Congress writes to telcos to waive a month’s call charges for migrant labourers


KOLKATA: All India Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has urged India’s top telcos, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and state-owned BSNL to waive a month’s call charges on humanitarian grounds for their migrant labourer customers who’ve run out of cash for mobile recharges as they struggle to go home amid the Covid-19 induced countrywide lockdowns.

In identical letters, dated March 29, to Reliance Industries (RIL) chairman Mukesh Ambani, Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal, VIL chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and BSNL chairman P K Purwar, Ms Gandhi has called on these telecom companies to “make incoming and outgoing call facilities” on their networks “available in the relevant areas without charge for the next one month” for home-bound migrant workers who have run out of cash on their phone recharges.

“It is our national duty to help our countrymen in this hour of crisis…millions of migrant workers are going home, battling hunger, thirst and disease, and have run out of money on their phone recharges and are unable to call their families, (who, in turn), are unable to receive calls due to financial and mobility restraints,” Gandhi said in her letters to RIL (Jio’s parent), Airtel, VIL and BSNL. Copies of these letters were circulating on Twitter.

Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents Reliance Jio, Airtel and VIL, said the telcos were likely to consider the request as they have always put the interest of their customers first.

“No business can hope to succeed without this focus on the interest of their customers first. I am sure, they will consider the request carefully and work with the government to take appropriate action,” Mathews told ET.

At press time, Jio, Airtel, VIL and BSNL did not reply to ET’s queries on whether they would implement Ms Gandhi’s proposal on huminatarian grounds.

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