Strong Nepal telecom network on border areas poses threat

PITHORAGARH: Amid weak communication network on network of the BSNL and increasing dependence of Pithoragarh residents on Nepalese telecom operators, there is a threat to the national security.

editorial@tribune.com

BD Kasniyal

Pithoragarh, July 24

Amid weak communication network on network of the BSNL and increasing dependence of Pithoragarh residents on Nepalese telecom operators, there is a threat to the national security.

Pithoragarh shares boundaries with China in the north and Nepal in the east. If a person in India uses a telecom network of an international operator, the Indian security agencies can’t hear that conversation but agencies of the neighbouring country can. Besides, the BSNL, is losing a revenue of crores of rupees whereas the Nepalese operators are minting money.

The BSNL has limited towers in this part of the border. Sources in the BSNL say the stretch of over 100 km from Dharchula to Lipulekh Pass in Pithoragarh district near the China border has no local communication network. Private telecom companies are not allowed to operate in the border region due to security reasons.

Bhupendra Singh Thapa, a Dharchula-based trader, said, “Due to lack of communication network in remote border areas, residents of over 36 villages in Pithoragarh and 46 villages in Champawat are dependent on the strong Nepalese communication network.”

Thapa has written several times to the Central Government for a sound communication network but to no avail. “Not only residents in Vyans, Darma and Chaundas valleys use Nepalese network, but security personnel, posted in higher reaches near the China and Nepal border, are also using the foreign network,” said Thapa.

Dealers, who sell recharge coupons of various telecom companies, say residents, who make frequent calls to their acquaintances in Dharchula, Jhoolaghat, Jauljibi, Baluakot and nearby towns, prefer to buy SIM cards of Nepalese telecom operators which have a strong connectivity. “Though they have to pay international call rates, they still go for it for a good telecommunication service, said Mohan Bhatt, who sells recharge coupons of Idea in Pithoragarh.

BSNL officials, posted in the border region, also accept that lack of towers here has not only put the national security in jeopardy but also resulted in a loss of a huge revenue. “We are losing a revenue of around Rs 3 crore per year to Nepalese telecom operators,” said PS Dharmashaktu, a BSNL official in the Pithoragarh circle.

He said security agencies couldn’t hear the communication of anyone in the district if the person used the network of a foreign operator. But the Nepalese authorities can easily hear the conversation. Besides, if a person using a domestic SIM makes a phone call through an international network, he would have to pay international charges, said Dharmashaktu.

Mahendra Pati, GM, BSNL, Almora, said, “We have covered over 80 per cent of the population under our communication network by installing 70 towers in the remote areas of Pithoragarh and Champawat districts. We have also been providing Internet facilities.”

Officials of the BSNL said several political leaders in Nepal had been issuing anti-India statements and praising China. Under such circumstances, India should become cautious with regards to its security.

If Nepal collaborates with China, the use of Nepalese communication network in the Indian territory can result in a threat, said Dharmashaktu. He said India should make the BSNL network strong near the border areas. “We should install BSNL towers at Gunji in Vyans Valley and also on the 70-km Darma-Vyans stretch to end the monopoly of foreign communication network,” he added.

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