The Department of Telecommunications has notified the Indian Telegraph (Infrastructure Safety) Rules, 2022 to deal with the rampant damages caused to the telegraph infrastructure. The rules published on 3rd January 2023 in the official gazette, impose a penalty upon individuals who cause any damage to telegraph infrastructure (such as telephone lines, cell phone towers, underground facilities, etc.) through digging or excavating of any property. This penalty is payable to the telegraph authority and the amount depends on the cost incurred for restoration.
The damage caused to telegraph infrastructure results in huge economic loss and with 10 lakhs OFC (Optical Fiber Cable) cuts every year in the country, there is a loss to the tune of Rs.3,000 Cr. each year. Such damage could be caused inadvertently and unknowingly by individuals or agencies, or due to want for coordination with the concerned utility asset owners.
The 2022 Rules provide for the mechanism by which a person can exercise his or her right to dig or excavate. Accordingly, if digging or excavation work may cause damage to a telegraph infrastructure or might interfere with telegraphic communications, then the concerned person has to send a prior notice to the licensee (who owns, controls, or manages the infrastructure) through the designated portal. The said notice has to include the relevant details such as the name and address of the person, date, time, and location of the activity, and reasons for the digging or excavation. Thereafter, the licensee will share details of the infrastructure and safety measures through the said portal. These safety measures have to be acted upon by the concerned person. However, if the licensee fails to provide the requisite details within the stipulated time, then the digging or excavation work can be conducted freely.