Calls at Re 1/minute: Government’s ‘Diwali gift’ for soldiers

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Diwali gift
An Indian army soldier guards the Srinagar-Kargil highway at Sonamarg, 89 km (55.5 mile) northeast of Srinagar 17 May. State authorities handed over the Srinagar-Kargil highway to the Indian army after hundreds of "Pakistani infiltrators" reportedly entered the Kargil sector on May 11. Following the army presence, gunbattles have taken place between the soldiers and "infiltrators" at several places near the Pakistan border in Kargil. Officials say ten Indian soldiers and 23 "inflitrators" were killed in a seven day long gunbattle. fk/Photo by Fayaz Kabli REUTERS. FK/WS

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Communications on Wednesday announced a “Diwali gift” for the armed and para-military forces, in the form of reduced call rates on Digital Satellite Phone Terminal (DSPT), to ensure that they can speak to their loved ones for “longer durations.”

“It’s a Diwali gift from the ministry to soldiers. They can now talk to their families for longer durations without worrying about the charges,”Communications Minister Manoj Sinha said.

Earlier, soldiers paid a monthly sum of Rs 500 and Rs 5 per minute as call charges on most connections on DSPT.

The government’s move drastically reduces call rates, from Rs 5 to Re 1 per minute.

“Starting tomorrow, the monthly charge on DSPT will be completely discarded. For phone calls, instead of Rs 5 per minute, soldiers will now have to pay Re 1 per minute,” the minister added.

Telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said the move will cost the government Rs 3-4 crore per annum.

Currently, the country has 2,500 operational satellite phone connections. Satellite phone service, which was being provided by Tata Communications, will now be provided by the state-run BSNL.

“We have capacity of 5,000 connections. We are informing the defence and the home ministries that more connections can be given. The total capacity can be further increased, if required, in six months,” Sinha said.

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