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Monday, 16 November 2009 11:50

India faces uprising over mobile phones

Written by Nick Farell


Image

Anti-terrorism measure creates terrorism


A move
by the Indian government to ban prepaid mobile phones in a bid to stop terrorism is back-firing. The move was to stop terrorists using untraceable prepaid mobile phones from being used by Terrorists to plan their raids.

But in the Indian-controlled Kashmir region impoverished residents depend on prepaid connections for inexpensive communication. Apparently the move has led to angry protests amid warnings it put thousands of jobs at risk and jeopardised peace efforts in the disputed territory between the Indian government and Muslim separatists.

The Indian government announced last month that no new cards would be issued beginning November 1. Home Minister P. Chidambaram said last week during a visit to Jammu-Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state said that it had reconcile the security of the country. India has shut off the internet and international calls in Kashmir for a year after a string of attacks it blamed on militants supported by Pakistan.

Mobile phones were first allowed in the territory in 2003 and the telecommunication industry quickly filled the vacuum, with giant companies like Airtel Bharti, Tata Indicom and Vodafone as well as the state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam opening more than 50,000 retail outlets across the region.

Basheer Ahmed Dar, the chairman of the regional telephone owners association, said 20,000 jobs were in jeopardy when the ban goes ahead. Hundreds of activists from the pro-India People's Democratic Party demonstrated against the decision in Srinagar, accusing the government of discrimination. Members of trade organisations took to the streets this week.

There are 3 million prepaid card subscriptions in the region, according to the Home Ministry. The cheaper cards are highly popular among young people. The government has promised that it will review the ban once security concerns are addressed, but since there is no sign of Pakistan and India becoming chums and world terrorism ending it seems a long way away.

Nick Farell

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