In remote Uttarakhand villages, Nepalese mobile towers pose challenge to Modi’s demonetization drive मोदी की नोटबंदी नेपाली टेलीकॉम टावर्स के भरोसे

In remote Uttarakhand villages, Nepalese mobile towers pose challenge to Modi’s demonetization drive मोदी की नोटबंदी नेपाली टेलीकॉम टावर्स के भरोसे

Villagers living in remote areas of Uttarakhand bordering Nepal are so fed up with poor mobile connectivity in their areas that they have landed in Delhi to protest against discrimination by the Department of Telecommunications. Sitting in Jantar Mantar on dharna, they are puncturing all claims of Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding success of his demonetization drive and people adopting electronic modes of payments. Sandeep Joshi gives the details….


few months ago Uttarakhand Panorama had highlighted how people living in remote areas of Uttarakhand bordering Nepal are relying on mobile networks of neighbouring country to communicate and forced to pay international calling rates to stay in touch (see the story here — ).


Ex-Congress MLA Harish Dhami sitting in dharna along with people from Uttarakhand villages bordering Nepal

But now the story has taken a peculiar turn as post demonetization people living in towns like Dharchula, Munshiyari, Bangapani, Tejam and some villages of Tanakpur area bordering Nepal have been left in lurch as there is no money in banks and ATMs are not working due to poor connectivity. Moreover, irregular and unreliable mobile networks have become a major stumbling block in their efforts to join various modes of e-payments.

With local and state telecom and government officials not listening to their grievances, and letters to topmost functionaries in the government including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha and his predecessor Ravi Shankar Prasad remaining unanswered, hundreds of people from over a dozen villages are staging a sit-in at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. They are led by former Congress MLA Harish Dhami, who is Chairman of Uttarakhand Forest Development Corporation, who is on fast-unto-death. Significantly, Dharchula is now represented by Chief Minister Harish Rawat. The Assembly seat was vacated by Mr. Dhami for Mr. Rawat which he later won in by-election.

SIM mobile network

SIM of Nepalese mobile operators that are being used by those living in Uttarakhand’s border villages

Flashing SIM cards of Nepalese mobile companies which are being used by people living in and around Dharchula and Munshiyari, Mr. Dhami says people are ready to embrace digital payments, but without mobile connectivity people of border areas are suffering as they do not have money to spend. “I will not end my fast until the Prime Minister orders immediate installation of mobile towers across the region. The connectivity in the area is a poor 30 per cent and I want it should be 100 per cent. Why should people suffer due to incompetence and neglect of the Centre? People in my area are forced to pay international roaming rates to use mobile phones as they have no domestic telecom network and depend on mobile towers of neighbouring country. All claims of Mr. Modi about e-payments and ‘Digital India’ are nothing but a big sham. It is not just about cashless transactions, the entire issue poses big question mark on our national security,” Mr. Dhami said.

Showing two SIM cards of Nepalese operators which he uses, Pritam Singh, a resident of Tejam, said while the government talks of telecom revolution and robust mobile networks, the fact is lakhs of people living in border areas have to depend mostly on mobile networks of Nepal Telecom. “We live in strategically located areas adjoining Nepal and China where nation’s security comes first, but government cares least for us. Till now we were somehow managing things, but post demonetization drive, life has become difficult for us,” he adds.


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