Monday, August 20, 2007


Gangtok&Darjeeling Aug. 19: BSNL has served up a rude shock to subscribers by quietly increasing its charges for sending SMS votes to support contestants in televised music talent hunts like Indian Idol and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa.
Currently, an SMS vote costs BSNL subscribers Rs 3.50, which includes Rs 1.50 for the text message and Rs 2 for the confirmation that the vote has been registered. Even last week, the charge was Rs 3 and when the shows began, around three months ago, it was just Re 1.
While the change has occurred across the country, people here are feeling the pinch more than others because two local singers, Prashant Tamang and Karma Sherpa, are in the final rounds of Indian Idol and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa respectively. Everyday, lakhs of SMS votes are sent in their favour from this town alone.
Such is the craze that even people from Nepal are coming down to Darjeeling during weekends for the sole purpose of voting for Tamang and Sherpa.
Initially, BSNL was charging its prepaid customers Re 1 for an SMS vote, the normal charge for sending a text message. Within a month, however, the subscribers realised that an additional Rs 2 was being deducted once they received a confirmation of the vote from a particular server designated by the show hosts, Sony (Idol) and Zee Bangla (Sa Re Ga).
In the past one week, BSNL has again increased the initial charge from Re 1 to Rs 1.50 per text message, taking the total cost of an SMS vote to Rs 3.50. Private operators charge Rs 3 per SMS vote.
“The service provider is engaging in unhealthy business practices. The company has the prerogative to increase its rates, but it is its duty to inform the customers when revised rates are introduced,” said Sonam G. Wandi, an employment officer from Darjeeling and a BSNL subscriber.
BSNL invariably sends text messages to its subscribers to announce the launch of new services. However it gave no such intimation when the voting charges were revised.
Divisional engineer (services) of BSNL A.K. Biswas initially claimed that he did not know of the new rates, having been out of station for a while. Later, however, he confirmed the hike.
“The rates have been increased from Re 1 to Rs 1.50 for non-personalised destinations since August 16,” said Biswas. When asked why customers were not informed, Biswas said he would look into the matter.