People across India thronged to telegraph offices to experience the thrill and relive the nostalgia of booking a telegram for one last time as a 160-year-old service bowed to the advance of technology and was phased out for its growing irrelevance.
Some 20,000 telegrams were booked Sunday, of them 2,200 from Delhi followed by Kerala with 1,867, a telegraph department official said.
The last telegram was sent out to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi by Ashwani Mishra of DD News at around 11.30 p.m, wishing him “success and happiness in life” and hoping he would attain heights in life as other great men of the past.
At the time of its closure, the telegraph department had around 1,000 employees in 75 offices across the country. They all will be deployed in the broadband, landline and cellular divisions of state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) that operated the service. This will happen from next week, it is learnt.
India owes its telegraph system to its erstwhile British rulers who brought it to the country in 1833 to establish a communication system between their capital Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Howrah. It was expanded across the country in 1853 and even after the arrival of the telephony system in India early in the 20th century, it was the principal means of communications across the vast landmass.
During 1982-83 there were some 45,000 telegraph offices across the country. The annual telegraph traffic during that period was 75.2 million, which has now fallen to 72,000, prompting BSNL to scrap the service as it felt it had lost its relevance in this age of cutting-edge technology.
BSNL has incurred losses of Rs.1,473.38 crore from 2006-07 till 2011-12. It also suffered a loss of Rs.65.42 crore during the first half of financial year 2012-13.