Friday, September 2, 2016
Why mobile number portability services may prove to be an absolute hypocrisy for women? A dirty dark secret
CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER
I belong to that generation who have grown up with one landline telephone connection, just to realise that the same can become ‘just a set’ to support home internet connection for some, or a “life support” for senior citizens who love to feel nostalgic by such sets. I have stayed in three major cities in three parts of India and finally decided to own a telephone number which (much to the surprise of my older generations) started ‘travelling’ with me to keep me connected with the world. Yes, we call it ‘roaming’. But the older generation still loves to call it mobile phone instead of ‘cell phone’ because (as one my grand-aunt once commented), ‘you need to be mobile while using it’. I gradually owned a smart phone and the SIM card changed its ‘place of residence’ from my ‘unsmart’ phone to smart phone . I also witnessed the era when roaming charges got reduced from a (shocking) exorbitant price to a nominal price which we were happy to afford.
Then came the announcement for mobile number portability system. One of the telecommunication service providers define this in the following words “ Mobile Number Portability (MNP) is the facility for users to switch to any mobile operator in any Licensed Service Area (LSA) of INDIA, while retaining their existing mobile number . Sim card and all services on the mobile connection will change and will be provided by the new operator.”( see http://www.bsnl.in/opencms/bsnl/BSNL/services/mobile/mnp_intro.htm) And how will the customer avail the services for ‘change of port’? The telecommunication regulatory authority of India gives a detailed guidelines regarding this @ http://www.trai.gov.in/WriteReadData/userfiles/file/measuresto%20protectconsumerinterest/Customer_Guide.pdf .
One of the essential eligibility criteria is owning government authorised local residential information. This can be either the voter’s ID card, or the ADHAR card or the PAN card or the Ration Card which may have the local residential address of the customer. In case the customer has shifted from his own home, the requirements must be satisfied with the Rent Agreement, which may show the names of the genuine tenant ( the customer) and the genuine property owner (the house owner). However, in case the customer has shifted his jurisdiction from one city to another, he may necessarily need to show all papers which prove that he has shifted the jurisdiction.
I was fantasising the idea of availing mobile portability system especially because I shifted from one State to another and I was under the impression that I can still “own” the number without paying roaming charges since mobile number portability also offers for change of geo-location of service area. In short I greedily wanted to localise my number, which has almost become my identity. I applied for mobile number portability only to realise a rude shocking truth. It is nothing but a hypocrisy especially for women who are not ‘single’.
When one enters a new State he/she can not be expected to change his/her government authorised identity proofs within one day unless he/she is a government officer who has been transferred from one post to another (you may still need to wait for getting your new id card); and if the person wants to retain the identity proofs because he/she plans to get back to his/her own home state, then it is only the rent agreement which may support his/her claim for ‘authentic identity’. Most of the times, the house owners would prefer to rent out their properties in the name of the “Karta” (o, common ! forget about the recent judgment which says even women can also be heads of families. In such situations, Karta always denotes male heads of families) and not the “Katri”(women heads or spouses) in case the so called karta wants to be lenient enough to include his wife’s name. The reason is obvious: our society still can’t accept women as equal to men. As such, if a woman who may or may not be working (I am excluding women government servants), and who has travelled with her husband to another State, wishes to avail the ‘digital magic’ called mobile portability system, she may need to rely upon rent agreement and needs her husband’s signature (and in some cases the physical presence as well) for all the formalities, reducing her existence as a mere presence of the human body without any identity. Practically, she actually may need to denounce her ‘ownership’ over the digital identity and phone number that would be allotted to the new subscriber, i.e., her husband. I really wonder, then what is the necessity of workplace identity cards, the biometrics and the (numbness of the) ADHAR number uniqueness if these are not needed for causes such as mobile portability system? Are women to be considered as fugitive criminals if their existing new workplace identity cards, unchanged passports or ADHAR cards do not match with the new residential information ? what may be other unique grounds to deny women the right to avail mobile portability system when they are otherwise eligible ? It is unfortunate to note that examples of terrorism or antisocial activities carried on with the cyber aide had lead to create some policies which do not support the concept of gender equality always. No matter how much loving and supporting the husband may be, the rules will always be the rules and the service provider company would always remain ‘unanswerable’ to the wife or the dependant woman (in case she is the mother or daughter or sister of the man) even if she is highly qualified professional.
The dirty dark secret behind the glaring concept of mobile portability system: gender equality and gender empowerment remains an unanswered question as ever.
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