Telephone customers of Heggodu village of Sagar taluk are on an indefinite dharna for the last 11 days in protest against the “sudden rise” in telephone tariff effected by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.

The demonstrators have been protesting under the banner “Gramantara Grahakara Okkoota” (Rural Customers’ Federation) have termed the increase in tariff as “unjust” urging BSNL to reconsider its decision.

What is significant is that the villagers are participating in the protest voluntarily on rotation basis although there has been no “positive” response from BSNL except that its local officials visited the spot just to hear grievances of the villagers on the first day of the dharna.

The protesters said that the monthly rent should be fixed at Rs. 50 as the Heggodu Telephone Exchange is located in a rural area while the stand taken by BSNL officials is that it is inevitable to increase it to Rs. 110 as the capacity of the exchange has been increased to 1,000 lines. They say that the rent raised once based on capacity cannot be reduced. The protesters, in turn, asked why they should be denied facilities extended to rural customers because the capacity of a rural exchange has been raised. They said that the capacity of the exchange has been increased deliberately only to justify the rise in monthly rent.

According to BSNL, there are 588 fixed and 198 WLL telephone connections in the Heggodu exchange. However, the protesters said that 122 of the fixed connections have since been surrendered following the rise in monthly rent.

They insist that BSNL should restore the monthly rent at Rs. 50 as the capacity of the exchange did not exceed 1,000 lines.

Another matter that has upset the villagers is that telephone connections have been given to nearby villages from the exchange only to increase its capacity. They said some telephone connections could have been given from the Ulivi Telephone Exchange.

Meanwhile, BSNL has sent letters to those who have surrendered their telephone connections offering a special package to them. “The offer made is beneficial to only those who make more telephone calls,” said secretary of the federation Prabhakar.

Vice-President of the Janavadi Mahila Sanghatane Vimala addressed the villagers.

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