Friday, February 3, 2012

MHA gets tough on misuse of pre paid mobile connections

Acting tough on frequent complaints of SIM cards landing into the hands of militants and criminals, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has directed the Government to devise a fool proof mechanism to prevent misuse of mobile telephones especially pre-paid SIM cards, mainly by private telecom operators.

The Union Home Ministry had earlier banned pre-paid mobile connections but lifted the ban later on intervention of the State Government and assurances by the telecom operators that all out efforts would be made to ensure that the SIM cards didn’t fall in the hands of undesirable elements.

The MHA had also convened two to three meetings of telcos, having operations in Jammu and Kashmir, in New Delhi and directed them to devise mechanisms to prevent misuse of SIM cards.

As a sequel to MHA directions, Director General of Police (DGP) Kuldeep Khoda today convened a meeting of top brass of all seven telecom operators in Jammu and Kashmir and issued them specific directions to devise a fool proof mechanism and ensure that only genuine buyers were able to get the SIM cards.

The telcos, whose representatives were called by the DGP, included BSNL, Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone, Idea, Reliance and Tata Telecom Services. The DGP besides passing on the directions to the telecom operators also listened to their grievances and assured them full support but wanted that the MHA guidelines should be strictly adhered to so that the SIM cards didn’t fall in the hands of militants and criminals.

Mr Khoda has set up a separate Cell in the Police Headquarters, where the mobile operators would report their activities daily including the number of SIM cards issued, the persons to whom they had been issued including all particulars of the subscribers and the SIM cards issued to franchisees across the State. Besides, entire data pertaining to SIM cards would be sent daily to the Cell.

The Cell would be headed by DIG Crime Intelligence Vigilance (CIV) in Police Headquarters Gareeb Dass and assisted by SSP CIV Firdous Iqbal.

The representatives of telcos have been asked to ensure that their entire day-to-day activities was reported to the Cell in Police Headquarters, where a data bank would be maintained of all Cell operators and the connections issued by them. The formalities obtained by the telcos while issuing the SIM cards would be subjected to scrutiny at the Cell and verified at their own level to ensure that the SIMs had been issued to genuine persons only after completion of all formalities.

"A fool proof mechanism was worked out at the meeting and telcos were asked to follow it to prevent misuse of SIM cards’’, Mr Khoda said, adding the telecom operators have been conveyed in categorical terms that monitoring facilities shouldn’t be misused at any cost.

He said all telecom operators providing services in Jammu and Kashmir have been issued proper proformas for checks and balances. The proformas would be maintained by the Cell operators and also given at the Cell set up in the Police Headquarters.

The State police chief conveyed to the telecom companies that there should be no compromise with national security as the SIM cards, issued without observing requisite formalities, could fall into the hands of militants and criminals and create problems for the security agencies, which were fighting the militancy.

Official sources said it was observed in the meeting that though most of the guidelines issued by the MHA before lifting ban on pre-paid connections were being observed, there were still some lacunas, which required to be overcome by the companies.

As far as the problems raised by the telecom companies were concerned, Mr Khoda assured that the problems falling within the jurisdiction of Police Headquarters would be addressed immediately while other issues would be taken up with the concerned departments.

It may be mentioned here that the MHA had imposed a ban on pre-paid mobile connections in Jammu and Kashmir a couple of years ago following complaints that a bulk of them had landed in the hands of militants and other anti-national elements including the Over Ground Workers (OGWs) of different militant outfits.

Thousands of pre-paid connections of various telecom operators were disconnected after fresh verifications.

The MHA had recently stated that the pre-paid connections could be warned again if their misuse was not stopped by the telcos.

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