Local residents and even security personnel are using Nepalese SIM cards in border areas of Uttarakhand as no state-owned or private telecom company from India is providing services in the area, raising security issues.
The residents of Gunji and Nabbhi villages of Dharchula tehsil in Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand, along with those living at Gwaldom area in Chamoli district have been using Nepalese SIM cards for the past several years in their cell phones to not only communicate but also surf the internet.
Residents have to shell out more money for using these facilities. They say they are left with no other option but to pay the rate of ISD calling.
Not just the local residents, even security personnel are forced to use Nepalese SIM cards for communication due to the absence of any Indian service provider.
"We are told that the BSNL has a mobile tower in Gwaldom area, but you cannot use it. Your BSNL SIM will not get signals. On the other hand, the Nepali SIM cards are easily available and provide promising connectivity. Besides the calling facility, one can also use the Nepali SIM cards for surfing the internet which has become a basic requirement," said a paramilitary jawan.
The issue of communication figured along with ailing infrastructure when the villagers met Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju near the Sino-India and Indo-Nepal border areas.
"Here in Gwaldom, we have to use Nepali SIM cards on higher rates as no Indian telecom service providers are present. We are forced to pay ISD call rates for local calls. Nepal is a small nation as compared to India yet they are well equipped with these basic services. I wonder what will happen to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India programme if we continue to use Nepali SIM cards," Gwaldom resident Vinod Rawat said.
"There are no basic facilities like road, transportation, telecommunication at Gunji, Dharchula and Nabhi villages. We are facing a lot of hurdles and want the government to address the issues as soon as possible as our future is looking bleak,” Rameshwar, a local resident, said.
Rijiju, after listening to the local residents problems, said that the National Democratic Alliance government's main focus is to provide infrastructure and telecommunication facilities in the border areas.
"I myself have witnessed problems related to infrastructure and telecommunication. I walked continuously for six hours to reach Nabhidang border outpost of Indo-Tibetan Border Police from Kalapani BoP of Sashastra Seema Bal as there are no roads to connect this 8 kilometer long stretch," he mentioned.
"I assure you all that the government will release funds from the Border Area Development Programme to develop the area. It is a priority for the government to provide better facilities in the border area," Rijiju added.
Rijiju, who was told by locals that people are using the Nepali SIM cards, assured them that they will get better telecommunication facilities as soon as possible and he will call a meeting of concerned departments once he reaches Delhi.
The minister was on a two-day visit to BoPs of SSB and ITBP in Uttarakhand.