Thousands of people queued up for Nepal Telecom pre-paid SIM-cards on Friday. Many of them returned with bare hands- as some 70,000 SIM-cards were distributed yesterday alone.
I called my friend, Daya, through Mero
As usual, I was talking with my friends in the micro-bus. One of the passengers heard our conversation, and spoke to us. He said, “SIM-cards were also distributed yesterday.” How could it be? I asked him since the official date of distribution was
We arrived at Teku at around . Daya and Sameer were standing in the queue together. Sameer had come to give company to us. After spending some time talking with the two men standing in front of and behind our friends- we were finally able to win their sympathy and jump right between our friends. But we were afraid if other people would also jump between their friends! So, I went to check how the queue was being organized. It turned out that few volunteers along with the guard of the telecom office was writing serial numbers on the forms. But they were not signing anyone of them? Anyone could copy the number in his handwriting and write onto theirs! How could they be so careless?
I couldn’t stop myself from asking one of the volunteer (who later turned out to be a Youth Communist League (YCL) Maoist cadre) if they had thought about this. He said, “We’ll look after that.” Then, when I went to my own place- I found that the numbers were repeated in two forms each in our group of six people alone? I went to told them that they had committed a mistake- that they have written same numbers in two different forms. This time, one of them said, “It won’t matter. We’ll look into that. Go, stand at your own line.” My number was 1316- and one stranger behind me had also the same number! How could they be so careless? This thought crossed my mind again.
Countdown begins at . The offices start distributing SIM-cards. After 40 minutes, we hear that some 400 SIM-cards have been already distributed. Then after two hours- we hear that some 900 SIM-cards have been handed over to the people who had sit in the queue. But one of the cops who were organizing the queue informed people who were asking them that the telecom officers had already issued about 2000 SIM-cards! Then another buzz- the people who were waiting in front of the telecom office saw many persons coming out of the office with bundles of SIM-cards each. And I could feel anger within the crowd of thousands of people. I heard that 4000 people had been given serial ‘numbers’.
My father had said to me earlier this morning, “Maoists will have cell phones now. A Maoist (Krishna Bahadur Mahara) is the Information and Communication minister, now we don’t have to attest the copies of citizenship and application form by gazetted government officers to get new SIMs!” I realized that this was truth. As soon as the Maoist’s party spokesman, Mahara, became minister, the first thing he has done is formulating a new provision that makes the SIM-cards available immediately after the forms are registered. And the Maoists cadres who had written same numbers on our forms had done so deliberately to get their people ‘in’ the queue out of nowhere. But who could speak up against them?
According to Kantipur Daily website, there were minor scuffles among customers waiting in line for their turn in Bhaktapur and Kirtipur. We also heard that the angry crowd smashed glasses of Chauni offices. The situation was no different here as well. I had the photograph of the man who had written same numbers on our forms- and I showed those volunteers, cops and guards to prove our innocence. Many a times- I’d to shout back in an angry tone. There were angered people in front of the office who were not given SIM-cards for not-so-important reasons. It seemed as if might is right. Those who shout to prove their innocence was given chance to remain in the queue despite having same numbers- those who remained quiet were kicked out of the line.
It was around when we finally reached the office gate. We made our way into the office. As we mounted the stairs to the first floor, I could see people busy registering their forms, paying and receiving SIM-cards at some counters. I registered my number, and Sameer followed me. We then got our SIM-cards after fulfilling necessary requirements. We were asked to exit- when I heard a man behind me telling to a policeman, “Keep those SIM-cards in your pocket.” The cop nodded. I couldn’t think of anything else- such corruption in front of the public. I ran to take the photograph of this cop with a cell-phone. He had a bundle of SIM-cards in his hands- my friends also saw him putting them inside his pockets. I followed him outside- and there was already angry crowd shouting against the frauds.
The YCL activist writing numbers on the forms. The policeman who received a bundle of SIM-cards from a NT officer. The pictures were taken from a cell phone.
I followed the cop- but he took a three-wheeler tempo to Ratnapark. I began to wonder if he was a real policeman- or a Maoists’ cadre. But the scene in front of the office gate turned nasty for a while- and two local ‘gang’ members who were wearing long hairs and t-shirts- were manhandling the ‘legitimate’ people who were standing on the queue under the scorching sun for more than eight hours! One of them pulled the collar of a man who was standing at the gate in front of the office and threw him out of the line along with other people. He was helping the policemen to maintain control of the situation! Nobody fears policeman- but people fear these dons here.
I was shooting video with my cell-phone when I heard someone shouting to beat me up. I turned back and showed my ID card of a journalist- they apologized.
After some time, as expected, in front of those junkies, people preferred to be calm and under control. Obviously, the junkies were also paid up.
Nepalis prefer to have a Nepal Telecom Corporation (NTC) SIM-card because NTC has made life difficult of private telecoms- especially Spice
To get one, you can either wait for months and go through the ordeals I mentioned above- or choose a rather very simple path- pay three times the actual price of the SIM which is Rs. 1135. This is
According to The Himalayan Times, the NT had distributed about 70,000 SIM cards of pre-paid mobile phones on Friday alone. It has distributed a total of 720,000 SIM cards of which only 100,000 are post-paid cards till date. Similarly, Spice
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