Telegram hasn't lost relevance, say protesting staffers

Kolkata, July 16 (IANS) Even as the iconic 163-year-old telegram service passed into history, Central Telegraph Office (CTO) staffers Tuesday claimed that telegrams have "not lost their relevance".

In a protest organised by the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) Employees Union, around 80 employees of the CTO here demanded that the telecom giant reconsider its judgment of shutting down the service.

"Despite the advent of telephones and internet, there are many areas across the country where thousands still use the service. It has not lost its relevance. We have asked the management to review the decision," Animesh Mitra, secretary of the West Bengal chapter of BSNL Employees Union, told IANS.

India owes its telegraph system to its erstwhile British rulers who brought it to the country in 1833 to establish a communication system between their capital Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Howrah.

Refuting the notion that telegrams has become redundant, Mitra said that people in rural areas who can't afford telephone services are "largely dependent" on telegrams.

"Areas like Bandel and Srirampore in West Bengal see a healthy number of telegram users. They can't afford telephone calls or internet as these services are not available everywhere," said Mitra. BSNL had earned Rs.9 lakh during the last financial year from its nine offices in Kolkata, he added.

During 1982-83, there were some 45,000 telegraph offices across the country. The annual telegraph traffic during that period was 75.2 million, which has now fallen to 72,000, prompting the BSNL to scrap the service as it felt it has lost its relevance in this age of cutting-edge technology.

Mitra pointed out that the Indian Army still depends on telegrams for communicating across remote areas and the revenue derived from the army alone is "staggering".

"The total amount we made from the army (across India) is Rs.4 crore," said Mitra, dispelling the idea that telegram service was responsible for financial losses to the BSNL.

Mitra says that officials never consulted the stakeholders before closing the service down.

"No one from the management ever consulted us," Mitra said.

"Most importantly, it is part of our heritage. It should be continued to carry on that heritage if not for any other reason," Mitra added.

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