STDs, PCOs re-enter Kashmir as mobile services snapped

STDs, PCOs re-enter Kashmir as mobile services snapped

 An elderly resident talks on phone after authorities in Kashmir restored 19 more telephone exchanges, a month after telephone services were snapped following abrogation of provisions of Article 370, in Srinagar, Thursday, Sept 5, 2019. (PTI Photo)

After failing to get a job despite a long search, Mukhtar Ahmad started an STD and PCO in civil lines area of Srinagar to earn his livelihood in mid 1990s. Like the rest of the country, STD and PCO booths were a common sight in Srinagar those days.

Within no time Ahmad’s worries subdued as he started earning good. “I had made little investment in starting the PCO. A fax machine and other equipment would cost Rs 20 to Rs 30 thousand and a rented shop was all I invested. In six month’s time, not only I recovered the whole investment, but my financial worries ended,” he told DH.

However, a decade later Ahmad had to windup the telecom business due to the mobile phone revolution as STD, PCOs became irrelevant. “After a hard struggle, I converted my shop into a provision store. Till last month the old fax and other machines were lying in the store of my shop,” he said.

Ahmad had never imagined that a time will come when customers will again queue up at his shop to make a phone call. “As landlines were restored in civil lines areas by August 20, lot of friends were coming to my shop to make phone calls. Initially, I would not charge anything from them. But as the rush increased, I had to charge money,” he said.

PCO booths are making a reentry in Srinagar city, where mobile and internet services remain snapped since August 5. Several provision store owners, who had working landline connections have started earning good money as people from far-off places visit them to make phone calls.

“I have come from old city to make a phone call to my son, who is studying in an engineering college in Punjab. From the last one month, we had lost contact with him due to the information blockade. Thank God, this service has given chance to people like me to reconnect with our loved ones,” Nayeem Dar, who was waiting for his turn at a PCO in Jawahar Nagar, said.

There are hundreds of people like Dar who visit newly established PCO booths in civil lines daily. However, one of the customers said that the PCO owners, taking advantage of the prevailing situation, were overcharging them.

“There is no meter or something whereby we can see how much money we have to pay for the phone call. There is desperation among people to get in touch with their loved ones living hundreds of miles away. Some greedy PCO owners are taking advantage of it,” he said.

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