The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Phone ring blurs border divide

Calcutta, July 28: Residents in Bangladesh within 40 km of the border are making “local calls” to India and paying ISD charges.

Owners of telephone booths in the neighbouring country have devised a way of linking up to Indian numbers at local-call (instead of ISD) rates by subverting the telecom network.

The racket, which operates with the help of phone booth-owners on the Indian side, has its origin in Jessore and Satkhira in Bangladesh, said intelligence officials.

When a Bangladeshi, within 40 km of the border, goes to a phone booth to call someone in India, the owner puts him through to the number but, before that, he does something without his knowledge. He establishes a connection with a booth in India and routes the call to the Indian receiver through the network across the border.

Officials here said the system operates with the help of very powerful Chinese sets; hand-sets used by the Bangladeshi booth-owner can stay in touch with bases with his Indian counterpart at a distance of about 40 km.

Booth-owners on both sides are filling coffers giving a damn to security concerns. Semi-urban areas like Bongaon and Basirhat in North 24-Parganas and parts of South 24-Parganas which, like Jessore and Satkhira, have a large population with relatives or business interests across the border, are the areas of “highest concern”, said home officials monitoring the situation.

The Bangladeshi booth-owner charges ISD rates but does not pay a single rupee to his government; the Indian booth-owner gets a cut from the profit the Bangladeshi makes at the cost of his government and pays very little to the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.

Officially, neither the BSF nor the BSNL has “any idea” of what is going on. The standard response: “We will act when we get specific complaints.”

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