Tag Archives: Udupi

Who Cares For #Rurban Consumers?

While BSNL landline internet service in rural areas is the pits, private ISPs like TataDoCoMo and Airtel are not bothered.

telco logosThis writer has been a Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) landline and broadband internet customer for over 10 years now. For the last few years, I have been staying in a village called Parkala, which is a hop, skip and jump away from the educational, medical and financial hub of Manipal, close to the temple town of Udupi in coastal Karnataka.

As a typical internet addict—and with no TV connection (cable or otherwise) whatsoever—most of my waking hours are spent browsing the net. This is also my main link with most of the world and my friends and extended families. I read major newspapers and online news portals, some on a daily basis and others occasionally whenever a link from Facebook or Twitter lead to the stories; my online viewing was mainly the ghastly Arnab Goswami till a few months back when he became unbearable for my family who, in turn, threatened me with dire consequences if peace in the house was disturbed!

And all this throughout bearing the pathetic service from BSNL, the government’s communications provider.

My trouble with BSNL were of ancient origin, almost every since I took the monopoly service. I had a long litany of complaints, mostly relating to the internet connection and the occasional landline disruption. I have also seen the pathetic state of BSNL exchanges where, I am told, cannibalisation of equipment was a frequent occurrence. If there was a problem in one exchange and the complaints became intolerable, the ‘card’ from the exchange was exchanged with a functional one from another exchange.

Many times, the copper wires were the culprits, the weather being blamed often by the linemen who had to face the brunt of subscribers’ ire. In my locality, overloaded trucks used to frequently bring down the phone wires.

Of course, many times it was the “Chinese-made” ‘card’ problem in the exchange itself, but no one was willing to accept it officially. Many times, the relations between the linemen and the district sub-divisional officers (telecom) or SDOTs to whom I had to reach out in exasperation were strained. One young SDOT told me: “We cannot force the linemen to respond immediately; because they will immediately complain against us for caste discrimination”. It is another matter that the linemen used to frequently grumble that the SDOTs used to put pressure on them unnecessarily. You see, there was this claim of perennial shortage of staff.

If it was the shortage of staff on one side, it was also the availability of spare ‘cards’, cables and other equipment. If a lineman told the SDOT that the cable needed to be replaced, then it would be caught in paperwork and bureaucratic tangles.

And, sometimes they used to blame the modem also! Once I took it to the deputy general manager’s office for testing; the person there never saw this modem brand and said it was not functional. The dealer from whom I had purchased it tested it and said it was OK. Mysteriously the next day, the internet connection was back to normal.

At another time, I took the modem to the exchange and they said it was perfectly fine and blamed the Chinese ‘card’.

The new SDOT came once to my house and promised to come again and do a comprehensive check: He did not. This was about two-three months ago.

Now, to cut the story short, my BSNL broadband internet connection is on, more as an exception than as a rule!

Thus, I started looking for an alternative service provider. I looked at Google Guru and shortlisted two: Airtel and Tata DoCoMo, who have a presence in the area.

I contacted Airtel first through the call centre number given on their website. After all the sweet talk, right from their offices in Delhi to their branch office in Manipal, I was given an answer: Sorry, there is no connection available in your area.

Mind you, my house is just 3 kms away!

I also happened to speak to an Airtel executive who told me that the local manager was not interested in expanding the services and they lost many consumers.

A couple of months ago, I saw Tata DoCoMo’s service at a local 3-star hotel, where, thanks to the owner, I was given access to the internet in the manager’s office. The speeds were good—when compared to BSNL’s service—and I was impressed.

(But not as great as the service I had in Hyderabad in 2011-12, where I used to pay just about Rs 1,000 per month for a 10 MbPS connection, and that too, with the rare breakdowns).

So I looked up Tata DoCoMo’s website and called them up. After a three-four phone calls, I was told that they only provide service in apartment buildings where at least 80% residents agree to subscribe.

Besides, they averred, I live in an area where there don’t have any lines!

Today (5 June 2015), I put out a series of tweets regarding my grouse with BSNL (they did not respond) and how villages and small towns (#Rurban) are way out of range of the radars of these big companies (and not only telecom service providers, but by almost all major FMCG companies), who treat us villagers as guinea pigs and dump third-rate goods and services on us.

Responses from the telco giants on Twitter were immediate, followed by phone calls. Yet, I also bet my favourite Mysorepak (a very popular sweet) that I will not get a connection from either Airtel or Tata DoCoMo very soon. And, lo and behold, at the end of the day, I ended up in saving a few rupees!

“We don’t have a service there” was the common thread among the two.

Meanwhile, I plan to visit the BSNL Telephone Adalat which will be held next week, but am keeping my fingers crossed.

Footnote: Dear Mr Narendra Modi, if you happen to read this piece, let me say this: I doubt if your idea of a “Digital India” will ever take off, not at least during your stewardship of this nation as the Pradhan Sewak with such disdain for consumers.

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Coastal K’taka: BJP in fightback mode as Congress falters

Congress party president Sonia Gandhi’s election rally in Mangalore saw far fewer crowds; half the size of those present during her visit in September last year. According to DNA, “She came, she spoke, but apparently, she did not conquer”. “Congress leaders in the coastal region are now a worried lot. They gave an excuse that it was the scorching heat that kept people from Gandhi’s event.”

