A battle to hog the lucrative cable television business in the hill state has erupted at a time when assembly elections are just around the corner in Himachal, and as usual it is the common man who is bearing the brunt.
Television viewers in the capital town were caught unawares after their cable TV networks went off air for more than 24 hours since Saturday night. While offices of cable operators in Shimla were flooded with public complaints on phone, owners of two major cable networks in the state capital - Shimla Satellite Cable Network Limited (Channel 9) and Cheena Cable Network (City Channel) - had a standard reply: 'Right now, we are helpless'.
It was learnt that a technical snag hit the cable networks after optical fibres connecting distribution juncture were snapped owing to a war between different networks to gain the upper hand in the entire state.
While children, used to spending weekends at home, cribbed about non-broadcast of channels airing animated cartoons, homemakers grumbled about missing out on episodes of their favourite serials and soap operas. "I was at home to watch my favorite Saturday television programmes, but have been left very much annoyed for the last two days," groused Arti Devi.
The vanishing act of cable TV broadcasts has also added to the woes of hotels in Shimla, which were otherwise booked to capacity for the weekend. "There is no cable TV broadcasts in many hotels. Guests in hotels rooms are a dejected lot," remarked Harman Kukreja, president of Shimla hotel and restaurateurs association.
Interestingly, the cable network was restored in some areas of the capital by Sunday evening.
When contacted, SN Khanna, the owner of Channel 9, said, "We regret that the public had to face harassment due to a technical snag in the cable network. The fault occurred after someone cut the optical fibres at five to six places. I believe that it was the handiwork of our rivals."
Khanna said that he had given a written complaint to police, adding that he had suffered a loss of Rs 2 lakh due to deliberate damage to optic fibres.
Shimla Satellite Cable Network Limited caters to VIP areas like secretariat, Barnes Court, Oakover etc. The company has sold 50% share to Fastway Cable Network owned by a Ludhiana resident. The company claims about 35,000 subscribers across Shimla.
On the other hand, Cheena Cable Network controls a majority of cable network in the state. It has
about 20,000 subscribers in the state capital. "We are repeatedly facing the problem of optical fibre thefts. Our clients had a harrowing time due to the technical snag that occurred in cable network in the wee hours of Saturday," said Mukesh Malhotra, the owner of Cheena Cable Networks.