The modern lifeline of communication, on Monday, failed the first Indian metro it had been launched in.
If August 1995 was the high point of cellular service coming to Calcutta, March 21, 2005, marked a network-jam low as the full impact of the BSNL agitation on day seven hit not just fixed phones, but also mobile-to-mobile calls.
The phone flop show was bad enough to prompt principal secretary to the chief minister A.K. Bhattacharya to call chief general manager, Calcutta Telephones, S.P. Chakraborty.
'I called him on behalf of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and inquired about the latest situation,' Bhattacharya said. 'I requested him to see to it that the agitation is withdrawn as this is causing major inconvenience to the people of the state, especially during the Board examinations.'
According to Bhattacharya, the chief general manager had assured him the 'matter was being looked into at the highest level'.
A spokesperson for the United Forum for BSNL Executives, the platform of agitating executives, said a letter containing their demands had been faxed to the chief minister.
The consumer, of course, could do little but suffer through Monday's mission impossible ' trying to connect to another local cell user.
Monday morning blues set in slightly late as Calcutta got into working-day gear, but once the business hours set in, calls not being completed and 'network busy' messages became the norm till the evening peak hours.
The word from the two major operators was as contrary as the call conundrum. An Airtel spokesperson blamed it all on the 'points of interconnect' between BSNL and the cellular operator.
'Because of the problems at BSNL's end, a channel that can support, say, 10 calls was bearing the burden of 100. As a result, 10 calls got through, while 90 were in queue and clogged the network,' he explained.
The advice from Airtel: 'If you are trying a number and don't get through, don't redial. Wait for a few minutes before trying again.'
Hutch, however, said 'there was no problem' on its network, and rubbished the technical claim of its rival.
'In case of local cell-to-cell calls, points of interconnect with BSNL do not come into play at all. Only in the case of calls going to another circle do they have to be routed through BSNL's trunk exchange,' claimed a Hutch spokesperson.
With Calcutta playing host to over 13.8 lakh cell users and an almost equal number of fixed phones, essential services from hospitals to airports were hit hard on Monday.
If at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, both external and internal telephone services were affected, the public reservation system of the railways went off-track till 12.30 pm.