As Maharashtra emerges as a major epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic’s second wave in India and heads to another lockdown, telecom operators are seeking to get a designation of “frontline worker” for field engineers, the Economic Times reported. Such a designation would allow field engineers, who work on maintaining towers and other telecom infrastructure that is crucial to keeping communications up and running, to work without hindrance from the police. We have reached out to the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association for comment.
Even though telecom field engineers were always designated as essential workers, that did not stop them from police harassment. Nirlipt Rai, an IPS officer in Gujarat, reportedly assaulted an Indus Towers engineer in April, right at the beginning of the first lockdown. At that time, central government guidelines expressly allowed field engineers to work unimpeded, but local authorities did not implement this uniformly.
“I’ve written to the telecom secretary, who, in turn, has strongly recommended to the health ministry that all telecom services field staff/engineers be conferred the status of frontline healthcare workers,” the Cellular Operators Association of India’s Director General SP Kochhar told the Economic Times.