Citizens' Issues
Telecom operators continue to dupe subscribers on the pretext of data charges, 3G services

Subscribers of MTNL and BSNL are being charged for 3G data services irrespective of whether the 3G network is available at all locations in the telecom circle. Similarly, operators are charging for VAS on data services, even from subscribers who have not subscribed for this, while some are charging as high as Rs260 a day for GPRS services. Is there anyone who will regulate these errant operators?

After the launch of third generation (3G) services by a few operators, it was believed that tariff plans would earn more through data charges and not just call charges. While the changes-even the launch of 3G services-have yet to happen, what is stunning is that almost all operators are asking subscribers or deducting more money from customers on the pretext of providing data packages, irrespective of whether they provide 3G services, the old 2G or general packet radio service (GPRS).

In addition, this is not limited to mobile service providers, but applies to all telecom companies that provide data services. Moreover, companies like Vodafone and Bharti Airtel have published ads for 3G services; however, when someone from Mumbai inquired about tariffs, these companies chose to keep mum, till Tuesday afternoon. More on this later.

K Pushkar, a subscribers of Reliance Telecom (RCom) for Netconnect broadband services, found that the company had charged him Rs2,125.04 for value added services (VAS) apart from his regular tariff. He had opted for the tariff plan called Brdband10GBCTY12m200, through which he is supposed to get 10GB of data download/upload free of cost and would be charged Rs200 per GB of data. When he inquired with RCom, he was told, "These charges are for any other data usage made during the bill period apart from the free data usage provided as per the opted data tariff plan."

The only problem is that neither did Mr Pushkar opt for any VAS, nor did the company or its representative tell him about it. In addition, RCom did not provide any details about VAS charges, and instead asked Mr Pushkar to check the details of his usage on the company website.

RCom officials were not immediately available for comment.

Earlier, this writer had reported about mobile service providers charging more money for data services while roaming. (Read, 'Mobile phone shock: Pay extra for roaming to use data service'). A few days ago, Idea Cellular, the service provider that had emptied my balance, under the pretext of data charges while roaming, gave me another shock.

After my first experience, I opted for an unlimited data pack at Rs98 a month. The month passed by peacefully. Then, since the last day of my data package limit was a Sunday, I could not re-subscribe to the package. But on Monday, I got a jolt when I found that Idea had deducted Rs260 from my pre-paid account leaving a balance of a meagre Rs1.40.

So I called Idea customer services. As is the common tale, it took me over 10 minutes to get connected. Imagine my surprise when I heard a recorded message that I would be charged for talking to the company's representative. Left with no option, I decided to carry on and talk to the customer services representative on a per minute call tariff. The first minute was utilised by the representative to note down my details (that would be available from the company's computerised records visible on a computer screen before the representative). The representative told me he would have to check my complaint and that he would attend to me again in a few minutes. I was kept on hold for an extended period.

The representative came back on the line and told me that I was charged for browsing the internet. On asking for details, he said that I had used 1,300KB of data and was charged at 2paisa per KB. Even if I had used the data, by the rate he mentioned I should have been charged Rs26 and not Rs260. Moreover, this data was used in a single day. I wonder whether anybody, anywhere has paid Rs260 a day for browsing the internet from a mobile, that too for a total data usage of just 1.3MB!

I am still waiting for an explanation from Idea, which I am quite certain-from my previous experiences-will not come. What surprised me further, was that when I asked the representative whether I could unsubscribe from the data services, he replied in the negative. Presently, I am using an Idea SIM on my cell phone that does not have internet facility, to be on the safe side.

Are RCom and Idea the only operators over-charging on the pretext of data usage? Unfortunately, nearly all telecom service providers are trying to earn more revenues from subscribers through various means. For example, state-run MTNL and BSNL offer 3G services on mobile, but their 3G network is available in select areas only. The question is why do subscribers have to pay higher charges for 3G, when the service is not available in all areas? If a subscriber pays for 3G services, he/she must be able to use the 3G service at any place within the circle.

If this is not the case, the mobile operator should charge according to the availability of the network. Else, what is the point in paying for 3G services when all one is getting is a GPRS? It is an issue that consumer organisations would do well to take up with the authorities, like TRAI, the telecom regulator, and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

There is another interesting aspect. While state-run MTNL and BSNL have launched 3G services, private operators Tata DoCoMo, RCom and Bharti Airtel are offering the services in different circles. During the telecast of the cricket World Cup matches, you will see ads about 3G services from Vodafone. However, if someone from Mumbai wants to know the tariff and other details about the 3G services, company representatives are mum. They keep telling callers to wait for a few more days. The country's largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel has launched 3G services in the Mumbai circle only on Tuesday. As of today, only MTNL, RCom and now Airtel offer 3G services in the lucrative Mumbai circle, whereas Vodafone has not even said when they expect to launch the services.

