India Bids the Telegram Goodbye

India is among the few countries where the telegram service is still in use. But this service will be stopped July 15 2013.


Jumat, 02 Agus 2013 18:57 WIB

India Bids the Telegram Goodbye

India, telegram, Bismillah Geelani

India is among the few countries where the telegram service is still in use.

An estimated 5,000 telegrams are sent every day in the country. But not anymore.

The government has decided to do away with the service owing to what it calls the prohibitive costs involved.

At the central telegraph office in New Delhi, 25-year old Praneeta Veer is standing in a queue waiting for her turn to send a telegram.

This is Praneeta’s first telegram and is addressed to her grandparents.

“It’s once in a lifetime experience because I’m not going to be able to send it again if at some point of time I wish to send a telegram to someone. I’m sending this to my grandparents; it’s going to be their last telegram---kind of an end of an era.”

Like Praneeta, many youngsters across India are taking the time to send a telegram before the service is shut down.

The government has decided to discontinue the service from the 15th of July.

Shamim Akhtar, general manager of telegraph services says it is no longer economically viable.

“People have many options today, there’s telephone, mobile, e-mail and SMS and these services are faster cheaper and more reliable. With all these options around very few people are now interested in using the telegram service. The costs of continuing this service are also prohibitive; we have been incurring huge losses it’s nearly 23 million dollars a year.”

The telegram service, popularly known as “taar” in Hindi, was introduced in India by the British in the mid 19th century.

It is believed to have played a major role in establishing British control over India.

The 1857 popular uprising, known as the ‘first freedom struggle,’ is also linked to a telegram.

But as the fastest and most authentic mode of communication, the telegram has been an important part of Indian social life as well.

It was a handy option to convey urgent messages bypassing the infamous postal delays.

A number Bollywood films from the 1970s and 80s have captured the significance of telegram in the everyday Indian life.

But the telegram would rarely bring good news, says Ravikant, a research fellow at the New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

“The arrival of a telegram itself was frightening. Because generally people would use this to inform others of some calamity or tragedy that had befallen them so the moment the postman delivered a telegram the entire family would gather together anxiously and sometimes even the neighbors would join them because everyone knew that something bad has happened.”

The government says the closure of the service will not affect the jobs of employees of the concerned department.

But the announcement has invoked nostalgia in many, including telegraph department employee Raghuveer singh.

Singh and many others have chosen to send their last telegram to the Prime Minister urging him not to stop the service.

“It’s true that people prefer to use mobile phones and emails for sending messages but everyone does not have these facilities, many people don’t even have an e-mail ID and many others don’t have access to the internet. It won’t make any difference for the rich but for the sake of poor the service should continue.”

But media analyst Vineet Kumar differs.

He says it’s time to bid the 163-year old telegram service a dignified farewell.

“We must look at telegram in the right perspective. It belongs to an era when there was only radio, television and very few people had access to telephone and I’m talking of landline. And in this backdrop telegram had a very important role. But today the media space is overcrowded and a medium like telegram has no chance of survival. Emotions are a different thing, an old technique may fill us with nostalgia and we all are nostalgic about telegram but nostalgia cannot be the basis to begin or end a service in an age where everything is decided by the market forces.”


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