No SIM for one-armed Mahinur

Mediatimes24.infoBorn with just one arm, the physically disabled Mahinur has been unable to register a SIM for her mobile phone. She has been refused by several retailers whom she approached for SIM registration.

Mahinur (not her real name) works as a temporary maid in Sheorapara, Dhaka. She says she had no problem is buying the SIM, but is in a quandary over registering it. The retailers say the SIM can’t be registered without the prints of two fingers from each hand.

State minister for post and telecommunications Tarana Halim on Saturday told Prothom Alo, persons with such disabilities will have to go to the service centres of the respective operators. From there they will have to go to the nearest national ID card office, get a new National ID (NID) card and then have their SIM registered.

However, several operators have said that they have not received any directives from the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) in this regard. Sources in BTRC also said no such special directives have been issued.

According to her national ID, Mahinur is 28 years old. She uses her mobile phone to keep in touch with her mother who lives in the village. She uses SIMs from two operators. She had gone to get her Airtel SIM registered.
Mahinur said, “I was told to get my SIM registered in the name of my father or mother or brother. I said they don’t live here. But they flatly said they can’t register my SIM without the fingerprints from both my hands.”

Tarana Halim said there are special arrangements for those with one or no hands. Their operator’s service centre will direct them to the nearest NID office.

The state minister said they might have to get a new national ID card. There are officers assigned for such special cases in the 514 NID offices all over the country. The retailers or the operator service centres are to blame if they fail to provide such information.

Tarana Halim said that directives were given to the operators to have such special arrangements in the service centres for those with disabilities and other problems. In fact, she said, it was to accommodate such persons that the deadline for SIM registration was extended.

A senior official of a cell phone operator firm, remaining anonymous, said, “BTRC should given written and specific directives regarding SIM registration in special cases. This would facilitate us to operate accordingly. It is not possible to individually inform the thousands of retailers countrywide.”

In the meantime, the general public is facing all sorts of difficulties in getting new national ID cards or having their old ones amended. It is a lengthy process and so those will special needs are not likely to be able to have their new ID cards and SIM registration within the next 16 days.

A post-grad student at Eden College told Prothom Alo that she had submitted the required papers in January for a national ID card. The NID office has told her she will be informed in June about what progress has been made on the matter.

The biometric SIM registration process was made compulsory through a notice issued on 16 December last year. According to BTRC, there are 13 crore 8 lakh active SIMs in the country at present. Till last Thursday, so far about 9.5 crore have been registered.