News / Asia

India to Shut Down Telegram Service

An Indian woman, foreground left, waits to send a telegram at Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), a state-run telecom company in Bangalore, India, June 14, 2013.
An Indian woman, foreground left, waits to send a telegram at Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), a state-run telecom company in Bangalore, India, June 14, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
— Indian authorities are shutting down the country’s 163-year-old telegram service in mid-July as customers choose more modern communication methods over the long-trusted standard. Although several countries continue with the telegram service, India is the last to use it on a large scale.

End of an era     
 
Manoj Sachthey, 63, read the news that the last telegram will be sent out on July 14th with nostalgia. “Taar” as it is called in India is inextricably linked with key moments of his life: the unexpected death of a young uncle; news that he was admitted to a prestigious masters in business administration program in 1971. 

He said the arrival of a telegram always raised heartbeats. “Receiving a telegram used to be a very major event in the household….one used to wonder, whether it is carrying good news, bad news,” he stated.  
 
For more than 130 years after being launched by India’s former British rulers in 1850, the telegram was the backbone of urgent communication. The terse messages announced momentous events: the death of a family member, the birth of a child, news of a soldier on the warfront.
 
It is believed to have played a role in the country’s history. Transmissions across telegraph wires helped the British suppress a popular revolt against their rule in 1857. Cutting telegraph wires later became a popular form of nationalist protest.
 
The service survived the advent of the landline telephone and email because of low telephone density and very limited access to the internet.
 
But the proliferation of mobile phones through the remotest corner of the country during the last decade finally made it obsolete.
 
At the height of the telegraph service in 1985, 60 million telegrams were punched. That number has shrunk to about 5,000 a day. Plummeting revenues forced India’s state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, which runs the service, to close down the service from mid-July.
 
No longer viable

Shamim Akhtar, the general manager of the telegraph service in New Delhi, said the service is no longer commercially viable with losses adding up to $250 million in the last seven years.  
 
“These days there are so many other modes of communication available to us, which are more economical, faster and reliable, and BSNL was incurring loss in the operation of this service. Since 2006 we have incurred a loss of 1500 crores [250 million dollars],” explained Akhtar.
 
As the service shrank, so did the staff. Once numbering more than 12,000 employees, there are now less than 1000. Most of them are men in their fifties, who have spent their entire working lives sending out countless missives of good and bad tidings.  
 
But the era of dispatching urgent news is over. During a recent visit to a once-buzzing telegraph office in New Delhi, time appears to hang still. A handful of people sit before computers typing out messages mostly sent by people who want an official record of a communication for legal or other purposes. One is from a city resident to the police commissioner complaining that a police station has failed to record his complaint.  Others come from lawyers, families of soldiers or government officials.    
 
 Subhash Chandra, 54, is dreading the day the last telegram will be dispatched, and he will be sent to another office. When he joined, messages were sent by Morse code. That was replaced by the teleprinter. Later they were transmitted by computer. Until the 1980’s, Chandra dispatched hundreds of messages every day.   
 
Chandra said leaving the telegram office will be like leaving his home. He said it will be difficult to adjust in another place after working here for 33 years. He will have to work with new people on a new assignment. Like the telegram, he said, he would prefer to simply retire.
 
Technology advances

But others like general manager Akhtar are preparing to keep pace with the times and the evolution of communication methods.  Having watched the rapid advances in technology over the last decade, Akhtar believes that anything is possible in the future.
 
“Day by day communication is taking new shape. One scientist has predicted that in the years to come, every man will have an antenna on his head and each newborn will be given a telephone number, and new exchanges will be set up in space,” Akhtar said.   
 
For now, Akhtar said state-owned BSNL has more modest ambitions to expand the mobile phone network and broadband internet services to every corner of India.

You May Like

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Kenny V from: Toulouse
July 08, 2013 11:16 AM
India isn't getting rid of telegrams just privatizing them. Google iTelegram.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid