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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

China-India Border Standoff Continues as Leaders Hold Summit

New Delhi accuses hundreds of Chinese soldiers of illegally entering Indian territory in disputed region of Ladakh More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid