A landline comeback?
This refers to the report “BSNL offers free calls on landline at night from May 1” (FE, April 24). This is perhaps for the first time a telecom-service provider in the country has decided to put such an offer for landline phones, which have been pushed to the background by mobile phones. Before the advent of mobile phones, having a landline phone was considered a status symbol in the 1960s along with steel utensils, gramophone record players, radios and refrigerators. People used to lock their dials of landline phones with a small lock so that free-loaders were discouraged from making calls. There used to be bulky landline phone directories printed every year. There was a waiting list of people trying to get landline connections. For getting bold entries in phone directories, the subscribers had to pay premium. There were only public sector service-providers for landline phones—the DoT. Later, MTNL came into being for Delhi and Bombay and the rest of India was brought under BSNL. After the advent of mobile phones, landline phones were no longer preferred by the people and even private operators were allowed to offer landline services. The entry of private operators in landline phones has affected both the BSNL and the MTNL. Even though landline phones are more reliable than mobile phones in emergencies, a section of the people have lost interest in landline phones after getting mobile phones. Even world leaders rely on landline phones as they are less susceptible to surveillance. Rotary dial phones of the yore are available in the grey market. Will the landline see a revival of interest among the people, thanks to the BSNL overtures? If any private service provider offers an attractive scheme, the market for landline phones may see a churn.
Deendayal M Lulla, Mumbai
Politicians often—and inexplicably so—appear indifferent to public anger. But even in that context, it is indeed surprising that the political class as a whole has failed to gauge the extent of people’s disgust at their statements and actions that ensued in the wake of the suicide committed by a Rajasthani farmer at the Aam Aadmi Party’s rally on Wednesday. The rally was to protest the land acquisition Bill that the Narendra Modi-led government is trying to ram through Parliament. Following the terrible tragedy, the Congress, BJP and AAP have clumsily tried to outflank each other in appropriating political capital—and equally—apportioning blame for the incident.
A farmer committing suicide in Central Delhi at the iconic Jantar Mantar should have ideally focused the attention of political parties to the grave crisis afflicting the agrarian sector; the massive crop failure after the recent erratic rains and hailstorms across the country. Instead, the political discourse only hinged on the immediate circumstances of Gajendra Singh’s suicide. The BJP and Congress leaders straining themselves to score brownie points over their respective government policies for farmers and trading charges over the statistics of farmer suicides, once again revealed the relentlessness of this cynical game. Reducing the threshold for crop damage from 50% to 33% and a 50% increase in compensation is a positive intervention by the Centre. However, the Centre will compensate only 80,000 hectares of damaged crop against its own assessment that 1.8 lakh hectares were affected. Then there is also criticism about delayed and inadequate compensations. However, the competitive politics playing out in and outside Parliament does not reflect any real concern for the farmer.
Bhagwan Thadani, via email