For the last three years, Juhi Chawla has been on a mission to educate users on the perils of mobile phone radiation, a ticking health time-bomb. The Bollywood actor has been visiting schools, speaking at seminars, working with citizens groups and calling on ministers and authorities to drive her point home.
“We are not calling it a war. We are not against the telecom companies. We are saying that if the telecom companies are spending so much on marketing initiatives, they should spend a little more to make it safer,” Chawla told Business Line in an interview.
The former Miss India, who is married to industrialist Jay Mehta, wants stringent mobile tower policy in place that would minimise radiation levels. With the permissible radiation levels in India more than 400 times in countries such as Austria and Belgium, her point is valid.
In India, the permissible levels are at 450 milli watts for a square metre for 900 Mhz frequency going up to 1,000 milli watts/sq. m for 2,100 MHz. The actor wants telecom companies to lower combined power output for an antenna, put a cap on the number of antennae for a site and increase the distance between antennae and neighbouring buildings. She also wants companies to distribute a ‘dos and don’ts’ booklet along with handsets.
Another issue is the extensive use of mobile phones as call rates are the lowest in the country.
“I try to use the landline whenever I can. We cannot do without the mobile phones but we don’t need to use them indiscriminately. We are overusing it, we are misusing it,” Chawla said, adding, “the mobile phone is not a toy; it’s a device that uses radio waves”.
Describing the severity of issue, she said the frequency of these radio waves is close to that of a microwave oven. When an oven is sparingly used, the mobile phone is on throughout the day, while a telecom antenna is never switched off.
Further, children absorb more radiation than adults and it would be wise to keep mobile phones away from them, she added.
However, there were also low points in the fight. “About one-and-a-half years ago, I even thought of giving up. I was running from pillar to post and everyone from ministers to government officials were just passing the buck”.
It all changed when Prakash Munshi, a neighbour, joined the initiative. Now, the duo through the recently named organisation - Indians for Safe Environment – has involved citizens groups from Colaba to Malad in Mumbai. The mission has also spread its wings to other cities such as Hyderabad, Coonoor and Ahmedabad among others.
The actor, who also supports many causes ranging from thalassemia to education for special children, is in no mood to give up the fight. The rising number of phone users and towers, which means rise intensity and levels of radiation, makes the fight even more cause-worthy.
Chawla has no intention to give up. “Not any time soon,” she concludes with a smile.