SRINAGAR – Kashmir has been facing communications blackout for the past 47 days with virtually no mobile phone and internet services, but many residents in the Valley say they have been sent bills by telecom companies for services that were not provided.
The telecom companies have billed the subscribers for the period of communication blockade which began on August 5 when the Centre abrogated provisions of Article 370 and split Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories.
“Mobile phone and internet services are not functional in Kashmir since August 5 but still I have been billed Rs 779 by Airtel. I fail to understand what are we being charged for,” Obaid Nabi, a resident of Safakadal, said.
Mohammad Umar, who has a BSNL mobile connection, said his average monthly mobile bill used to be around Rs 380 but he was surprised to find an inflated bill for the shutdown period.
“I have been billed Rs 470 for the last month. The surprising aspect is that the phone services are not working for the past one and a half months,” Umar said.
Several subscribers said they were hoping that charges for the period of communication shutdown will be waived as it was done in the aftermath of 2016 agitation and 2014 floods in Kashmir.
Bharti Airtel did not respond to an email query sent on the issue, while repeated calls and text messages to BSNL CEO went unanswered. Queries were also sent to Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio, but no response was received.
Residents also said private schools in the city and some other towns in the Valley are calling parents to the schools on the pretext of providing assignments and syllabus for their wards and asking them to pay the fees, including transport charges, for the months of August, September and October.
“The kids have not gone to school since first week of August due to prevailing situation in Kashmir but the school authorities have asked me to deposit the fees for months of August, September and October,” Farooq Ahmad Dar, who has two children studying in a leading missionary school of the Valley, said.
Dar and other parents like him said they were furious that the school authorities asked them to pay even the transportation charges for the three- month period.
“I can understand that the school has to pay the salaries for their staff but why are they asking for transport charges when the buses have not been plying for more than a month now,” Mudasir Ahmad, another parent, said.