J&K ban on commercial STDs sees private phone operators flourish
4 April 2002
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: The government imposed ban on commercial STD services in Jammu & Kashmir has led to a parallel business. Several private STD owners have started operating commercially and are charging exorbitantly for the service - as high as four to five times the official rates. This flourishing trade has upset the government plans to check the subversive elements. And, for the PCOs owners who were having hard time since the ban, the new trade has only compounded matters for them. Rashid Rahi, owner of a Srinagar-based news agency - Current News Services, says ''within days of the ban, private STD subscribers started their illegal operation and have been offering services at four to five times the official STD rates. After all, how long could people remain cut off from their relatives in other parts of the country.'' Another resident of Srinagar, on condition of anonymity, said many subscribers are paying as much as five to six thousands towards telephone bills although they earn not more than fifteen to twenty thousands rupees per month. Jammu Telecommunication General Manager R K Upadhyay says ''when the ban was imposed on December 31 last year, we received some complaints that private phones were being used commercially. We investigated everything and withdrew some connections. After that I have not heard any such complaints.'' Senior CID officers disclose that they had tracked certain numbers whose metre reading went up steadily a few days after the ban and those subscribers have been asked to explain the reason for this. Srinagar Telecommunication General Manager Sunil Kumar declined to part with any information on similar misuse of private telephone connections. ''Some people in my department monitor such activities but I have no specific complaint or any information of such misuse,'' he said. A senior Superintendent of Police in state CID says ''the ban was imposed with certain purpose, prominent being the checking of terrorists'' activities. The CID has always kept a close watch on the STD subscribers whose billing shows any unusual rise. We often ask them for the reasons''. He says recently the CID wrote to the Central government to lift the ban from commercial STD operations as it is causing more trouble than fulfilling the desired objectives of security. Sunil Kumar agrees promptly with this opinion. ''The ban is causing unnecessary suffering to the people and the department of telecommunication is losing revenue too. I am in favour of removing the ban,'' he says.