Friday, August 7, 2015

Bhopal Notes: 9 : Broadband does a disappearing act

I had practically been held incommunicado since last Friday (31st July 2015). The broadband had failed though the telephone worked. A complaint was lodged on Saturday, the 1st of August and I was told that it would be attended to within 48 hours excluding Sunday. Monday and Tuesday had gone by and my broadband connection continued to be a dud. Only on the 5th well after 60 hours somebody turned up and rectified the defect in the WiFi unit. Very helpfully, the man who received my complaint advised me to take a fresh connection worth about Rs .5,000/- for six months where the speed is supposed to be high. I had to tell him that I had been having such a connection for six months during which I had had to send a complaint about its excruciatingly slow speed by e-mail (when I was lucky to find a window of fast-enough spell) to Chief General Manager BSNL, MP and paste another on the Facebook page of Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Minister of Telecom, IT and what have you. Nothing happened despite the complaints and my broadband connection remained lifeless.

In desperation I had been checking the speed of my broadband connection. I found it scandalously low. I had sent the findings to the Chief General Manager once before.  That, however, did not elicit any response from him. I don’t know whether his ID that I had is current. Earlier one could find the telephone numbers and e-mail IDs of all officers on their website. It seems, the page has since been taken off the web and, if one is in need, one cannot really contact any responsible official. This is how a public sector service-provider has fenced itself off to keep the inconvenient people out of the way.

The local municipal corporation is trying very hard to get the city approved for being designated as a “Smart City”. The reason for this obsession seems to be the Rs. 1000/- crore that it would get to implement the project. That’s a very attractive lollipop for the municipal officials as quite a bit of it can be siphoned off. One, however, wonders whether the men in the municipality have ever thought of the challenges they are likely to face from the BSNL front – utterly inefficient as it is. The concept of smart city is basically based on digital delivery of urban services from several domains working in sync. When the quality of broadband service is so poor wouldn’t the “smart city” be up against several problems? Besides, when there is utter lack of physical infrastructure for delivery of civic services what would digital connectivity be able to achieve? To my mind, people would be happy if the whole range of civic services is delivered more efficiently cutting out all the scope for citizens’ dissatisfaction. To do that the men in the municipality have to put in sincere and honest efforts which is, of course, a pipe dream.

Once Arvind Kejrival had rightly commented during a TV talk-show that there was no dearth of money; only it needed to be directed to deal with the appropriate festering problems. I thought it was a very commonsensical comment. There is indeed no dearth of money as we have seen in this very town crores of rupees allotted under Bhoj Wetland project or Jawharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission spent without in any way improving the quality of municipal services or the quality of life of its citizens. Today mindboggling sums are allotted for various well-intentioned projects but all are reduced to naught because of our workers’ apathy, carelessness and dishonesty. The “Smart City” project is also likely to end up in the already long list of failed projects the expenditure on which went down the drain – or into numerous undeserving pockets.

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DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION Rama Chandra Guha, free-thinker, author and historian Ram Chandra Guha, a free-thinker, author and...