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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

Not a SIM-ple game

Ramani Ranjan Mohapatra, Hindustan Times   Bhopal, October 22, 2012
First Published: 11:15 IST(22/10/2012) | Last Updated: 11:17 IST(22/10/2012)

Don't think you got yourself a cheap deal by paying ten extra bucks for a SIM card without providing verification documents. Chances are you might be on police's list of suspected terrorists.

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And even if you did produce the necessary papers, there is no guarantee you are safe. Your documents may be used by a stranger involved in illegal activities.

Earlier this month, the Madhya Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) in a letter to the Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TERM) Cell Bhopal sought action against five telecom operators holding them responsible for issuance of SIM cards to suspected terrorists. Despite the letter, there is no check on this careless approach.

To track the issue, HT bought three SIM cards - all activated - of different companies from different locations of the city without submitting any documents. It is also not clear on whose IDs these SIM cards were issued.

In case of a Reliance SIM bought from a roadside stall in MP Nagar, the vendor assured, "Don't worry, sahib! It's my headache." The vendor however charged Rs. 10 extra for getting things 'sorted'. To dig in further, when the vendor was asked if the SIM card might get deactivated without any documents, he suggested to name of a 50-odd-year-old woman Khelan Kanhyalal, hailing from Balghat. "If the customer care calls you asking for documents, you name the lady."

Further, a vendor at Jawahar Chowk from which the Airtel SIM card was purchased (without any document) asked to call a day later for the details regarding the name of the person on whose documents the connection was registered.

It is worth mentioning that none of the telecom operators have contacted HT till this date for verification of the documents, thus flouting norms set by Department of Telecommunication (DoT).

"After a SIM card has been activated, the subscriber will not be able to make any calls (except to the operator) until the subscriber details are at least verified over the phone," states a DoT communication dated August 9, 2012.

When contacted to comment on the issue, the director DoT Bhopal Sarang Mandviker said, "If any complaint is made, we take action. We also audit and verify customer identification every month." However, the officer said there are no limit how many connections one can get on his name.

Sources say the dealers are given a target of selling a particular number of SIM cards within a stipulated time. To meet the target, they ask customers for documents, photographs, but don't fill up the forms, of which they make photocopies and use for numerous times.

The public relation officer of Airtel Bhopal, Puneet Gupta trying to play safe said, "We are not responsible for this. It is the retailer who does all these things."

Tata Docomo and Reliance executives could not be reached for a comment over the issue, despite repeated attempts.
According to police, norms are hardly being followed while issuing new connection. Superintendent of police, Bhopal South, Anshuman Singh said action is taken whenever there is a complaint or when such things come to the notice of people.
 


The explosive history and SIM cards
 
In July 2012, the MP ATS had issued notices to various network providers for not following the due procedure while issuing SIM cards. The action was initiated after arrests of alleged Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Indian Mujahideen (IM) members from Bhopal and Jabalpur. Investigations revealed that accused had obtained over a dozen SIM cards of these companies on fake identities.

ATS probing the 13/7 triple terror attack said the Delhi-based hawala operator used three SIM cards obtained on fake documents. The SIM cards were from a set of provided to the members of Indian Mujahideen.

Abu Jundal, the alleged Lashkar-Toiba (LeT) opearative, who handled the 26/11 Mubai terror attackers, carried nine international SIM cards brought from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to coordinate terror-related activities.


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