also sent to the Chief Minister, BBMP commissioner and all the concerned, alongwith a big team of citizens and key persons, including R K Mishra, a resident of Kadugodi and the founder of Nav Bharath political party.
‘Restorations will be done by Sunday morning’
Interstingly, he complained that BBMP has asked his company to restore the damages done by Airtel and Reliance too, even when BBMP is fully aware that Vodafone hasn’t done it. He asked: “I don’t understand why everybody is targeting Vodafone, when all other telecom companies and vendors have gotten away with whatever they did.”
Citizen Matters is tracking this story and will likely run a follow up report on developments as they progress, including formal views from the telecom firms named in this article.