Casualty of Technology: India Says Goodbye to Telegram Service

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When the ever evolving world of technology gave birth to text messaging some 20 years ago, people from around the world rejoiced at how messages can now be immediately sent to target recipients. Unwittingly, however, it caused the death of some communications tool, such as India's telegram service.

Indian telegraph receipts with Indore cancel and half stamps 1900-1904

Although thousands of telegrams were still being sent each day, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), India's state-owned telecommunications company announced last week it has decided to discontinue and close the country's almost 200-year-old telegram service.

Effective July 15, one of the world's largest and last telegram service will fold up, succumbing to revenue losses. About 1,000 employees stand to lose their jobs because of the closure.

"We were incurring losses of over $23 million a year," Shamim Akhtar, general manager of BSNL's telegraph services, said.

 India Says Goodbye to Telegram Service
Casualty of Technology: India Says Goodbye to Telegram Service

"The telegram has lost its relevance. The basic idea of a telegram was to send a message fast. Now SMS, fax and emails do that job."

Some youngsters, who did not really experienced directly sending a telegram, recalled seeing one through parents and relatives.

"My earliest memory of the telegram is my parents receiving one from my grandfather's brother's son in Kottayam, when I was a child. It said 'Appachan (father) sinking. Please inform all,'" Diligent Media India quoted an unidentified youngster.

Since news of the closure broke out, BSNL had been accommodating telegram requests from the younger Indian people who are out to experience the system for the first and last time.

"One of the messages on my telegram read, 'Uncle one of the last telegrams from India this is history'. But the lady who typed out the message told me that over the next one month they may send hundreds of telegrams. So she asked me to change it to 'This may be one of the last telegrams from India'," a youngster shared. 

Aside from actually sending out telegrams to friends and loved ones, others also resorted to getting a few telegram forms as a collectible.

 India Says Goodbye to Telegram Service
Casualty of Technology: India Says Goodbye to Telegram Service

It was in 1850 when the first telegram in India was transmitted between Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Diamond Harbour, a distance of about 50 km.

"At their peak in 1985, 60 million telegrams were being sent and received a year in India from 45,000 offices," Shiram VJ, a blogger, wrote. "Today, only 75 offices exist, though they are located in each of India's 671 districts through franchises. And an industry that once employed 12,500 people, today has only 998 workers."

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