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Nepalese SIM cards prove saviour for Indians living close to border

Malpa and Malti Nalaah, which has seen loss of seven human lives, are usually beset with poor communication network. The entire communication network collapsed after the landslides on Monday.

dehradun Updated: Aug 16, 2017 21:19 IST
Anupam Trivedi
Anupam Trivedi
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand,BSNL,Nepal
Work in progress to restore road connectivity in landslide affected Malpa.(HT Photo)

DEHRADUN: Despite repeated claims by officials that mobile connectivity will be enhanced along the India-Nepal border, the people in frontier areas are largely dependent on cellphone service operators from the neighbouring country to remain in touch with the outside world.

Nevertheless, state-run telecom firm BSNL is yet to establish towers in the border areas of Pithoragarh district and claims it will be done by the year end.

Not surprisingly, the recent landslides after cloudbursts exposed the poor mobile connectivity in this part of the state. Rescue operations became a Herculean task in the absence of proper mobile connectivity. Malpa and Malti Nalaah, which has seen loss of seven human lives, are usually beset with poor communication network. The entire communication network collapsed after the landslides on Monday.

In such a situation, the people in Dharchula have no option but to use Nepalese SIM cards despite higher call rates. Nepalese telecom operators such as Namaste and Sky charge Rs12 per minute, which is nearly 30 times higher than the call rates offered by domestic players.

“We have little choice. Mobile connectivity of domestic operators is only for namesake. It would have been difficult for us, if there were no SIM cards available from across the border,” Dinesh Dhami, a local, says.

Meanwhile, the weather gods are yet to hear the prayers of the people in Pithorgarh. On Monday, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had to cancel his tour to the landslide-affected areas due to inclement weather. Rawat said his government requested the Union home ministry to help in restoring communication facilities in the border district. “We are also requesting the Nepalese mobile companies to increase the frequency of towers so we can get help for accelerating relief works at times of emergencies,”he said.

Sources in the telecom ministry sources told HT owing to security reasons, it was a practice to not build mobile tower in 10 km area of the border. But this norm is largely relaxed barring some parts of Jammu and Kashmir.

BSNL officials accept border areas face troubles due to the poor mobile connectivity. They claim double shielded twisted pairs (DSTPs), which are vital for communication, will be set up in Jholahghat area for better mobile communication. “Seven-eight base transceiver station (BTS) – that facilitates wireless communication - will be set up in Dharchula area. For this, we have received equipment. Work for site selection is on final stage,” BSNL principal general manager telecom, Almora, AK Gupta told Hindustan Times over phone.

First Published: Aug 16, 2017 21:18 IST