Ban on prepaid mobile phones in Kashmir revoked


New Delhi/Jammu : The central government has lifted the ban on prepaid mobile phones in Jammu and Kashmir, but with stringent conditions for identity verification of existing or new subscribers, officials said Thursday.

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The ban, which invoked sharp criticism from people and the state government alike, was imposed in November last year after the union home ministry cited security reasons in the terror-riven Jammu and Kashmir.

“We have asked for stringent identity check of prepaid mobile subscribers after which telecom operators can issue prepaid SIM cards,” a home ministry official told IANS.

The decision to lift the ban was taken late Wednesday after several rounds of talks over the past one month between the home ministry, telecom ministry, the state government and mobile telephone service providers. The matter was even taken to the Supreme Court.

“Based on these discussions, the telecom ministry has laid new guidelines for re-verification of existing subscribers and verification of new subscribers for both prepaid and postpaid SIM cards,” said a telecom ministry statement.

Mobile service providers have to “adhere scrupulously” to the new guidelines, the statement said.

According to the new guidelines:

– Every existing prepaid subscriber shall be re-verified through his identity proof and address;

– Students, government employees and security force personnel have to get identity certificates from their departmental heads;

– The details should be sent to law enforcement agencies, police and telecommunication office for verification and in the event of negative report from authorities, the existing SIM shall be disconnected or no new connection issued; and

– No multiple connections, unless necessary, should be issued.

“Ordinarily no individual may subscribe to more than one mobile telephone connection, either prepaid or postpaid,” said the new advisory.

An individual desiring to avail of a second connection or multiple connections has been asked to disclose all other mobile phone numbers and the reasons for seeking more connections. The degree of verification for more connections will be even more stricter,

The ban had affected nearly 85 percent of the estimated 45 lakh mobile phone subscribers in the state after the central government said it had reports that many of these prepaid SIMs were being issued without proper verification.

Some of the SIM cards were used by militants to stay in touch with each other and also trigger landmines.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had expressed his unhappiness over the ban and had even taken the matter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.