Reported by Tapas Das
Bhubaneswar, Jun 23:
Irrespective of all the preaching by the police and the telecom regulator, cell phone SIM retailers, in association with employees of telecom corporations, continue to flood the Odisha market with pre-activated SIMs.
Even though this poses a significant security threat to the country, as was found in the Mumbai terrorist attacks and many such instances, SIM card sellers, in their unabashed pursuit of a fast buck, are hardly bothered.
The disturbing trend can be seen across Odisha and there is no sign of any attempt to curb the unauthorised sale of SIMs. Even though there is clear evidence of the participation of telecom operators, lack of action against them also continues to raise suspicion.
Cops suspect that employees of leading telecom operators are involved in the illegal business; they ensure activation of these pre-activated cards without proper verification to help their company grab a larger share of the market, achieve their sales target and earn a few extra bucks in the process.
As per the guidelines of Telecom regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the procedure to get a new SIM card involves the retailer verifying the documents submitted by the applicant and forwarding them to the distributor and then to the service provider. On receipt of the application, the information provided in the application form is supposed to be cross-verified over phone by the telecom service provider before activating the SIM card within the next 24-48 hours.
Besides, the guidelines make telecom operators responsible for any inaccurate information provided by subscribers and ask the retailers to submit an undertaking stating that he has seen the applicant and matched the photograph and identity proof submitted with the application form.
However, all of these procedures go for a toss when the telecom operator, the distributor and retailers combine in an unholy nexus and issue fake SIMs against extra copies of the documents and photographs submitted by genuine customers in the past. On occasions, photographs are downloaded from Facebook and identity proof documents are purchased from corporate and other sources for as little as Rs 3 a piece. At other times, they simply use the existing customer information with a different photo to activate a SIM.
The distributors and marketing executives fill up blank forms themselves and call the telecom service providers for telephone verification using demo phones provided by the company and activate the SIM cards. In many cases, hundreds of cards have been activated using a single phone and then sold over the counter.
This makes for a dangerous practice as these SIM cards can be potentially misused by criminals inside the country and it will be hard to track down the original users while the innocents, whose identities have been manipulated, would have to run around with the law pursuing them for no fault of theirs.
Telecom corporations are aggressive in defending their business as evident from the case of Amogh Mund, who had to lose his job from the telecom corporation he worked for, after he broke the story and wrote letters to the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Odisha Police DG and other top officials.
We attempted to speak to some top executives at various telecom corporations seeking clarifications, but none of them wanted to speak on the issue.
While BSNL PRO NC Dash outright dismissed the case saying, “it is impossible to get a BSNL SIM without proper documents”, Aircel’s Regional Head Rajeev Gupta said, “I am unaware about this issue”. Similarly, Vodafone’s Regional Head Deepak Gupta was “out of the state and was busy in a meeting to comment”, Reliance’s Regional Head said, “it is not my job to get into this” and Airtel representative stated that, “we are not authorized by our head office to comment on this”.