The Telegraph
Wednesday , February 13 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pay to charge your mobile phone

Nokha (Rohtas), Feb. 12: If using a cellphone is a mark of development, going the extra mile to recharge its battery is nothing short of irony.

In Nokha, development and backwardness are twins joined by fate.

The village, around 125km west of Patna, boasts of cellphones in the hands of almost every resident. But the irony is that there is not sufficient power to charge the mobile phones.

Cashing in on the insufficient power, small shops are making hay by charging the batteries of the villagers’ cellphones at a price by using generators.

Anand Kumar, an employee of a mobile store in Nokha, opens the shop everyday at 8 in the morning amid a surge of people queuing up to charge their cellphone batteries.

Some villagers take the pain of travelling 10-15km everyday to charge their mobile batteries because the rural areas hardly get any power throughout the day.

Anand has installed generators as a back-up. Seeing Anand, a number of similar shops have mushroomed in Nokha block.

Chitranjan Kumar (24), a resident of the village, said: “We visit the Nokha Bazaar everyday to charge the cellphone batteries of my family members and mine. There is hardly any power supply in the area. We do not even get two hours of continuous power supply.”

Most villagers spend almost as much on recharging batteries as they do on talktime.

“I spend Rs 200 every month to recharge battery and Rs 300 on talktime. If I don’t charge the battery, the cellphone would be reduced to a mere paperweight,” Chitranjan said.

Around 80MW is the peak demand of Rohtas. However, the district gets only 35MW on an average.

On entering the market, shops with “Yahaan Mobile Charge Kiya Jata Hai” written on the boards could be found in the entire bazaar area. Hundreds of mobile phone batteries are charged at one time in a shop.

Sharing the nuances of the service, Anand Kumar said: “People visit our shops from Krishnapur, Ghosia, Lalganj, Tarar, Gopalpur, Barka Gaon, Kharwat and many remote villages. These hamlets are deprived of any power supply. The villagers have mobile phones but no power to energise them. We are their only option. I charge Rs 4 per cellphone for half-an-hour service.”

On an average, Anand makes around Rs 500 daily by recharging around 15 cellphones. During summers, when the power situation is grim, he makes around Rs 700, as many prefer to charge their cellphones for more than an hour.

The shops even maintain a roster so that the cellphones, which are being recharged, do not get mixed up. “I issue coupons to the customers once they hand over their mobile sets for recharging. The customer’s name, mobile number, address and the name of the mobile set are written in the shop register as well as on the coupon. This minimises the chance of mixing up mobile phone sets,” said Ravi Kumar, who works at a cellphone shop at Nokha Bazaar.

Nokha is represented by BJP MLA Rameshwar Chaurasia, who said he was helpless.

“I have written several letters to the chief minister (Nitish Kumar) and energy minister Bijendra Yadav to provide sufficient power in the area but nothing has been done,” said the MLA.