The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cable war blots out Cup contest

Malda, Feb. 26: Nerves frayed. Tempers rose. Hearts sank.

Malda fumed, then sighed, unable to watch the India-England match live on cable today. The reason: cable rivalry led to the snapping of lines last night.

Residents woke up this morning to blank screens. All the channels had gone off air.

A mad scramble for television antennas ensued as residents sought to hook up with the national network. Soon, there were no more antennas in the market. Many turned to their radio sets.

The two cable operators, who control the market and are at loggerheads, accused each other of cutting off the wires last night. “They went around snipping the wires of my network last night,” said Ramen Roy, one of the owners of Malda Cable Network. He said 11 electrical boxes, used to connect the wires at different points, was stolen last night.

Roy said his rival’s men beat up his repairman Jayanta Sarkar when he was trying to join the snapped wires in a locality. He said a complaint was lodged with the Englishbazar police station.

The rival Malda Satellite Link scoffed at the allegations. “Actually, they went around with knives last night snipping off our lines,” Amalendu Bhattacharya of Malda Satellite Link said.

Bhattacharya, who entered the business three months ago, said Roy’s men had been after him from the start as he had offered cheaper connections. “We started offering connection for only Rs 50 against Rs 130 they were charging. They were forced to reduce their price.”

He said he had lodged several complaints with the police in the last three months.

Superintendent of police Pankaj Dutta was not amused as the operators bickered publicly. A cricket enthusiast, he was as disappointed as others.

Dutta called the two over and asked them to restore connection right away. “I won’t spare anybody. The cable operators will be held responsible for any incident,” he told them, offering police protection.

The stern warning was enough to send the operators running to repair the lines. But it was not easy. The operators finally gave up, saying reconnection would take time.

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