By ANAND HOLLA, Mumbai Mirror | Jun 13, 2013,
Telegram. Stop. To die. Stop. On July 15. STOP.
What was once the fastest mode of conveying information – usually terrible news of death and loss- will soon be a nostalgic thing of bygone years. The death of the telegram has been signalled by BSNL which has announced that it will be curtains down on its 160-year old telegraph service from July 15.

The organisation is unable to sustain what it feels is an unviable service in these days of instant communication. The telegram has been roundly upstaged by smartphones and the easily accessible Internet. But apart from fans of nostalgia, it is the BSNL Employees Union that is up in arms at the announcement.

In its circular issued by Shameem Akhtar, Senior General Manager, Telegraph Services, BSNL has asked all telegraph offices under BSNL to stop booking telegrams from July 15 onwards.

On Wednesday evening, the Central Telegraph Office at Fountain in Mumbai, which also doubles up as a customer service centre for BSNL, wore a forlorn look. Its staff, who are part of BSNL Employees Union, Mumbai Division, said none of them was consulted by the management.

One of them said: “Rural India still uses telegram services to a great extent, and so do government offices. Why kill a legacy when it still has its own demand base?”

The union says it is “seriously concerned” about the abrupt termination notice. “No doubt we have entered the age of internet and 4G services, but still telegraph services are being used by the public and government departments,” says their letter to the BSNL management.

The union also reasons that the telegram is the only legal document accepted in a court of law as documentary evidence.

“E-mail, fax, SMS or any other means of communication are not accepted as valid proof. Daily working of medical representatives is based on telegram messages throughout the country. Defence services like Army, Air Force and Navy send a large number of telegrams all over the country regarding tenders, leave of defence personnel, etc. Many other departments like FCI, Banks and state governments are also using the telegraph services,” their letter says.

In May 2011, the government had revised telegram charges for the first time in 60 years – to Rs 27/50 from Rs 4/50 for inland services. If that wasn’t a bad sign enough, it withdrew overseas telegram services two months ago. But the employees still harbour hopes of changing the management’s mind, as it has sought “detailed discussions” with it over the issue.