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Free phone boon from CalTel
- Independence Day bonanza aims at boosting sales, mending fences

Free for the public. Four per cent for public relations. Calcutta Telephones, whose land-line growth appears to have hit a plateau, is now full-time into damage-control mode. The plan of action includes giving phones practically free to willing subscribers and reserving — for the first time ever — a part of its budget for mending fences with the media.

Pushed against the wall by the ever-falling price of going mobile — the Reliance-inspired Monsoon Hungama has done enough in this regard — the telecom giant has chalked out a blue-print to give its sagging sales a boost, come Independence Day.

Called the Independence Hungama — obviously inspired by the Reliance scheme, that gives subscribers mobile phones for an initial payment of Rs 501 — this plan works at giving back a person what he pays for becoming a BSNL cell subscriber.

There is some initial payment (Rs 500), but the follow-up schemes more than make up for that. As soon as one makes the down payment, a free India Telephone Card, worth Rs 216, is delivered. This card allows the subscriber to make calls — worth Rs 200 — anywhere in the world from any phone (even the ones that do not have STD/ISD facilities). What’s more, the Rs 300 more one has paid BSNL will be adjusted with the monthly bills. So, one ends up paying nothing at all for getting connected at home.

The scheme starts on August 16 and ends on August 23. And in a customer-friendly move rarely seen from the public sector giant, BSNL officials will be there in office even on Saturdays to help the new user get wired. This is not all. The security deposit of Rs 3,000 stays, but that can be paid over a period of 30 months with instalments of Rs 100 each. “This is the lowest instalment we have ever charged,” said a BSNL official.

There’s only one catch. Subscribers taking advantage of this offer will get the STD and ISD connections only after 30 months, when they finish paying their security deposit, clarify officials.

BSNL is also worried about the negative coverage it has been getting from time to time in the media, admit officials, explaining the budgetary allocation of four per cent for “public relations”. The move follows a directive from the BSNL headquarters in New Delhi, and applies to every BSNL circle. The heads for which the budgetary allocation can be spent include “stopping negative news and filing of (positive) BSNL news of service details and operations” and “hosting dinners, lunches... (and) press conferences”, said Calphones officials.

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