Bye…Bye… dearTelegram…we will miss you
As the 160 year old telegram service entered its last days, there was a huge surge in sending telegrams. Many people have rushed today to the telegraph offices to send their last, and in some cases also their first, telegram to their friends and families as a souvenir. The present generations who had no idea of what a telegram is, also found time in visiting the telegram offices to have a glimpse at it, as they would no longer in their lifetime could see it anymore. This was evident as many school children’s too rushed today to telegram offices, may be the last day as Sunday July 14 was a holiday.
At 10 pm on July 14, India will send its final telegram before the service shuts the following day, signaling the end of a service that has been going for over 160 years. It is the latest means of communication to be killed off by the mobile Internet age.
In India, the first telegraphic communication was transmitted between Alipore and Diamond Harbour, a distance of about 50 km, on November 5, 1850. It would be five years more before the service was opened for the general public. For well over a century, it was the preferred method for announcing births, deaths, emergencies, interview dates and even job joining dates. It took two to three days to arrive, but nothing moved faster in those days. It was the original 'tweet', with most preferring to keep the word count down to 30 to pay only the minimum rate: Rs 28. From families waiting to hear from their children who migrated to India’s cities for work, to soldiers in remote areas for whom the telegram was the only way to stay in touch with relatives, the telegraph service has been used to connect millions of people across this vast country since the mid-19th Century.
Till 1986, the department of posts and telegraph were together, before the department split, and telegrams went over to the department of telecommunications, which later became BSNL.
Some employees nostalgically point out: “We should have retained the service. It’s a public need. The postcard is priced at 50 paisa and the government incurs a loss on it. Yet the postcard remains in use because it’s an obligation and service to society. The telegram service should also be retained as a service to people of the country.”