The era of mobile phones, emails, SMSes and free chat apps has claimed a victim — the telegram. The public sector Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), India’s only provider of telegram services, has decided to stop its 162-year-old telegraph services, which is losing Rs. 350 crore per annum.
“The board approved the proposal to close down the service after exploring all options,” said RK Upadhyay, chairman and managing director of BSNL.
The telegraph service, which was launched in 1851 and played a decisive role in ensuring a British victory in India’s First War of Independence six years later, will formally close down on July 15.
“The telegraph allowed the British to relay info across large parts of India in almost real time. This leap in communications proved decisive,” said B. K. Syngal, former CMD of VSNL, which had the mandate to send telegrams overseas till 2002.
"Currently, we send only about 5,000 telegrams per day," said a BSNL official. That's down from several hundred thousand a day before the advent of the fax machine. BSNL has a deal with India Post to deliver and accept telegrams.
"The tariffs for some categories of telegrams were revised in 2009 after 60 years. This is due to the misconception that the telegram was still a common man's service.
It is still actually used by government departments and banks as its receipts are admissible as proof in courts and as official documents," said SD Saxena, former director (finance) of BSNL.