September 17, 2008
h/l: Mumbai, Bengaluru will decide for entire country
While cell phone companies may become more stringent about screening terrorists' text messages
Mumbai: Even as mobile phones increasingly become part of our lives, providing everything from accessibility to entertainment, the Centre may take the fun out of cell phone usage by imposing some rules.
Strangely enough, the entire country may come under the ambit of these rules though views have been canvassed only from Mumbai and Bengaluru.
"A Rajya Sabha committee on petitions, headed by BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu and six others, concluded their tour of Bengaluru, followed by Mumbai on Wednesday. The Committee was seeking opinions from concerned stakeholders after a Patiala resident, advocate Gurjit Singh, filed a petition seeking an "imposition of reasonable restrictions on the use of mobile phones" in certain places in the country.
As per Singh's petition, "mobile phones are being misused by the rank and file. There is a grave and urgent need to impose certain restrictions on the use of mobile phones, in such places as schools, colleges, vehicles when driving, places of worship, public offices and cremation grounds." He also contends that mobile phone cameras should be barred from use as some people take photographs of others without consent and 'waste time' watching video clips.
Naidu said, "We have taken meetings with students, parents, educators, cell phone operators, religious leaders and state government officials. The almost unanimous request from them has been that there should not be a complete ban on mobile phone usage in these places, but there may be reasonable restrictions."
However, Naidu conceded that some recommendations in the petitioner's plea may not be feasible. For example, Singh demands that jammers or decoders should be installed in educational institutions. Naidu said, "It becomes very expensive to fit every classroom with jammers. Also, it is not possible to bar networks in the entire building since such a system might hamper other buildings in the vicinity as well." Along with this and other points such as enacting laws barring the sale of phones with in-built cameras, increasing the penalties for talking on the phone while driving et al, Naidu said, would be deliberated on before compiling the report for submission to the Parliament.
However, the committee has made specific observations for cellular operators. "We have asked them to submit in writing if they have any mechanism to bar unwanted calls or obscene messages on the consumer's end. Also, in the wake of rising terrorism in the country, is it possible to screen messages sent from terrorists to pinpoint exact location?" Naidu said.
He also mentioned that with a lower spectrum use and lack of too many phone towers, cellular operators must not indiscriminately give out new connections to meet demand. The committee is scheduled to meet the health ministry for inputs on the harmful effects of cell phone radiation before taking a decision on towers' location vis-à-vis residential places.