Indian government announced this week that they are going to shut down the telegram service. The excuse was that not many people use it these days and it was causing a huge loss to the government.
Based on news reports, I heard that the government spent more than Rs. 100 crores on running it while the revenue generation was just around Rs. 75 lakhs.
Now, I personally have not used telegram in my lifetime. But I have seen it being used at some point of time. Especially during a death in the family. Even that has changed in the recent years because almost everyone carries a mobile phone these days and it is easier to communicate through it than sending telegrams.
However, there are a bunch of problems with this. People making this decision and commenting on it are living in cities. The service is probably still quite popular in the rural areas of the country where people either cannot afford a mobile phone or do not have mobile coverage. As the saying goes… there is a huge difference between India and Bharat.
I can also think of other situations. Even though mobile number portability has arrived, a lot of folks tend to change their mobile numbers for any number of reasons. You might not have the latest up to date contact number of all of your relatives. Logically speaking, people are more likely to retain their home address than their phone numbers. This alone means that the only way to contact far away relatives living in rural India might be through a telegram or a letter.
Talking about deaths in the family. I wonder if you would like to face the situation where you call up 100s of your relatives informing about the tragedy in your family. You cannot just expect the call to last for a minute or two as the other person would make a small talk consoling you. I do not think you would like to go through this trauma with distant family members. Telegram works very nicely.
Also I am not sure why BSNL is running telegram services in the first place. And how is it make so major losses. The concept of sending a telegram seems quite simple to me. You write a few words and you pay for each word. The message is delivered to the post office nearest to the receiver. The message is then printed on the relevant paper and is delivered by the postman. How expensive can it be to send few words of text from one part of the country to another? Use email if internet connectivity is available. Make a phone call (or text) if internet connectivity is not available. Post offices are not being shut down. Postmen are still delivering regular mail. How hard is it to deliver a few hundred telegrams on a daily basis without investing crores of rupees on it?