India’s Pre-Paid Headache: 48 Hours to Come to a Decision
The government has 48 hours in which to decide the fate of 33 million pre-paid users in J&K, Assam & the North-East.
There was a time when pre-paid SIM cards were sold over the counter. The 26/11 attacks in Mumbai changed all that. Ground support had been provided by terrorists who had easy access to mobile connectivity. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) got cracking and personal verification for pre-paid SIM cards became mandatory.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
But things work a bit differently for Jammu & Kashmir and the seven North-East states. While J&K shares a volatile border with Pakistan, most of the North-East states share porous borders with China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Mobile services in these states are therefore, restricted.
A government panel headed by Home Secretary L.C. Goyal is expected to take a decision on whether pre-paid services in these sensitive areas should be allowed to continue. The government has 2 more days to decide, failing which 33 million pre-paid users will go off the grid.
Why the Delay?
While the MHA is expected to give its nod to continue the pre-paid mobile services in the three telecom circles — Jammu & Kashmir, Assam and the North-East — it may streamline certain procedures to ensure the restrictions are effective and not violated on some frontier pockets and sensitive areas with the presence of militant groups. A few norms could also be added in the existing subscriber verification process.
As and when permission is granted, it will be for a period of 2 years––after which the government will once again review the security situation.
SMS-es and phone calls have been known to be monitored by Intelligence agencies during heightened terrorist activity––as well as during the recent spate of ethnic clashes in the North-East.
While some may argue the invasion of privacy, most would not dispute its necessity.
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