New Delhi: The home ministry has threatened action against the heads of telecom service providers operating in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) if their firms issue mobile phone connections without properly verifying the identity of the users.
The ministry has asked the operators to cancel licences to franchisees in the terrorism-hit state if they are found flouting the rules on issuing the connections.
“We have given them a week’s time to cancel the licences of franchisees violating security norms,” a home ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
“The franchisee will be booked under criminal charges if a sim card obtained on fake identity papers is recovered from a terrorist or criminal elements in the state,” he added. “The CMD (chairman and managing director) of that particular sim provider will also be held accountable and action would be considered against him.”
On Tuesday, Mint reported that the home ministry has given telecom firms a week to verify all their subscribers in J&K and keep records of anyone sending bulk messages, to prevent possible misuse of mobile phone connections by terrorists and protesters in the state.
An executive with a telecom firm said a week may not be enough.
“Security is tantamount, but attaining 100% verification in that little time is very difficult. Even in cities like Delhi or Mumbai, 100% verification is very difficult,” the executive said, but added the security norms had to be followed in national interest.
The home ministry’s decision was conveyed to operators on Monday in a meeting between ministry officials and representatives of the seven telecom service providers operating in J&K—Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone Essar Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd, Aircel Ltd, Tata Teleservices Ltd, Reliance Communications Ltd and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL).
The ministry had found after a sample survey and audit in the state that only BSNL had 90% re-verification levels; the remaining private telecom firms fared far worse with re-verification levels as low as 35% in some areas.
The operators were required to re-verify their subscribers after the department of telecommunications issued new security regulations for the state in January.
The Centre had banned the use of mobile phones in the state last year. It removed the ban after negotiations with telecom companies, but came out with more stringent rules for allowing the use of mobile phones in the state.
The home ministry has also proposed reducing the number of telephone connections per household in J&K from six to two. No decision was taken on this at the Monday meeting.