Makeshift PCOs pop up in Srinagar as people queue up to call loved ones

By: |
September 3, 2019 5:53 PM

Landline services have been restored in some areas but remain snapped in many parts of the valley, including the downtown area of Srinagar city.

Khursheed Ahmad, 55, came all the way from his Lal Bazaar residence to Jawahar Nagar area to call his son, who is working in Bengaluru. (Representative Image)

With hundreds here standing in queues to use landlines to get in touch with their loved ones, it’s a rewind to the age of the PCOs and STD booths which had gone out of business with the introduction of mobile phones. Makeshift Public Call Offices (PCOs) have sprung up in several Civil Lines’ localities where landline telephone facilities have been restored. The government had snapped all means of telephone and Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir hours before Home Minister Amit Shah announced the Centre’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 and reorganise the state into two union territories.

Landline services have been restored in some areas but remain snapped in many parts of the valley, including the downtown area of Srinagar city. Mohammad Saleem (name changed) had a stream of relatives and neighbours visiting his house at Jawahar Nagar to speak to their loved ones in other parts of the country. “It became difficult to manage the huge rush and sometimes led to acrimony between the visitors as well. So I thought of turning my landline into a paid service,” he said. Khursheed Ahmad, 55, came all the way from his Lal Bazaar residence to Jawahar Nagar area to call his son, who is working in Bengaluru. “I have had no contact with my son since August 5 when curfew was imposed across Kashmir and all means of communication were snapped. So I came here to make a call to him,” Ahmad said.

The businessman, who has two landlines installed at his residence, feels the government should open PCOs in all parts of the city where telephones have not been restored so far. The government is providing free telephone facilities at all police stations to help the people contact their kin elsewhere in the country. “Women feel awkward going to a police station for making a telephone call. Moreover, there are hundreds of people waiting there…. I feel more comfortable here, even though I have to travel almost 10 km,” Sakeena, who has a daughter studying medicine in Rajasthan, said.

The makeshift PCO owners believe that more such outlets might come up in the city if the government continues with suspension of mobile phone services in the valley. “Most people had disconnected their landlines due to availability of cheap mobile phone services. The poor services provided by BSNL did not make things any easier for the subscribers, who gave up their connections. So the demand for PCOs will only increase if the stalemate continues,” Saleem added. BSNL officials said they have received hundreds of applications for fresh landline connections at each functional exchange in the city. “We are looking into the feasibility issues and will give out connections wherever possible,” an official of the state-owned Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) said.

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