Communication blockade spurs demand for landlines in Kashmir

Srinagar: Outside a BSNL office, a queue of desperate subscribers is getting longer by the minute. People turn up in hordes to get either their land line numbers restored or a new connection issued.

For the last one month, Kashmir is witnessing a communication blackout after authorities’ suspended landline, mobile and internet services to avoid any backlash following the scrapping of Article 370.

 

Facing flak, the government restored landlines in parts of the valley spurring fresh demands for new connections. Huge rush of people could be seen at BSNL office with people waiting for hours to submit their application either for fresh connection or restoration of old numbers.

Completely unequipped to handle such maddening rush, the staff behind the counters face the wrath of the impatient public as they struggle to clear the mountain of applications from every place imaginable.

Bashir Ahmad, a retired government servant, has not being able to communicate with his daughter, who studies outside the valley, for the last one month. Waiting patiently in the queue, Ahmad has been coming to BSNL office repeatedly to get his land line number restored.

“Our exchange was restored recently. My hopes were raised but the outgoing facility is still out of bounds. This is my fourth time here and I am really desperate,” he said.

 “It’s my daughter’s first semester and she is yet to get familiar with the new place. I get apprehensions about her well-being every single minute but what to do. I am not able to reach out to her.”

The blockade has adversely affected the business community that relies heavily on the internet. Saqib, a 28-year-old entrepreneur, sits glumly outside the chamber of lease line section, hoping for some information and clarity on when internet will be restored.

“I never ran after the coveted government jobs and always thought of setting up something on my own.  After university, I started my own venture dealing with pharmaceutical goods. It was going well, and I had hired four people and rented an office too,” he lamented.

The blockade, however, came as a bolt from the blue. “Never in my wildest dream did I imagine such a hurdle. I can hardly sustain myself, so I had no option but to lay off the employees and vacate the office,” he said

Saqib fears that the companies, he was dealing with, might switch to distributors in Jammu. “I will have to start from the scratch again, and I don’t think I can again manage to go through the rigmarole again. I think I am done for,” he said.

Meanwhile, many of the Kashmiris studying and working outside have taken to electronic media including TV channels and radio stations to convey their message to the families.

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About the Author

When the world fails to make sense, Hirra Azmat seeks solace in words. Both worlds, literary and the physical lend color to her journalism.

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