Chinese mobile towers along the Indo- China border are burning holes into the pockets of Indian soldiers deployed at forward bases.
Most of the time, when Indian armymen posted at Nathu La in Sikkim dial home, the Chinese mobile towers pick up the signals, therefore turning them into international calls on roaming.
Strangely, there are no mobile towers of Indian cell phone providers along the border, though soldiers use their cell phones frequently.
“It is a peculiar situation.
Whenever we try calling home from Nathu La, our cell phones catch signals from the nearby Chinese towers.
Many times we end up paying up to Rs 130 for one call,” rued a soldier about the problem.
Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence had brought to light the poor connectivity issue and said jawans posted at Nathu La were even forced to borrow handsets from their Chinese counterparts on the other side of the fence to stay in touch with their families.
Even as the Indian soldiers’ attitude in this treacherous terrain is painted on the mountains with declarations like “Hum hi Jitenge! (Only we will win)”, what seems to be failing them is the lack of infrastructure development, including the absence of telecom structures in the area which was once part of the Silk Route.
Most private telecom players are concentrated in Sikkim capital Gangtok and nearby areas.
The public sector BSNL, which is the major service provider near Nathu La, has not been able to install towers and telephone exchanges there.
This has also created a piquant security situation since the phone calls of our soldiers can be easily monitored by the Chinese.