Even as the Union government gears to give the iconic telegram service a grand farewell on July 15, BSNL employees have condemned the move, arguing that it is still being used by government departments and organisations and those in rural and remote areas.
Rejecting BSNL’s contention that mounting losses made the service unsustainable, unions have urged Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal to try to make it profitable. “It is a valued service and should be kept as a skeleton service and preserved as a heritage,” says the Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations, which represents more than 2.5 lakh employees of the state telecom major.
“Even after the introduction of… Internet, STD and e-mail, telegrams are still used by military personnel for official use and also for contacting their families from remote locations… Many banks and State governments are still utilising the service. Telegrams are also treated as most authentic… in legal matters and official records. At least, minimum service should be maintained in the interests of the people who are still using it,” Forum convener V.A.N. Namboodiri has said. He urged Mr. Sibal to hold discussions with unions before taking a final decision.
Mr. Sibal has said the telegram service will get a “ceremonial farewell.” “We will bid it a very warm farewell, and maybe the last telegram sent should be a museum piece. That is the way in which we can bid it a warm farewell,” he said on Thursday.
In India, the first telegraph message was transmitted live between Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Diamond Harbour, a distance of 50 km, on November 5, 1850; and the service was opened for the public in February 1855. Over the years, BSNL made several upgrades, the latest being the web-based messaging system introduced in 2010.