The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Failed’ SMSes foment Idol fury

Darjeeling, June 9: Mobs from Darjeeling to Kalimpong vandalised and gheraoed offices of mobile service providers today alleging their SMS votes for a local Indian Idol contestant were not being registered.

Prashant Tamang, a police constable in Calcutta, was among the 12 finalists of the popular TV show whose fates were to be decided through all-night voting from 9 pm on Friday till 8 am today.

Hills people alleged their votes for Tamang were not being registered because of network problems, especially with Reliance and BSNL connections, and claimed “sabotage”.

Both companies, however, insisted that the votes were registered, and Tamang indeed made it to the final 10 tonight.

The Sony contest has been known to arouse regional sentiments with a previous edition witnessing charges that viewers from a certain state had skewed the vote.

“After sending an SMS through Reliance we were getting a message saying the code word was not found. This means our votes were not getting through. We believe this is sabotage,” said Pranay Rai, Gorkha National Liberation Front MLA from Darjeeling.

BSNL subscribers such as Bimal Sharma said they were not receiving the delivery status confirming their votes had reached. “For every 20 to 30 text messages, we were getting a delivery status report for one or two. Our money, however, was being deducted.”

This morning, a crowd vandalised a Reliance outlet in Darjeeling and threw out the computers, printer and cell phones. Another mob smashed billboards of service providers across town. BSNL and Reliance offices were gheraoed in Kalimpong, and Kurseong saw street protests.

Shops in Darjeeling town were shut from 11 am but many opened late in the evening.

V. Bhattacharya, SDO (telephones) and Reliance suggested there was a problem with the Sony server. “We forced our way into their server and registered the votes,” a Reliance official said.

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