In the next five days, as the now-quaint telegram returns to history after serving the country for 163 years, it is not just nostalgia that is driving those who have worked with it to call upon the communications ministry to save the old-world all-caps message transmission service. They believe it is still handy.
Employees of the Central Telegraph Office in Fort have been sending telegrams to Union minister of communications and IT, Kapil Sibal, entreating him to rescue the telegraph, which is set to be relegated to antiquity on July 15, amid the onslaught of telecom evolution.
‘SAVE 163 YEARS OLD TELEGRAPH SERVICE KINDLY DIRECT CMD BSNL TO REVERSE HIS DECISION TO DISCONTINUATION OF TELEGRAPH SERVICE,’ read one of the telegrams sent by Jay Prakash Maurya, who works at the CTO in Fort.
Maurya, who has been buzzing telegrams for 37 years, is three years away from retirement. He doesn’t have much to lose even if the CTO shuts down, but he feels that the telegram is an important service that should be saved. “There are many people like banks, insurance companies and traders who are still using the services,” he adds.
Don’t RIP the wire
Echoing Maurya is CN Deshmukh, senior telegram officer at the CTO and its oldest employee. He is planning to send his telegram in Hindi today. “I want to write something nice to the minister requesting him to save telegram,” he says. Asked if it is too late to salvage the service, Deshmukh replies, “It’s up to the minister to decide. We just want to try what’s in our hand. It’s an essential service.”
According to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, the state-owned firm which runs the service, losses at telegraph offices around the country have been piling, making the service commercially unviable for operations. Hence, the shutdown slated for July 15. The ubiquity of smartphones and internet has rendered the telegram obsolete, BSNL reasons. But the CTO begs to differ. “We made around Rs 15 lakh in June alone, which I believe is more than what the General Post Office makes in a month,” says Rajnath Pandey, senior section supervisor (operations) at the CTO. “People are still using telegrams,” he adds.
According to Pandey, the CTO has received an order of 2 crore telegrams from ICICI Prudential Life Insurance to be sent before the service is laid to rest. The company has been using this method to inform its customers about delays in premium payments.
>> The first telegram was sent by Samuel Morse in 1838.
>> The first Indian telegram was sent in 1850 by British doctor and inventor William O’Shaughnessy.