As the airplane lands at the Sheik Ul Alam International(name sake) airport, Srinagar and the seat belt signs turn off one’s first action is to turn on their respective phones. To utter shock of some (mostly first time visitors) their pre-paid phones have been rendered useless.
While I was planning a trip home (which was supposed to be short) I fore hand new what to expect, so I asked family members and friends if they had any spare SIM card and when I was told that there was one (as one of our family members had ditched the private service provider for BSNL) I felt lucky. While probing the reasons for shifting to BSNL was told that this particular service provider deducted minimum Rs 5 per month for no reason. At this time I remembered a survey I had conducted almost a year back by asking family members, friends & acquaintances certain question (via a questionnaire) about their mobile usage and arbitrary deductions they faced. The data thus collected presented a staggering figure that was unduly deducted from the J&K subscribers. While I intended to share the findings the ill timed crash of my laptop (which I had to be replaced with a new one) forced me not to share as I lost everything related to the survey.
While trying to finish my work quickly here in Kashmir so that I could leave before the onset of the winter I faced the demon of undue deductions myself (every time I tried to contact customer care ‘due to technical up gradation in process were not able to provide me any information!) , to add to my misery a certain clerk in a certain government office, who’s signature would allow me to say goodbye to the winter chill (which I so desperately want), has been missing for over a month now.
Now here I am facing this winter chill, cursing myself for not bringing my shoes with me & for warm clothes am dependent on my brothers wardrobe . At the same time every day there is hope that today the clerk will come and tomorrow I will be on my way to warmer weathers.
With all this going on couple of days back I was digging deep in my email account when a found a rough draft regarding the telecom survey which I had shared with a friend. So now I felt the need to share it, but at the same time I would like to highlight that the survey I conducted had a very small sample size (about 50) and all of them where from Kashmir province but the data gathered thus has been used to make calculations for the whole J&K. I don’t claim the finding to be 100% accurate but they certainly give us an idea of how big this scam is. At the same time I hope that some one with better resources will do a detailed survey and expose these private telecom service providers and their malpractices.
A month long survey has revealed that subscribes of J&K are being ripped off by different private mobile service providers for crores of rupees.
In the survey the pre-paid customers of different mobile service providers were asked questions about the arbitrary deductions for different value added services and the frequency with which they face these deductions. Questions regarding accessibility of customer care and their ability to resolve their problems were also asked.
The survey has revealed that 16%* customers of Vodafone and Reliance face arbitrary deductions every month which translates into 3386880** & 2600640** rupees monthly.
During the survey 9%* customers of Airtel, market leader in J&K, and 14%* customers of Aircel, 2nd largest network in J&K responded that they are facing arbitrary monthly deduction which translates into 5613300 and 6826680 rupees respectively.
The total amount of money which all these four mobile service providers rip off from their respective customers is RS 18427500** per month and the annual figure swells up to Rs 22,11,30,000**.
*who participated in the survey
** calculated on the basis of customer base as of on March 2012
*** For the ease of calculations all the subscribers are considered as prepaid and it is assumed that the number of new customers added this year is equal to the number of postpaid customers.