163-yr-old telegram service is history

Tele

Curtains came down on Sunday on the 160-year-old telegram service even as hundreds thronged the Central Telegraph Offices to send last-minute messages to family and friends and be a part of history.

In Delhi, the CTO booked 3,402 telegrams by Saturday, with 1,326 telegrams booked on Friday itself. Around 500 bookings were made till Sunday afternoon.

Amit Garg, a resident of Mumbai, wrote his last telegram to President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday, requesting "His Excellency" for a meeting with his wife and two children, but only on Saturday or Sunday, as he wouldn't like his children to miss school. Another threatened the President with a fast unto death if the service was not recalled, yet another requested Rahul Gandhi to save the country as well as the service. Families gathered outside the CTOs to have their photographs clicked.

Chief Telegraph Master at Centre Telegraph Office, New Delhi, R D Ram said, "From July 8, we have seen general public turning up. Till Saturday, 3,402 telegrams were booked with 1,326 bookings done on Friday. Till afternoon we have had around 400 bookings."

Delhi had four centres for booking telegrams, including the CTO at Janpath and Departmental Telegraph offices at Kashmiri Gate, Janakpuri and Delhi Cantonment. Sub Divisional Engineer (Operations) at CTO Kiran Pal recalled that there were around 50 telegram centres in Delhi till 2005. "Services at Janakpuri office were closed yesterday. On Saturday, 165 telegrams were booked at Kashmiri Gate office," Pal said.

The nostalgic sound of the machine gave way to a pall of gloom that descended on the CTOs, where the staff "expressed displeasure at its discontinuance". "People in interior villages need an inexpensive messaging service as private telephone companies don't want to go to there. Dedicated services are run for banks and the Army. Jawans apply for leaves through telegrams. The courts accept telegrams as certified proofs," said M S Arya, a veteran at the CTO.

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