IMPHAL, APR 10 (NPN): About three lakh Airtel subscribers in Manipur were affected following shut down of Airtel towers with effect from early Sunday. The operation of the towers was suspended following a decision of the caretakers of the mobile phone service operators on Saturday due to extortion threat posed by a group of KCP to the Airtel Company.
“We have decided to suspend the operation of the towers with immediate effect taking serious note on the ban imposed by the group through local media,” said S Nilakamal, advisor of the All Manipur Airtel Workers’ Union.
It maybe mentioned that activists of the KCP group have been targeting caretakers of the towers of the service providers since the last few months. Recently they threatened the caretakers on April 8 and even killed one caretaker, Oinam Borbabu inside his own house on April 4 night in front of his family members.
BTS (based transceiver system) of a tower of Airtel Company service provider at Langol in Imphal was also set on fire by the suspected activists of the group on Saturday night, causing damage to the materials in the tower worth around `two lakh.
Police have so far registered at least six cases against attack on Airtel caretakers and towers in the last two months, police officer said.
With no tower operating for the day, Airtel subscribers estimated at about three lakhs faced inconvenience as there was no network coverage and the ban is likely to continue further.
Frequent extortion demands and abduction of telecom company staff by militants have been severely affecting the functioning of tele service providers in Manipur in the last two years.
Since the introduction of private telecom services in the state, militants have been harassing them by demanding money.
In August 2009, militants damaged 17 towers of the Tata Tele services. In October last year two Aircel towers situated at Yourabung Khunou and Khurai Leikai in Imphal were also attacked due to failure of the telecom service provider to meet the extortion demands of the militants.
More than 10 towers were attacked by the militants during the last year 2010 apart from kidnapping of caretakers and staff of the service providers, stated an official source.