Internet era relegates telegram to history

Internet era relegates telegram to history

Pre-internet era’s speedy means of written communication, “telegram,” will be wired to history mid-next month, losing the race to a restless generation that swears by smart applications, prefers texting and wants services at the click of a button.

And aging 160-year-old telegram could not offer any of this. Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) upgraded the communication facility in 2006 to move on to web-based telegraphy message system but it still could not attract net gazers.

A telegram carrying limited words delivered to a house always brought either cheers or disbelief and the medium will be used only in emergencies, unlike emails or SMS which many a time don’t generate excitement as they have become routine posts. Since 1833, when the first 43.7 km telephone lines were laid in then Calcutta by the East India Company, telegram had weathered competition as it was affordable and most certain way of communication.

But, since its service is not required in the modern era, the BSNL has decided to discontinue the Telegram service from July 15.

As per a circular issued by Shameem Akhtar, Sr General Manager (Telegraph Services) BSNL here, the telegraph service is to be discontinued and the staff engaged in this task will be redeployed to other departments of the telecom company.

The circular has been sent to various telecom district and circle offices.

The circular has also directed the telecom offices to maintain log books, service messages, delivery slips only for six months from the date of bookings. However, complaints, press reports and other messages from different consumer fora are to be kept for one year.

The government decision came after the service was not commercially viable due to losing out users. The decision was taken after consultation with the Department of Posts, sources said.

Faced with declining revenues, the government in May 2011 revised the telegram charges after a gap of 60 years. The telegram charges for inland services was hiked to Rs 27 for 50 words which was far more from Rs 3 for 50 words.

 Two months ago, telegram services for overseas communication were withdrawn by the BSNL. 

Now, only 75 offices across the country offer telegram services manned by around 1,000 staff. As the existing offices get hardly any work, we have no option but to close down the offices, said a BSNL official.

V A N Namboodiri, convener of the Forum of BSNL Unions, says he is against the closing down of the service. He urged that at least a skeletal service should be run to cater to emergencies.

He also pointed out that Indian courts accepted only telegrams and telegram receipts as proof of evidence in civil or criminal suits. It was also a handy mode of communication for jawans and armed forces for seeking leave, transfer or sending joining reports.

Instead of scrapping the service, it should have been handed over to the postal department, which has been handling the service since its inception in the 1850s till the Telecom Department took over in 1985.

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