Life remained paralyzed in city areas for 19th consecutive day as many localities including Bemina, Qamarwari, Jawhar Nagar, Raj Bagh, Mehjoor Nagar and Lal Chowk remained submerged. Over the past two weeks, the flood victims are staging protests against the tardy dewatering process.
Even as three weeks have passed since flood hit Kashmir, the telecom companies have failed to restore internet and mobile phone services in the Valley.
The floods have severely disrupted the communication network across the state giving immense trouble to the people.
Not just the private telecommunication operators, even the government-owned BSNL had completely failed to restore its broadband and mobile phone service.
In Srinagar over 90 per cent of BSNL connections are non-functional.
The broadband services in most parts of Kashmir, particularly in Srinagar, are dead for last three weeks. Residents of various localities in Srinagar said the BSNL broadband services were totally down for past three weeks. They alleged that the promises made and assurance given by the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and cellular operators about restoring the internet and mobile phone services within three days, have proved just a hoax.
The residents said the telecom companies have made no serious effort to restore the services. “In this hour of crisis when people needed the telecom services the most, the companies have failed us,” said Ali Muhammad of Bemina.
Many people whose work depends on net services alleged that they had suffered huge financial losses for want of service.
Mushtaq Ahmad of Travel Master, a Srinagar-based travel agency said: “My entire ticketing business depends on the net. I had to cancel many tickets which I could not because neither the net service was available at our office nor there was uninterrupted phone service which could enable me to contact the airlines.”
Abdul Rashid of Barzulla said: “With floods hitting Kashmir, all my business came to a standstill. Now that a semblance of order has been restored, I could not restart my business activities which depend on the broadband service,” he said adding that even his BNSL phone is not functioning normally. “I have to dial 15 times a number to make a single call and even when it gets connected I am hardly able to hear the other side.”
“The Chief Minister two weeks ago in an interview assured that mobile and broadband services would be restored within three days. But till this day nothing happened,” Jahangir Iqbal of Solina Srinagar said.
He said that with no improvement in cellular services they are not able to contact their relatives, who were hit by floods. “The Government is adding to our miseries in one or the other way.”
People from media said that they were unable to file stories for want of net service.
Residents from many Srinagar areas complained that in absence of mobile network they have not able to locate their kith and kin. “The cellular network poorly works at isolated places. There is no network in Lal Chowk, old Srinagar, Rajbagh, Bemina, south city and other submerged areas. We are not able to locate our relatives in these areas,” various delegations from different areas told Greater Kashmir.
“Ironically, the Cellular Companies are announcing free talktime offers as if they have restored the services fully. Besides, to rub salt to the wounds of the subscribers, they are sending the messages asking for depositing the tariff both in respect of mobile/fixed line phones and broadband, while they pay no heed to the requests and demands of the subscribers to restore and improve their services. We need better service not free talk time,” they added.
The cellular network in rural areas is no better. Residents from north, south, and central Kashmir said that the cellular services are playing hide and seek with them. “In 24 hours, the network functions for four hours that too intermittently. For the rest of the time we are not able to make call even after dialing a number a dozen times,” Mushtaq Ahmad of Ganderbal said, adding that he had came to Srinagar continuously during last three days to locate his relatives.
A senior BSNL official monitoring the network restoration at Control Room in New Delhi told Greater Kashmir that the work on restoration of services is going on at war-footing. However, he said it will take some more time to restore the services fully. “Today we have flown more equipment to Kashmir. Most of the machinery/equipment submerged is of no use and that is being replaced. It takes times and every effort is being made towards full restoration” he said adding that the services were restored Thursday in Sonwar and its adjoining areas here.
“I can say that 70 per cent of BSNL network has been restored across the state,” he claimed.
When contacted, Director BSNL, Anupam Srivisata said that he was right then holding a meeting to review the restoration of telecom services in J&K. Later when Greater Kashmir contacted him, he did not pick up the phone.
An official of Aircel claimed that their network remained functional even during the floods. “No doubt there is network problem in some submerged areas but efforts are on to overcome that,” he said.
A spokesperson of Airtel said: “Network connectivity by the company has been restored at all 22 district headquarters in the state.”