The communication revolution in India is something that is now taken for granted especially by the generation in their teens. Persons who have seen the decades from 1950's till date, will testfy to the absymally low levels of phone connections that existed say till mid 1990's.
Time was when possessing a telephone was a matter of prestige in the society. Only a handful of priviledged class could dream of owning it. One had to be a senior Govt. official or a MP / MLA or a doctor or a rich industrialist or an official of the telegraph wing of the P&Tdept or an influential journalist, amongst the few eligible class who could be considered to be released a phone connection. The rest had to belong to an ever growing wait list where your number could mature after years or not at all.
If it matured the telephone dept. would act as if a great favour has been bestowed upon you by the socialistic government. The technicians of the dept. had to be welcomed onto the house and after installing the phone had to be 'paid' for doing their official duty .If the instrument went out of order you had to wait till your complaint number's turn came, which could run into a few days to weeks. To beat the system you had to keep the lineman of your area happy especially at the timeof Diwali,when they would find time to visit every telephone owner's house .
Having got the phone, you now wanted to talk to your contacts living in other cities and towns. You were required to book a trunk call. When it would mature even god could not predict. You had to have someone always near the vicinity of the phone so that it could be attended when it at last rang. If it was urgent to contact someone then you had to book a lightning call which cost eight times the ordinary call. Hold on,the lightening call itself would mature after say at least half an hour or so. Getting or making wrong calls was a regular feature which no one seemed to mind. Thetelephone density was 1 every 300 persons or even less even in the 1970's.
It is the coming of the mobile phone which has truly liberated the common Indian from the clutches of the lineman and the telephone dept's mercies. Today there is choice of service providers and hand sets. The customer is the king. The rapid expansion of mobile phones has brought in a communication revolution of unimaginable proportions in the country.
The availibility of access to communication has broken the economic barriers and today the economically weaker sections are proud owners of mobile sets. It was an uplifting experience to witness ordinary building construction workers not only talking but also listening to songs into the late night,on their mobiles. One keeps finding mobile phones in the hands of persons one would least expect. The other day when our elderly housemaid informed, she is going to her village for unspecified number of days, my worried wife, asked her how would she come to know when she is back. With a flourish, which comes from empowerment,the maid pulled out her mobile and asked my wife to note her mobile number and give her a ring after six or seven days,Caling the plumber or the raddiwala or the mali is now just a mobile call away.
It is one area where we are expected to beat the Chinese. It is predicted that by end of 2012. India will overtake China in the number of phones,having already overtaken USA to emerge as the world's second largest telephone market. It is estimated that today there are 857 million SIM cards in circulation and around 600 million individual telephone users in the country.
The mobile phone has indeed brought a unique type of equality in our cast divided society which even the best of social reformers could not achieve.