Srinagar: Faisal Ahmad walked five kilometres from his home in Rainawari in downtown Srinagar to a makeshift telephone booth in the upscale Jawahar Nagar to make a voice call to his brother who works in Qatar.
Faisal says a few PCOs (Public Call Offices) have come up in the old city area following the communication blockade that has been in place since Article 370 was revoked in August, but they lack ISD facility.
Though most landlines across the Valley have been restored, that has not eased the troubles facing people like Faisal.
“I have been trying to call my brother since the morning, but lines are down and I am not able to speak to him,” he said. “I will keep trying. It’s the second time I have come to this PCO to talk to my brother since August 5,” he added
With mobile phones and internet snapped across the Valley, it’s deja vu 90s for most Kashmiris, who have converted their landlines into makeshift phone booths.
There are long lines of people outside PCOs, most which have come up in the Civil Lines area of Srinagar. They charge Rs 2 for an STD call, and Rs 20 a minute for an international call.
Younis has also started a makeshift PCO from his consultancy in Lal Mandi. Though his PCO has come as a big relief to people in the vicinity, Younis says business is not the his sole purpose.
“It is also to help people to communicate with their loved ones. There are many people who come to us and don’t have money to make phone calls, we understand business activities in Kashmir have stopped, so we don’t really force people to pay for making calls,” he said.
The government has opened phone facilities in police stations, but people are reluctant to make calls from police stations.
“It is awkward for women to go to a police station for making a phone call, it is any day better to do that from a PCO,” said Nahida waiting for her turn at a PCO.
Desperate times do call for desperate measures, but not in a man-made crisis.
By Zaffar Iqbal