BSNL bills: to pay or not to – Telecom major serves notices on hill defaulters

The Telegraph

Kalimpong, Sept. 21: The subscribers to the BSNL’s telephone and Internet services have been caught in a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-induced dilemma following a pay-up notice served on them by the government-owned telecom major.

The Morcha has urged residents of the Darjeeling hills not to pay any central or state revenue as part of their “civil disobedience” movement in their agitation for the separate state of Gorkhaland.

The boycott, since April this year, has had an effect on the revenue earnings of government agencies.

Matters had come to such a pass that earlier this month chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had called Morcha representatives to Calcutta, and according to sources in the party, requested them to see to it that power bills were paid.

The power department was losing Rs 1.5 crore per month as revenue from the hills because of non-payment of bills, the chief minister was said to have told the delegation. Both Lama and Prasad had left the meeting saying that they would convey Bhattacharjee’s message to Morcha chief Bimal Gurung.

After remaining silent for months, the BSNL, for the past fortnight has started serving pay-up-or-face-action notices to its subscribers across the hills.

In letters signed by the accounts officer in the BSNL general manager’s office in Siliguri, the company has threatened to cut off connections and initiate legal action against defaulters

Subscribers, however, have accused the BSNL of double standards.

“They want us to pay the bills at their Siliguri office. Why not in the hills? They do not have the guts to open up their counters here and expect us to violate the Morcha diktat at our own risk,” said a telephone user.

Sunkeshi Pradhan, another subscriber, said the Morcha should take the public into confidence by calling a meeting on this issue. “The people at the helm of affairs must tell the public what to do. I, at least cannot pay accumulated bills at one go,” she said.

The BSNL’s general manager in Siliguri, S. K. Samant, said it was common sense that when a person uses some utility service he is expected to pay for it. “The subscribers should pay,” Samant said. The general manager, however, could not say anything about the losses the BSNL was chalking up.

In Darjeeling, Morcha media and publicity secretary Binay Tamang said after a meeting with party chief Bimal Gurung that the payment of both power and BSNL bills would depend on the outcome of the tripartite talks in Delhi later this year. “We are waiting to see whether we get a favourable response from the Centre and the state before anything is decided,” Tamang said. He also announced that all cars from Siliguri, both private and taxis, bound for the hills from Siliguri will have to change to “GL” number plates.

“Those cars bound for Kurseong and Darjeeling will have to change at Darjeeling More and those bound for Kalimpong at Sevoke,” he said. The Morcha, however, has not finalised the date from when this will come into effect.

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