Kashmir is the land of uncertainties and in this environment everyone wants to be in constant contact with their near and dear ones. Everyone wants to be able to know well-being of their loved one’s instantaneously, soon after an untoward incident has been reported.
It used to be heart wrenching task to see off your loved one’s in the morning ( while leaving for work or any other thing) not knowing whether they will return home safely, whether they will return at all but thanks to mobiles the element of uncertainty has been reduced if not completely negated.
When mobile service was given a go ahead in Kashmir people went wild to get a mobile connection, stood in queues for hours at stretch. But with BSNL having complete monopoly over the sector soon the quality of the service started to slide down. Then came Airtel, with its promise of better service and again we saw sea of people standing in queues waiting for their turn to lay their hands on the Airtel sim. The sim agents soon began to behave like gods, with people pleading to them for sims made them more arrogant. The hype was followed by a dip in their services
After Artel, Aircel entered the market and they tried to cash in the dissatisfaction of the customers with its slogan of ‘Vadaa Rahaa’, promising better service and customer care. All these promises seem to fall flat.
Almost a year ago I returned to Kashmir and urgently needed a sim card, when I approached a retailer who sold sim cards of different companies and told him that I urgently needed a sim card, he suggested to me that I should get Aircel as it is the only sim that will be activated in couple of days while others take almost a week. So acting on his suggestion I got the Aircel sim.
In the last one year I many times wanted to just disconnect the number and switch to other service provider but the thought of effort that has to be put in to notifying people about the number change and those who I can’t , I had to change my plan. Then came the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) and my hopes were high about changing the service provider. I applied for MNP and keenly followed the process. All the service providers say that after applying for MNP the service provider will change within a week but even after a two weeks passed and there was no change in my service provider, I contacted the service provider to whom I intended to shift and asked why still there was no change in my service provider, they replied that Aircel was not releasing my number. After pursuing the matter for couple of more days I gave up seeing no hope of my service provider being changed.
You must be wondering what in the first place led me to think about changing the service provider. Well what I faced is faced by many people in the valley; the arbitrary deductions from my prepaid account forced me to look for a change in service provider. Every time I recharged my prepaid account it was followed by an arbitrary deduction. When I contacted the customer care (CC), who are in the first place were very hard to reach, they said that I had subscribed to one or other value added service of which I had no idea how and when I had subscribed. At times I didn’t have time to call the CC so sent mails to them but they never used to reply in the promised one working day. Even after conveying to them I hadn’t subscribed to any service they wouldn’t agree to refund the undue deductions. After some time I altogether stopped recharging my phone with more than rupees 10 and this led to occasions when I had to request strangers to give me their phones to make an important call.
I tried to get rid of these problems on an individual level; I applied for converting my number into a post-paid. I thought that with the conversion all my problems will vanish but with the conversion I new set problems came forth. First the conversion took a lot more time then was promised and then I was not having access to GPRS at all. The CC at first denied accepting the existence of the problem and then when I threatened taking them to court did they rectify the problem.
Initially I used to think that only Aircel customers face these kinds of problems but with time I met customers from other service providers who were facing the same problems. This discovery helped in reducing my pain little bit but at the same time it gave rise certain questions like, if this is so common a problem why isn’t any one raising his/her voice? Why isn’t Telecom Regulation Authority of India (TRAI) taking any action against the service providers, which are cheating their customers? How big is this scam?
Also Appeared in The Kashmir Monitor