Read related reports: Mobile phone shock: Pay extra for roaming to use data service,

3G fallout: Call-based tariffs to give way to data-based tariffs,

MNP turning out to be a mere 'placebo' for subscribers; mobile operators' margins may take a hit,



Amal Biswas

7 years ago

With usage of 1 hour after subscribing 3G vodafone actually charged me about 350Rs. making my balance drop to -190 rs in prepaid account. On asking for explanation they said i have used up 35 MB data in one hour. :(

Aarmin Banaji

7 years ago

In fact, all redressal mechanisms are worthless. From writing to Nodal Officers of the service providers to TRAI. This after being royally screwed by Airtel almost 2 years ago.
The biggest joke is that the local press in Nagpur has been waxing so eloquent about a speech made by Mittal to a group of students telling them how great India is as a land of entrepreneurial opportunity.
Sure it is Mr. Mittal, when you have an oraganisation which through totally unethical practice bilks its customers at every turn.

Ketan Pandit

7 years ago

This is exactly what I have faced with Airtel Mumbai with their Rs.98/2GB/month plan. But unfortunately the article does not advise the readers about the redressal mechanism.

All-India Bar exam goes ahead despite challenge in court; activists expect backlash

In Chennai, exam postponed following agitation; regional bar councils object to exam saying that it puts graduates from rural, impoverished background at a disadvantage

The All India Bar Examination (AIBE) was held on Sunday at about 45 centres across the country, despite a pending petition before the Supreme Court on the legitimacy of the exam.

The Bar Council of India (BCI) described the conduct of the exam as a success, but legal activists believe there could be a backlash from the nearly 22,000 law graduates who took the exam, if the court decides that it is null and void.

Meanwhile, in Chennai the exam was postponed to 27th March following an agitation that had built up over the past few days. Several regional bar councils have objected to the exam, saying it was unnecessary and that it would put students particularly from a rural, impoverished background at a disadvantage.

"We urged the court to resolve the issue before the exam, or postpone the exam till a conclusion is reached," legal activist Prakhar Sharma said. "But the BCI went ahead and held the exam anyway. Serious legal complications may follow."

Nearly 22,000 law graduates who appeared for the exam have paid the requisite fees and this money will also become an issue, Mr Sharma said. "Students may demand a compensation. They are unemployed until they pass the exams and they were preparing for it for six months, even after their five-year course. Of course it is a loss," Mr Sharma said.

Before the examination, students were asked to sign an undertaking that they would take and pass the exam in order to be eligible to practice as advocates. If the court decides to rule against the authority of the BCI to make the exam compulsory, the students who have signed the undertakings would all be party to an illegal measure.

About the postponement forced in Chennai, Mr Sharma said, "The regional councils have the power to make rules, and the BCI only gives its assent to it. So it is unlikely that the state bar councils will take this lightly."

RTI activist Babubhai Vaghela said, "The BCI's council before the court said that they are authorised to amend the Advocates Act 1961, this is a false claim. They must go to Parliament for an amendment because that is the job of the legislature."




7 years ago

How sad to note that BCI claiming to the authority for amendment in the ACT? Our legislatures are making the law and also if any amendment is required, has to be amended in parliament>BCI wants to earn money and showing itself.

Delhi toll tax—corruption, or daylight robbery?

The toll tax was introduced with the objective of dissuading heavy vehicles going through the national capital territory with an aim to minimize pollution. Today, it has turned into a revenue- gathering exercise that is encouraging more and more vehicles to come into the city

Some of the biggest and worst traffic jams that motorists coming and going out of Delhi, face on a regular basis, are at the borders of the national capital territory. One reason for this is that there is a 'toll tax' to be paid to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), by all commercial vehicles, including buses and taxis. This results in long queues and delays, often extending for hours. The best part is that this particular MCD toll tax was introduced to reduce pollution. But what happens actually is hundreds of vehicles moving slowly leads to more pollution than if they had just been let through!

On Saturday, several Delhi newspapers published a half-page advertisement by the MCD for a tender for handling the toll paid by commercial vehicles entering Delhi. While this article will go through the numbers in due course, it is also interesting to go into the history of how and why this toll came to be collected, in the first case. The minimum reserve price per annum, by the way, is Rs225 crore. The income, incidentally, is expected to be over Rs1,000 crore per annum. And therein rests an interesting background, on how all this came about, and why the Delhi toll tax is such a great game for those who win.

