Telcos, schools charge for shutdown period in J&K

Telcos, schools charge for shutdown period in J&K

Seventeen out of around 100 telephone exchanges were restored on August 17 in the Valley. There in no mobile phone network or internet in the region yet. Photo/AFP

Despite internet and mobile services not working in Kashmir for the last 49 days due to the communication blockade imposed by the government, cellular companies are still charging the subscribers for the period.

Communication blockade began in Kashmir on August 5 when the Centre abrogated provisions of Article 370 and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.

The subscribers said that they have been sent bills by telecom companies for services that were not provided during the last almost two months.

“I have Rs 399 bill plan on my Airtel number. I have received two month bill of Rs 1,070. I fail to understand why I am being overcharged for the services which are not being provided,” said Shahnawaz Parray, a resident of Srinagar.

Iqbal Ahmad, who has a BSNL mobile connection, said that his average monthly mobile bill used to be around Rs 300 but he was surprised to find an inflated bill for the shutdown period.

“When I contacted the BSNL office, I was told besides the billed amount I have to pay a late fee as well. This is injustice. We are not only being charged for the services which are not provided but asked to pay penalties as well,” he said.

An official of a telecom company said they have lost huge revenues due to the information blockade and there is no alternative but to charge the subscribers.

“We can’t charge pre-paid subscribers but post-paid subscribers will be charged for the whole period along with late fees,” he said.

Not only cellular companies, but private schools in Kashmir too are asking parents to clear the school and bus fee of August and September.

“The students have not gone to school since August 3 but the school authorities have asked me to deposit the fees for months of August, September and October,” said Shakeel Ahmad, whose son is studying in a renowned missionary school in Srinagar.

Ahmad and other parents like him said that they were furious that the school authorities asked them to pay even the transportation charges for the period when even schools didn’t open for an hour.

An administrator of a leading school in Srinagar said that parents pay fees even during winter vacations when the schools remain closed for three months every year.

“We have to pay the salaries to staff and there is no alternative but to charge the students,” he said.

Asked why transport charges are being recovered from the students when the buses are not plying, he said, “We have taken buses for schools after taking huge loans from banks. We have to pay interest on the loan and plus the salaries to drivers and conductors of the buses.”

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