The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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How to make cops more vigilant: cut boss’ phone

Calcutta/Kharagpur, Sept. 26: There’s no connection between the disconnection of a police officer’s phone and the spate of penalty on cars belonging to the agency that asked for the bill, the police would have you believe. But very few people, least of all the BSNL brass in Midnapore, are buying the story.

Telecom officials in Midnapore are facing the music — in the form of a sudden police “interest” in their cars — days after the telephone line to the office of the West Midnapore superintendent of police was disconnected for non-payment of bills.

The BSNL version of the story — backed up by the admission of officials within the district police — put the beginning of the phase of police “attention” on its cars at the day after superintendent K.C. Meena’s phone was disconnected “for five minutes”. Meena denied any connection between the “routine police action” and the disconnection drama his phone went through last week.

The sequence of events started a few weeks ago when BSNL officials found that the police in West and East Midnapore districts owed it Rs 26 lakh as unpaid bills. Requests asking the police (under the home department) to pay up were made soon after and on several occasions, telecom officials said.

With the pleas having no effect, BSNL officials decided to hit where it hurt most. Some telephones — mostly in police stations — were disconnected “partially and temporarily”, the officials said.

“We understand the importance of a telephone inside a police station,” Midnapore telecom general manager Gautam Kar said. “So we stopped only outgoing calls for brief periods, hoping that it would send the message across,” he added.

The message may have been sent but it did not yield a result. Then, Meena’s line was disconnected “for five minutes”. “It was, in all probability, a mistake on the part of some over-enthusiastic employees and the telephone was put back to order in five minutes,” a senior BSNL official in Calcutta said.

“I don’t blame the employees.” BSNL officials are under “tremendous pressure” to bring in revenue, the official added. “We need to tighten our belts and every area has been asked to be careful about unrealised bills.”

But instead of swelling BSNL coffers, the action has led to its cars landing in the police net, said officials. A car being used by a deputy general manager was stopped in Kharagpur for no apparent reason and the driver was asked irrelevant questions, said a telecom official. “The officer, who disclosed his identity and asked the constables not to harass the driver, was asked to shut up,” Kar said.

Meena said too much was being read into the timing of the police attempts at “streamlining traffic” in busy areas. “Cars were being checked and re-checked because of the chief minister’s visit on Thursday,” he said, explaining the stepped-up vigil.

A section of the police admitted that “special treatment” was being meted out to BSNL cars but said BSNL had triggered the feud. “The BSNL action on police telephones came not because of unpaid bills but because we were probing a racket in black-marketing of SIM cards for BSNL mobiles,” a senior police official said.

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