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Beam rate hike sparks boycott

The price spiral of cable TV subscription has sparked trouble in a pocket of south Calcutta. Over 350 residents in Mudiali, Southern Avenue, Lake Avenue, Raja Basanta Roy Road, Rashbehari Avenue and Sarat Bose Road have boycotted the multi-system operator (MSO) and launched an agitation against the hike from Rs 200 in July to Rs 300 in September.

Having formed a Customer Resistance Forum, they are trying to establish a dedicated network in their bid to “break the stranglehold” of RPG Netcom and SitiCable.

“Despite repeated meetings and requests, the MSOs have told us they will not bring down the rates,” complained Subrata Deb, a resident of Lake Avenue.

“They even warned us that the rates will shoot up to Rs 360 by March 2003, Rs 400 by June and finally Rs 500 by the end of next year,” added Tapas Duttagupta, a member of the forum. The resistance team has petitioned Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee, but to no avail.

“There is nothing we can do. Apart from the 5 per cent service tax, we have to pay a huge amusement tax separately to the government and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. The broadcasters are to blame for the hike,” said Sunil Seal, a cable operator on Southern Avenue.

The forum, that organised a ‘resistance’ rally on Sunday, has taken its case to the Kalikata Nagarik Sammelan. It is also chalking out plans to bring aggrieved cable consumers and independent operators under one umbrella. “The smaller operators, who are willing to give us cable connections, are being intimidated by the bigger players,” alleged Bijoy Krishna Bhattacharya of Lake Avenue.

“We have learnt that similar resistance groups have sprung up in other parts of the city. We are trying to forge an alliance and carry the battle forward,” added Subhro Chatterjee of Southern Avenue.

Tarak Saha, convener of the Forum of Cable Operators, however, called for an amicable resolution of the matter.

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