India Stops 160-year-old Telegram Service

India's state-owned telecommunications company Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has announced that it is discontinuing its 160-year-old telegram service.

Although thousands of telegrams were still being sent each day, BSNL's telegraph service was incurring huge losses. Only last year the telegram charges were revised down to address declining revenues, but it wasn't enough.

The service, which is the last large-scale telegram service operating in the world, will cease on 15 July, 2013.

The history of telegram in the country dates back to 1850 when the first telegraph message was transmitted between Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Diamond Harbour, a distance of about 50 km.

Blogger and journalist Shivam VJ described the dying state of the service:

At their peak in 1985, 60 million telegrams were being sent and received a year in India from 45,000 offices. Today, only 75 offices exist, though they are located in each of India's 671 districts through franchises. And an industry that once employed 12,500 people, today has only 998 workers.

Indian Telegraph receipt dated somewhere around 1900-1904. Image from public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Indian Telegraph receipt dated somewhere around 1900-1904. Image from public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Blogger and journalist Sidin Vadukut predicted five years ago at Live Mint the industry's bleak future. As newer technologies have made telegrams redundant, the service is facing an expected death.

Many in social media have reminisced over the telegram's rich history.

Asha Perinchery remembered those golden days on her blog:

Even for my wedding in 1983, I remember getting only telegrams for best wishes from those near and dear ones who could not attend the function.

Michael at Mobile Marketing Watch claimed that the SMS and mobile phones have officially killed the telegram. More than 900,000 Indians now own mobile phones and 120 million people use the Internet.

Media company MXM India wrote:

Advancements in technology saw the demise of the various Ts. Trunk call first. The telex and teleprinter and now the telegraph.

More reactions were seen on Twitter. Twitter user @TeeKay_Inc wrote:

@TeeKay_Inc: End of an era. Stop. India scraps the telegram. Stop.

Hindustan Times journalist Madhavan Narayan (@madversity) contrasted the cost of telegrams and smartphones:

@madversity: In 1960s/70s, it used to cost 10 rupees for a two-word telegram from north to south India. Now we are video-calling real-time almost free

Technologist ManasRM (@ManasRM) eulogized the service:

@ManasRM: R.I.P India Post telegram service – a bearer of good or bad news for me during my grad days.

The status of telegram services worldwide is available here.


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