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Union protests India govt's telegram shutdown

Hundreds of Indians visited their local telegraph offices to send their last telegrams yesterday when the government shut down the country's 167-year old service. A workers union is protesting the closure.
Written by Mahesh Sharma, Correspondent

The union representing workers of India's state-run telco, Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL), has protested the government's decision to shut down the country's 163-year old telegram service.

The forum of BSNL unions and association said the telegram service, which was switched off on July 15, offered a viable alternative to the Internet, according to a report in The Hindu. The union said in a statement that over 50,000 telegrams were booked and delivered each month.

V.A.N. Namboodiri, convenor of the forum, said telegrams generated over US$167,000 (10 million rupees) for the telco at minimal operational expense.

"No extra staff is employed... There is not a single paise spent for the staff of telegram service alone," Namboodiri said. "There is no extra maintenance charge, since it is part of the telecom services. All the telegram service centers are in departmental buildings and no rent is to be paid."

He said the closure violated the Indian Telegraph Act 1885, which includes the provision of telegram services.

India's telecommunications ministry said it lost US$250 million in the last seven years running the service, according to an NBC News report.

Yesterday, hundreds of Indians visited the country's 75 telegraph offices to send their last telegrams.

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