The television and the radio signals from Pakistan, which it was supposed to weaken, are still as strong as ever. Worse, the population, mostly rural, in all areas around 100 kilometres from its location, which it was supposed to serve have mostly switched over either to the cable connection or to the DTH.
The approximately 1,000 ft free standing tower, the second tallest man-made structure in India (after Rameshwaram TV tower, which is approximately 1,060 ft tall), has turned into a white elephant now. Planned as a relay station on lines of Jalandhar Doordarshan Kendra, apart from weakening the signals from Pakistan, the tower now relays only Doordarshan channels. No programmes are made here even though it houses the equipment necessary to create and relay them.
The work on the tower began in 1996, after residents of Fazilka, which shares borer with Pakistan, met former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and urged him to take steps to curb the anti-India propaganda being telecast by the neighbouring country on television and radio networks. The 1 KW TV tower in the area was not good enough to weaken the signals from Pakistan.
"Though the work with a project cost of about Rs 80 crore began in 1996. It was to be completed in two years. However, by the time it was completed in 2007, cable network and DTH connections had reached the border belt," said Leeladhar Sharma, who had led the delegation to meet PM in 1996.
He blamed the delay in construction on financial crunch, non-availability of skilled workers and death of half dozen labourers during the construction.
"The main purpose of tower was to weaken the signals from Pakistan, but even now many villages close to Pakistan get to watch the programmes being telecast by the neighbouring country, courtesy the cable network. Most of the locals watched this year's Cricket World Cup on Pakistani TV channels as the signal from the Indian networks was not good enough to relay the programmes, said a villager, with his home near the tower.
The Fazilka district administration has, in the past, warned the cable operators asking them to stop telecasting the Pakistani channels, but to no avail.
However, Amarnath, the deputy director in the department of telecommunications, Bhatinda region, said: "Our TV tower is still of much use as in many villages in the interiors, people cannot go for cable connection. So they watch the Doordarshan channels, which are free".
In order to make utilise the tower and earn some revenue, the authorities had decided to launch FM radio service. It also plans to start relaying programmes made at the TV station here.
The building to run the radio station is ready for more than a year, but till date the equipment to telecast the programmes has not arrived the from the department of information of broadcasting and telecommunication. The department has not even taken electricity connection of this building for want of funds.
Amarnath , however, said, "Our project (on FM service) is ready and we are waiting for the machinery from Delhi office".