How to lose friends and alienate people

In order to promote security, the Indian government has banned pre-paid SIM cards for mobile phones in the North East. It is questionable whether such a measure does indeed help fight separatist militants, but it certainly alienates the very people whose hearts and minds must be be won to defeat the terrorists.

Everyone knows that pre-paid solutions are very popular in India – as they free up service providers from subscriber credit risks and encourage greater penetration. For teledensity to continue to grow, prepaid is very important. Banning pre-paid is a convenient solution for the government – as it inconveniences the citizens who really cant do much about it. What they are doing now is like banning all motor vehicles to prevent drunken driving. The North Eastern states anyway lack telephone infrastructure, and denying them a service which could leapfrog and connect them to the rest of India will only alienate them further. It will open the government to charges of imposing collective punishment on the people – a shameful charge for a democratic country.

The government should have handled it differently. They could have tightened the screening process of allocating SIM cards. Also the security agencies could very well ask the service providers to coordinate wiretaps of suspicious cases. And should this require additional investment, then the government should pay for it. The government will do well to reverse this silly ban.

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