Sonia Gandhi with Oscar Fernandes

Sonia Gandhi with Oscar Fernandes

Parkala Observer: Shrikant N ShenoyThe optimism generated after last month’s urban local body (ULB) poll victory in the Congress party in the coastal districts of Karnataka has now given way to caution. The party that was confident of repeating the same in the assembly elections also has now started feeling some jitters.

The first was when tickets were distributed. In some constituencies, many partymen openly protested against candidates that were selected. There was so much acrimony that cental leaders from Karnataka like Veerappa Moily and Oscar Fernandes came in the line of fire and openly blamed for the fiasco.

Mangalore South is one example. A former bureaucrat was picked over “loyal” Congressmen.

In Kaup constituency in Udupi district, Congressman Vasant Salian, who was widely expected to get the ticket, filed his nomination as the Janata Dal (S) candidate after the party decided to give the ticket to AICC secretary Vinay Kumar Sorake, who was a two-time MP. Salian is very popular here and a Congress victory is in doubt, political observers feel.

But more interesting is the case of Udupi, the home of the famous Shri Krishna temple, where the Bharatiya Janata Party’s morale received a hard hit after after the ULB debacle.

Here too the Congress party was confident because after about 40 years, the party rode to victory in what was considered as a BJP bastion. The BJP also suffered a jolt when its two-time sitting MLA, K Raghupathi Bhat, got embroiled in a sleaze CD scandal and opted out of the race. The sleaze CD was widely circulated just ahead of filing of nominations.

In Udupi, the Congress party fielded Pramod Madhwaraj, who has lost two previous elections, though one was from a different constituency. (Interestingly, this was in total flouting of norms set by Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi.)

The Congress went hammer and tongs at the BJP and tried to rubbish the work done by Bhat, who was widely acknowledged as having done immense work in this constituency.

BJP's Raghupati Bhat

BJP’s Raghupati Bhat

But despite having decided to sit out this time, Bhat started campaigning actively along with his replacement, Sudhakar Shetty, and hit out at the Congress for what he called their “pack of lies”.

He also rubbished promises made by Madhwaraj, claiming that they were unworkable. The main issue was the Congress party candidate’s promise to get water to Udupi town from Varahi river, some 40 km away.

Udupi and its satellite town Manipal, faces difficulty in water supply the last part of the summer season. The population has grown manifold and the present water supply is from Udupi’s own Swarna river. The BJP had constructed ventedtwo dams and this was enough for now, said Bhat. Last summer, when the problem became acute, he claimed that there was 24-hour water supply every day till May 15. But ever since the Congress came to power in the Udupi CMC, the water supply was restricted from early April itself. He claimed there was enough water stored in one vented dam to ensure 24-hours water supply at least till May 15 on a daily basis, but the Congress was seeking to gain advantage by blaming the BJP for the water problem.

Bhat also said there was a proposal for Phase III of the Swarna project, which would take care of future needs for at least 25 years and the cost would be much less when compared to the Varahi proposal. Interestingly, when Gundu Rao was the Congress party’s chief minister of Karnataka, he had laid a foundation stone for the Varahi project to supply water to farmers way back in 1989, but the project had failed miserably. It was only in 2010 that water was first pumped into the left bank canal for the irrigation project.

In 2004, the Varahi proposal for drinking water to Udupi was reviewed and the cost was estimated at Rs 132 crore. Now, the cost would have escalated manifold, whereas the Swarna Third Phase would cost only about Rs 25 crore, Bhat said. (Madhwaraj’s estimate was about Rs 100 crore.)

In any case, Varahi’s waters are meant primarily for use by farmers and diverting this water to Udupi would pose not only logistical problems, but promote bitterness among various groups in Udupi and Kundapur, through which Varahi flows.

Bhat’s taking charge of the fightback has rejuvenated the BJP cadres. Central leaders like Varun Gandhi have campaigned here.

Also, Congress party’s Madhwaraj already suffered two jolts: The first when a case was booked against him on charges of attempting to bribe voters under the Representation of People’s Act and also under the Indian Penal Code. He was accused offering gold coins to self-hell groups who would ensure him the maximum number of votes in the elections.

Madhwaraj also had his water tankers seized by the district admistration on similar charges.

A visibly shaken Madhwaraj tried subtly to imply that the cases against him were due to the BJP’s influence on the adminstration.

But the BJP has been kept the best for the last. Narendra Modi will be campaigning once again in Karnataka, and this time it would be in Mangalore on Thursday, May 2. This announcement made by MP Nalin Kateel in Manglore today came as great morale booster to the BJP cadres.

The BJP also adopted a hi-tech campaign. A huge video screen was engaged to highlight the work done by Bhat. This became a huge hit.

The BJP's video on wheels

The BJP’s video on wheels

This video screen was also used by the BJP to relay live Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s morale-boosting speech in Bangalore on Sunday at Malpe — Madhwaraj’s stronghold — where the BJP claimed that about 10,000 people had gathered.

But the icing on the cake for the BJP was this: Congress party president Sonia Gandhi’s election rally in Mangalore on Sunday saw far fewer crowds; half the size of those present during her visit in September last year. According to DNA, “She came, she spoke, but apparently, she did not conquer”. (See the DNA report here)

Writes the newspaper’s correspondent: “Congress leaders in the coastal region are now a worried lot. They gave an excuse that it was the scorching heat that kept people from Gandhi’s event.”

But the BJP has kept the best for the last. Narendra Modi will be campaigning once again in Karnataka, and this time it would be in Mangalore on Thursday, May 2. This announcement made by MP Nalin Kateel in Manglore today came as great morale booster to the BJP cadres.

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