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All day for a SIM card

Photos: Nimesh Basnet

-Arjun Gurung 

The morning of 6th April, 2007, Friday showed no signs of the torture the day would bring. It was sunny and cool when I joined the line of hundreds who were waiting for the NTC mobile SIM cards. Amazed by the long procession for a tiny little SIM card, foreigners started snapping pictures from the rooftops. There are some sights you only get to see in Nepal.

The morning weaned on but the line had hardly even shuffled. Interestingly, complete strangers were chatting and getting along just to cope with the rising temperature. We were different individuals bonded by a common need. Morning turned to noon and most people who had come with empty stomachs, went home to have their lunch. By the end of four hours since I had joined the line, the line had but moved a hundred meters. By then word had spread that some sort of corruption / inside job had been happening and as a result only a hundred or so SIM cards were left. And truly, eventually the SIM cards did finish. The line that had so patiently waited for their turn now lost their patience. The line had now turned into a mob of protesters. After a couple of hours of peaceful protest at the gate, the local authorities agreed to bring in 500 more SIM cards. By the time I got my SIM card it was seven in the evening.

This is just one of the many inconveniences we have to face being a Nepali citizen living in Nepal. Standing for hours in lines to pay bills and taxes, to fill a cistern of water,  a gallon of petrol or a cylinder of gas, we are more than just experienced. We are hardened veterans. Even when we are ready to pay such high prices for such basic necessities, the government is not making things easier.

Whether it was negligence or the incompetence of the NTC staff or of that of the government, people had to wait for 9 hours at the NTC department at Bhaisepati that day. Distributing SIM cards all of sudden like that after a long dry spell, without any sort of organized procedures or control, all hell was bound to break loose. If NTC can’t foresee a simple event like this, I wonder what vision they have for the future of Nepalese Telecommunication. 

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