Shoddy service: The Assembly in Ranchi
You thought you were the only one to have BSNL telephone lines going dead on you? Meet disgruntled Ranchi citizen, Assembly Speaker Shashank Shekhar Bhokta.
Poor connectivity, frequent call drops, slow internet speed and dead Assembly lines have prompted Speaker Bhokta to shoot off an angry letter to BSNL chief general manager D.K. Sinha (Jharkhand circle), summoning the latter and other top officials for an August 27 meeting.
This is the first time a Speaker has summoned a top official of a central undertaking in a matter that does not pertain directly to the Assembly and its proceedings or contempt petitions.
The Speaker sees no other way to make himself heard. “I am a public representative who holds a constitutional post and I have the right to intervene. I have sought a meeting with them (BSNL officials). I want an explanation to problems faced by BSNL customers in Jharkhand,” Bhokta told The Telegraph.
The Speaker added that they had plenty of proof to pin down BSNL on “poor service”.
“Many telephone lines of an important office like ours have gone defunct but no one came to repair them despite reminders,” he said, sounding like an aam aadmi.
“They are sending us huge bills without verification. I’m planning to surrender my BSNL cellphone number. It’s useless if it remains mostly defunct,” the Speaker confided, sounding more and more the next-door uncle.
Reasserting his public persona, he added: “It is not about the Assembly only, the masses who are BSNL subscribers are also facing problems.”
In Jharkhand, BSNL has over 16 lakh mobile phone, 2.5 lakh landline and 60,000 Internet customers according to March 2013 data. But despite the vast network and infrastructure, erratic nature of BSNL services and poor response to complaints have caused endless customer gripes.
The Speaker got a taste of it, too.
“My complaint of poor Internet connectivity and speed went unheeded. I switched over to another service provider,” he said.
U.P. Sah, BSNL additional general manager, marketing, admitted to receiving the letter, but tried to play it down. “BSNL officials of the rank of general managers will attend the meeting. The Speaker has discussed the late delivery of phone bills. He wants Assembly phone numbers to be brought under VIP category. But there is nothing about poor service,” Sah claimed.
A BSNL official, who refused to come on record, defended his company staunchly. “Call drop is something one can’t stop or minimise. You find this problem with every operator. It is wrong to say our BTS is overloaded. We are not fleecing customers. Has the state heard our plea to provide power round the clock? We are incurring huge diesel cost as most mobile towers in remote areas are powered by generators,” he said.
This isn’t the first time that the Jharkhand BSNL has ruffled VIP feathers.
A month ago, the Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industries lodged a complaint against BSNL with the Prime Minister’s Office and ministry of telecommunication. “Their poor service affects business. After central prod, BSNL officials held a meeting where they promised less and lamented more. They pleaded their optical fibres get damaged or stolen during road construction,” Chamber boss Ranjit Tiwrewal said.