Unending trouble for prepaid subscribers; SIMs deactivated for ‘fresh verification’

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Srinagar: The mobile service providing companies in Jammu and Kashmir are once again in news for wrong reasons. This time the SIM cards of hundreds of prepaid subscribers have been blocked for want of yet another “set of documents” to carry out a “fresh verification as per the guidelines of the Central Department of Telecommunications.”
 Since April 30, the subscribers have been left fuming after their SIM cards were blocked “all of a sudden.” This is for the second time in less than eight months that the subscribers are being asked to furnish documents, including Xerox copies of their photo ID cards, photographs and residential proof for verification purposes. Earlier it was in October 2010 that the companies blocked hundreds of SIM cards for the same reason. Irked by the fresh call for documents, the subscribers accused the DOT of putting them to unnecessary trouble. “It is condemnable that we are being asked to produce documents after every six months. And this has been going on for the past many years now,” said a group of prepaid subscribers. “Every time the companies cite fresh DOT guidelines; asking for documents and photographs every now and then is nothing but a harassment tactic.”
 The subscribers accused the state and central government of being indifferent to their woes. “The state government could easily take up this issue of recurring harassment with New Delhi and get the issue resolved once for all,” said Mukhtar Ahmad of Raj Bagh. “My SIM was blocked this morning all of a sudden. When I rang the company office, they said I have to submit fresh documents. This is sheer harassment because I have already submitted my documents twice in 2010.” Ahmad said: “Why should we submit four photographs every year? What if they are misused? Last year we produced four photos and all the relevant documents. This year we are again asked undergo the same verification process. The companies are not paying a single penny on account of photographs. They are just minting money and appeasing the government by troubling the subscribers time and again. Nobody has shown us the government guidelines which the company is talking about.” Sources said several hundred SIM cards have already been blocked so far. While company officials refuse to talk about the issue on record, unofficially they blame the central government for “forcing them to go for verification after every six months.”
 “We are following the instructions from the DOT, said executive of a company, insisting not to be named. “We have recently received another set of guidelines on prepaid SIMs and are accordingly asking the subscribers to submit the relevant documents. If it is inconvenience for the subscribers, it is inconvenience for the company staffers.”
 Pertinently the use of mobiles in Kashmir has been a matter of concern, with Centre banning the use of pre-paid mobile services last year on the pretext that it was being misused. It lifted the ban (imposed in November, 2009) on pre-paid mobile services in the state in January last year, but on the condition that the operators would do customer verification in the given format at the earliest. That time, the government had issued fresh guidelines which limited the number of connections to a household to six. The state has about 40 lakh pre-paid phone subscribers.

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