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No network in Nathula so jawans borrow phones from Chinese soldiers

House panel expresses ‘unhappiness’,asks BSNL to fast-track connectivity.

Written by Anil Sasi | New Delhi |
May 6, 2012 1:39:32 am

The telecom revolution may have networked the length and breadth of the country but it hasn’t quite touched jawans at the China border at Nathula who are forced to borrow handsets from their Chinese counterparts on the other side of the fence to stay in touch with their families.

This was the startling discovery made by members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology during a study visit to Nathula Pass in July last year. The Committee’s tour notes record this: “The Army personnel during the deliberations brought the attention of the Committee to poor telecom connectivity at Nathula. The Committee expressed unhappiness to learn from the jawans that they have to borrow the handsets from the jawans posted in the borders on the other side to remain in touch with their family members.”

Several private players have a presence in Sikkim but these are focused on Gangtok and adjoining areas with state-owned BSNL being the only major service provider near the Nathula outpost. However,procurement of mobile towers and telephone exchanges by BSNL for deployment near the army camp has been delayed,“For the last four years,purchase orders have not been placed,”said a BSNL official. The House panel asked BSNL to fast-track the purchase but nothing has moved so far.

Nathula in Sikkim’s East district is one of the three open trading border posts between China and India. Agreements limit trade across Nathula to 29 types of goods from India and 15 from the Chinese side after it was reopened in 2006.

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