Companies providing mobile phone services are now an angry lot. They are fuming at an order recently passed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. To be enforced from January 1 next year, this TRAI order will make mobile service providers pay a compensation of Rs 1 to the customer for every dropped call, though the maximum compensation per day will be limited to Rs 3. This is the problem mobile phone users across the country, including Assam and other Northeast states, are facing. They are cut off in the middle of conversation, frequently needing to make 2/3 calls to pass on a short, businesslike message. Sometimes the 'network' is so poor, they have to run around the house or outside to catch the sigl. But mobile phone service providers are arguing that this is the best they can do, since the government has given them a very limited spectrum to work with, and it is difficult to set up mobile phone towers due to tight regulations and public worries about possible bad effects of radiation. These companies claim that even in the best of situations, it is impossible to provide 100 per cent coverage in a service area because of 'the physics of radio waves and the way they are propagated'. They are also arguing that customers may intentiolly drop calls to avail of compensation. Pointing out that the railways or the electricity or water supply bodies do not have to provide compensation to users for service lapses like delayed/cancelled trains or load-shedding or disrupted water supply, mobile service providers are now demanding that they cannot be held to account for call drops. They are also threatening to raise tariffs to recover the cost of 'grossly unjust' compensations. The impression that a customer or service user gets from such arguments is that his or her rights, leave alone convenience, count for very little. Since customers in India are used to nonexistent or shoddy public utility services, they must also put up uncomplainingly with defectiveprivate services and pay up regularly for the privilege. Otherwise they may be pelized by being forced to pay even more. How the government deals with such corporate blackmailing remains to be seen. But customers, even if they are not 'king' as in Western countries, must stand up for their rights in this country. They must demand quality service after parting with their hard earned money.
Food for thought