Mobile phones start ringing in valley but many still not able to use their phones

The resumption of mobile phone service brought back smiles on people’s faces in the Valley but many couldn’t make calls as they had not paid the bills of their phones due to long-drawn-out lockdown

Mobile phones start ringing in valley but many still not able to use their phones

Gulzar Bhat

55-year-old Sarah Banoo cries with tears of joy in her eyes while speaking to her grandson Bilal Ahmad over the phone. It is after a good 70 days that she was able to call and speak with Ahmad.

"I can't believe that I really spoke to him," she says and adds with misty eyes, " My sugar".

Ahmad, a UPS aspirant has been preparing for his exams in Delhi for little over a year now.

It was on August 4, when Banoo in Baramulla last time heard the voice of her grandson. Since then all the communication lines in the Valley remained shut off and it was only a few hours back that the postpaid cell phone services were resumed in the Valley.

Begum says that although some family members spoke to Ahmad thrice over the past more than two months, it was the first time that she was able to speak to him in these two months.

"They spoke to him using phones in the Deputy commissioner's office and police stations",  says Begum.

The Modi led BJP government had blocked all communication lines in the Valley some 12 hours before it stripped the Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and split the state into two union territories. Later, some helplines were set up at district headquarters but they were not enough to cater to a population of millions. People, however, received a slight relief from the first week of September when authorities made fixed-line phones operational throughout the Valley.

Last week, after about 69 days, the government finally took a call on resuming the postpaid mobile service in the valley from Monday afternoon.

As soon as the mobiles in the Valley started ringing, people frantically started calling their friends, relatives and particularly the children studying outside the state.

For some, the phone calls sprung surprises while for many others they came with a shocker.

" A friend informed me that he had made it to state civil services. It was such a piece of beautiful news for me", said  Zakir Ahmad.

Many residents living in the faraway areas of the Valley said that they got to know about the demise of some of their close ones only on Monday when they were able to talk to their relatives over phone.

"One of my relatives had died in September but I got to know just minutes before after I received a phone call from his son", said  Rafiq Ahmad, a resident of Pulwama.

Similarly, a student pursuing a course in medicine in Bangladesh was informed on Monday about the death of a close relative.

"I just called my home and got this bad news", She told this reporter on the phone while preferring to remain anonymous in this report.

She also said that all Kashmiri students since afternoon had been busy making phone calls to their families back home.

Recharge issues

Many postpaid subscribers have still not been able to make calls as they had not paid the bills of their phones due to long-drawn-out lockdown.

"Both incoming and outgoing calls on my number have been barred as I could not recharge it on time", said Zeeshan Ahmad Mir,  a resident of southern Pulwama town.

Many residents in the town echoed the same views.

Some of the mobile phone users said that they asked their friends living in Jammu and other parts of the country to recharge their phones.

"I have just got my phone recharged from Jammu", said Arjumad Ahmad, a student.

He said that in the absence of internet they were unable to use e-banking to pay their bills.

Kashmir has around 66 lakh mobile phone users. Among them, nearly 40 lakh subscribers use post-paid telephones.

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