Kashmir BSNL officials in nexus with private broadband operators
20 youths breached Health Minister’s security key, enjoyed unlimited Internet; BSNL as well as subscribers lose money as officers force applicants to turn to the private operators
State Times Report
SRINAGAR, Nov 9: Before closedown of the Darbar Move offices here in Obtober, around 20 youngsters used to gather religiously every day around the residential bungalow of the Minister for Health and Medical Education, Bali Bhagat, in the high security zone of Tulsibagh and work for hours on their cellphones and tablets.
Suddenly they disappeared when the Minister, who is a senior BJP leader, shifted his residence and office for the next six months of winter to Jammu and shut his broadband service. By the time, it became clear that the boys had successfully breached the Minister’s broadband security key and stolen the Internet service through wi-fi from his modem, the Police cyber cell’s sleuths had no compelling reason to proceed against the “internet thieves” as there was no complainant.
In the last two months, however, STATE TIMES has received not less than a dozen of complaints, alleging that the broadband thieves in collusion with the Internet service providers, particularly the Government of India-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), had broken the security keys and gained unlimited access to the cyber world during the four-month-long cyber shutdown.
Many of the subscribers got suspicious about the theft when their 3 GB to 8 GB limited plans exhausted within four or five days though, they claim, the total volume of their downloading and uploading was not even half a GB.
The cyber cell officials claim that some of the ‘wi-fi hackers’ have compromised the security keys of the high plan owners with the suspected involvement of the BSNL officials but thousands of the illegal users, youths in particular, have acquired an application that successfully breaks the password of any modem and helps the invisible user to access Internet.
Even as there are reportedly no complaints, officials are said to be delving deep to learn if the hackers have also uploaded or downloaded incendiary anti-national content like videos of clashes and demonstrations and speeches of the firebrand separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Many of them have operated their WhatsAPP groups through the same tactics.
One of the Police officials said that a number of the youths were known to have downloaded even sexually explicit content. “Broadband thieves tend to access anything on Internet as they have no accountability”, said a Police official. He said that two of such youths had been detected and arrested by Budgam Police Station last month but let off on a written undertaking that they would no more indulge in such kind of illegal activity.
Knowing little about the permeability of the Internet services in Kashmir but under stress of the cyber shutdown on mobile phones, thousands of people have applied for BSNL’s broadband services in the last four months of the street turbulence. The huge rush of aspirants is sequel to the total closedown of Internet services on mobile telephony of all telecommunication companies including the BSNL in the wake of the turmoil that arose out of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8.
Even as the mobile phone services have been restored after continued suspension for over three months, none of the companies, including the BSNL, has been permitted to restore the Internet services on cellphone. Consequently, the Internet has been available to the users only through BSNL’s landline broadband besides two private operators who provide their services through high-power wireless system.
With hundreds of thousands of the Kashmiris — particularly the stressed students, job aspirants, businessmen, mediapersons, tour and travel operators —suffering due to continued shutdown, curfew and near-total Internet freeze, unscrupulous BSNL officials have developed a nexus with the two private service providers for pecuniary benefits.
In the last two months, BSNL has entertained thousands of applications for broadband service on landline phone, collected security deposits, issued orders for installation, forced applicants to buy modems from particular shops during the continued shutdown and even configured their modems. However, for weeks together the broadband services have not been made operational on their landline phones, particularly in the high-end neighbourhoods of Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, Baghar Barzullah, Sanat Nagar and Rawalpora.
Officials at OCB Barzullah and OCB Rajbagh did not respond to phone calls when STATE TIMES attempted to learn why the applications were piling up after configuration of the modems and the broadband service was not being provided to the applicants for long time. Insiders, nevertheless, revealed that it was part of a ploy to force the applicants to approach the private operators whose devices were selling like hot cakes.
“Our officers have deliberately created the conditions of corruption and demoralisation of the applicants. When the applicants fail to get broadband services for months together, they are constrained to pay bribes. Those who do not pay bribe, withdraw their applications and they approach a private operator in Hyderpora who provides them broadband service in just one hour. Their sales have multiplied manifold as the applicants disappointed by BSNL have no other option than to approach the private operators”, said a BSNL official on condition of anonymity.
Significantly, BSNL has also shut down a wi-fi service that had hundreds of high-paying clients in the summer capital
Another official disclosed that BSNL had even disappointed even the Jammu and Kashmir Police. “Now, most of the Police officers and their offices use Internet services from a private operator”, he said.
“When the Police are helpless before BSNL, imagine what could be the plight of an ordinary subscriber. Our system of accountability has completely collapsed in the last two years. Our officers and engineers turn back subscribers every day, telling them we have this and that problem, no ports are available with the exchange etcetera. Pushed to the wall, they approach the private operators. If the ports would have been exhausted fully and our engineers would have failed to install new ones, the BSNL would have notified it through media and stopped receiving fresh applications. But they entertain all the applications, issue installation orders and even configure the modems. It’s crass cheating with the subscribers”, said another official.
“Our senior officers including General Manager (Saleem Beg), Deputy General Manager (Mufti Musharib Gul) and incharge Broadband (Mr Jain) are pretty aware of the crisis that has been created by unscrupulous officials. But, they have ignored it, and all the complaints of corruption, and never taken any action for the reasons better known to them. It gives an impression that some BSNL officials’ nexus with the private operators is not without the involvement and patronage of our senior officers”, another official in OCB Barzullah said.
Many of the applicants and subscribers in Rajbagh-Sanat Nagar area complained that SDE OCB Barzullah Ms Aliya does neither meet any subscriber nor respond to their phone calls or text messages.
When this newspaper made repeated attempts to talk to SDE OCB Barzullah Ms Aliya, DGM Mufti Musharib Gul and GM, Saleem Beg, none of them responded to the phone calls.
[Published in STATE TIMES on November 10, 2016]