People question the timing of ‘poll gimmick’
The state government Tuesday lifted the four-year-old ban on Short Messaging Services (SMS) on all pre-paid cell phone subscribers in Jammu and Kashmir.
Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah ordered lifting of the ban as part of the “corrective measures” based on the feedback he had sought from people following his party National Conference’s defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.
“On a separate note in continuation with the corrective measures based on the feedback from people I’ve ordered the lifting of the SMS ban,” Omar wrote on microblogging site twitter.
In June 2010, the state government had imposed a ban on the SMS in the state following a widespread unrest in the valley. However, six months later the government lifted the ban on all post-paid mobile phone subscribers but refrained from withdrawing it on pre-paid cell phones.
The ban on the service was justified by the authorities citing apprehensions about its misuse by rumor mongers to vitiate the already charged atmosphere in the valley.
“On the instructions of Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, the restriction on SMS to the pre-paid cell phones in the State has been revoked,” reads the official statement issued in this regard.
“The subscribers of pre-paid cell phones had made requests to the chief minister in this regard and he issued instructions to the concerned agencies to lift the said restriction,” the statement added.
Last year, the chief minister had ruled out lifting of the ban. “There is no proposal under consideration to revoke the suspension of SMS service to prepaid mobile subscribers,” he had informed the Legislative Assembly in a written reply.
Omar had said the state government was working with Centre to find a way for lifting the ban. “We are working with Government of India to figure out a way whereby the ban on prepaid SMS can be lifted but at the same time multiple SMSs can be stopped,” he had said.
Meanwhile, Aircel claimed to be the first mobile operator to implement the revocation order. “Aircel’s timely and effective business preparedness has enabled us to be the first mobile service provider to start the SMS services post the lifting of the ban in J&K,” said Circle Head J&K, Sundeep Talwar
An official in one of the telecom companies said they received the revocation order from State Home Department and all the formalities will be completed till Wednesday. He said the SMS service would be restored after fulfilling some technical formalities.
As per Cellular Operators Association of India, J&K has 65 lakh mobile connections.
The timing of the decision to lift the ban has raised eyebrows with some people calling it a poll gimmick.
“It is amazing that till now we were given the impression by the Omar Abdullah-led government that it was Government of India which had imposed the ban in the first place and that it was not in favour of lifting it despite the best efforts of the chief minister,” a pre-paid subscriber from Srinagar, Rais Ahmad said.
Another subscriber, Tanveer Ahmad said: “As it has turned out to be, it was always upto the CM to lift the ban but he didn’t do till his party’s disastrous performance in the elections.”