State-run telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) will not discontinue its prepaid SIMs till April 20, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad confirmed on Monday.
According to news agency ANI, the Union minister said the embattled telecom operator will also provide an incentive of Rs 10 to the users to help people communicate with their family members during the COVID-19 lockdown.
"The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited has decided that prepaid SIMs will not be discontinued till April 20. For outgoing calls, a Rs 10 incentive has been provided automatically from today so that the poor and the needy people continue to work," the news agency quoted the minister as saying.
The Union minister, who held a meeting of BSNL heads from all the states and chief postmaster general of the Postal Department through videoconferencing also expressed happiness over the works being carried out by these two departments.
Further, the minister said BSNL is trying to ensure that there is full connectivity during this time of crisis and added that he had "stressed the need to ensure that complaints are addressed immediately."
Earlier, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra called upon telecom companies to make their services free for a month to enable the migrant labourers to reach out to their families. In separate letters to the heads of Airtel, Reliance Jio, BSNL and Vodafone, she said, "I urge you to make your mobile services free for one month so that those men and women reach out to their near and dear ones easily and not face hardships in talking to them in this difficult phase in their life."
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had, on Sunday, asked telecom operators to extend the validity period of prepaid users to ensure people have uninterrupted phone and internet services during the lockdown period." ... you are required to take necessary steps as deemed fit including extending the validity period to ensure that all prepaid subscribers can enjoy uninterrupted services during the period of lockdown," a communique from TRAI to all operators had said.
"Though the telecommunication services have been considered as essential services and thus granted an exception from closing down... However, lockdown may adversely affect the working of customer service centres/point of sale locations," the regulatory authority had said, adding, "Under the circumstances, it is quite possible that those subscribers who wish to top up their prepaid balances or wish to extend subscription to a prepaid tariff using offline channels may face hardships and/or disruption of services".
With PTI inputs