Frederick Noronha on Tue, 3 Aug 1999 08:46:08 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> News: Phone-calls in western India could become cheaper to the commonman

>From Frederick Noronha

PANJIM, July 24: In a move that could significantly improve access to
telecom services for the commonman in Goa, the telecom authorities here
have openly warned public-call offices against overcharging. 

For a long time now, complaints have come up that PCOs (public call
offices) in the state have been charging extortionate amounts for local

People wanting to make a call have had to pay Rs 2 or 3, even for a
short-distance call within Goa or a call within the same exchange. (Rs 3
is the equivalent of approx seven and half US cents, but by local
standards is a significant sum. You could buy a cup of tea for that price
in a small local 'chai-shop'.) 

Compared to this, the phone network in a place like the nearby city of
Bombay has been streamlined to allow anyone to call from one end of the
city to the other for as little as Rs 1. 

Access to cheap phone-calls could play a crucial role in giving the
commonman a better quality of life, access to crucial information needed,
keeping closer touch with home, and also making the citizen more
productive overall. 

But influential PCO-owners' quarters here ensured that costs for local
calls were kept high, customers were overcharged, and no action was taken
against them for quite some time. 

Complaints over this had figured in the Open House sessions held by the
Goa Telecom District authorities, and senior officers had promised action
if cases were brought to their notice. 

Recently during an Open House held at the Mapusa Telephone Exchange, a
bill of a PCO in the vicinity of the Church Square in Panjim was produced.
Strangely, the bill carried absolutely no identification number, as is
required for every government- approved PCO to trace from where the call
was made. 

In some PCOs, the charge even for ringing the number 9628 (a Panjim
number, for paging services) is fixed at three rupees or more. "This is
not a number starting with 22," explained one PCO owner, when asked why
the charge was so high.

Now, the telecom authorities went ahead and gave a public warning to
overcharging PCOs, by issuing advertisements in the local press. 

It clarified that "no service charge is leviable" for any calls made
within Goa, and also to the nearby exchanges outside Goa where the 91/92
code is used. Even if calls are made from an STD/ISD call-office, no
service charge is leviable. 

Recently, phone-calls made within entire Goa are charged at a flat rate of
one unit for every three minutes. 

Goa Telecom District's general manager warned PCOs that their connections
would be "liable to disconnection" if any cases of over-charging were

Unlike nearby Bombay, Goa also lacks a network of efficient coin-
collection boxes (CCBs, or unmanned telephones, which allow anyone to make
a call at a fixed rate of one rupee through a slot-collection device). 

If such phones were available, it would take the telecom facilities to the
door of the commonman.

Already, due to the considerable growth of telecom services in Goa over
the past couple of years, communications within the state have improved
vastly, facilitating a range of possibilities which were not available

Such benefits need not be restricted only to those who can afford personal
telephones at their homes, but should be available to the commonman, at an
affordable cost. (ENDS) 

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