Some years ago, the Supreme Court of India, in the landmark MC Mehta vs Union of India and others case on environmental issues, ruled that truck traffic going through Delhi had no reason to do so as it simply added to the already heavy pollution, and so it stipulated that these trucks would need to take an alternate route. Since an alternate route was not available, grand plans were drawn up to construct bypasses around Delhi - which have still not seen the light of day. In the interim, this is what the judgement said, and more, as quoted in a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report:
( "Given the menace of non-destined trucks, the court has intervened on many occasions, and has issued various orders over the years to prevent truck traffic that is not destined for loading or offloading in the city, from entering Delhi.

From the order of the court on 6 December 2001:

"It appears that vehicles which transit through Delhi do not adhere to the vehicular standards, which are applicable in Delhi, namely they are not Euro II compliant nor are they using low sulphur and low benzene fuel. There is no reason why very large number of goods vehicles should transit through Delhi, thereby adding to the pollution level and traffic on the roads. It is therefore, proposed that with effect from 15 January 2002 no heavy, medium or light goods vehicles will ply on inter-state routes by passing through Delhi or New Delhi. It is only those goods vehicles, which on payment of octroi/toll tax carry goods to or from Delhi, which would be allowed to ply. The commissioner of police is directed to formulate a scheme in this behalf and give due publicity to all concerned and implement the same."

From the order of the court on 15 July 2002:

"We are informed by the learned counsel for the NCT (National Capital Territory) of Delhi that despite the order of this court in 2001, no heavy vehicles in transit have been stopped at the border and all of them are allowed to pass through Delhi. Learned counsel states that a scheme is prepared, which of course, is not disclosed to the Court. How any scheme prepared by the department will supersede an order of this court is difficult to comprehend. If the said scheme permits any trucks in transit to Delhi, police commissioner to show cause why the compliance of this court's order dated 6 December 2001 has not been effected and the NCT of Delhi and the police commissioner are directed to show cause why the plying of all heavy vehicles through Delhi which do not comply with category-II norms should not be stopped, especially when no effective steps have been taken by the respondents to comply with the orders of this court of December 2001. We further make it very clear that there can be no corridor or bypass joining different national highways through Delhi. The corridors, if and when proposed and constructed, will have to bypass Delhi. Case to come up on 29 July 2002."

From the order of the court dated 16 December 2002

"The matter of bypassing of trucks was discussed in this hearing. Delhi traffic police was directed to file a status report on this matter."

The matter went through various stages, in the course of which the estimate of trucks entering Delhi varied from 6,500 a day to 50,000-60,000 a day, in the years around 2002, depending on the agency involved and the point in question. But the thrust was that trucks in transit were adding to the pollution and were therefore to be dissuaded. Till a Delhi bypass was built - and till then, therefore, tolls would be collected.

Over the years, more and more roads for truck traffic have been built in Delhi, and the traffic has only grown. But meanwhile, the tolls business meant to reduce pollution by charging trucks entering Delhi in transit, has expanded in scope to include all forms of commercial vehicles entering Delhi-by some estimates between 2 lakh and 3 lakh commercial vehicles enter Delhi every day. The net effect has been that instead of reducing pollution, the MCD has converted the whole exercise into one where there is more pollution-by allowing all trucks to pass through Delhi for a fee, including those in transit. And increasing the number of private vehicles, since all buses and taxis also pay fairly high tolls now.
And now the effort, instead of trying to reduce pollution, is to increase revenues by ensuring that more and more vehicles have to enter or transit through Delhi.

The toll rates proposed to be levied with effect from May 2011 are listed in the table below. Note how taxis and buses have so smoothly been added to the rather amateurish list of trucks, defined by generic nomenclatures, in some cases pertaining to vehicles long rendered obsolete. (eg: Nissan, a generic term for all used ¾ toners sold by the armed forces as scrap, now extinct)
(Read the details of the tender at:

Revised toll tax rates

Fees chargeable in respect of specified commercial vehicles entering Delhi at toll plazas/posts/barriers of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.


Type of vehicle


Entry charge per visit (Rs)


Monthly pass charge




Taxi, tempo, Tata 407

and such type of other

commercial vehicles




Bus, truck –Nissan,

Tata – 709/ Canter and

such type of other

commercial vehicles




6-wheel trucks




10-wheel truck




14-wheel truck



(Note: These revised toll tax rates will be applicable with effect from 16.05.2011 - 6am - with the next toll tax contract.)

In addition, smart cards, which will work at computerised toll plazas only, shall be issued to interested commuters at the same discount rates and structure as relevant to the pass holders. (Note: No toll tax shall be payable or collected in respect of : (a) ambulances, (b) fire-fighting vehicles, (c) police vehicles, (d) government vehicles having red and amber lights, (e) defence vehicles and (f) hearses.

The toll tax rates, the categories of vehicles exempted from payment of toll tax and the name, address and telephone number of the authority to whom complaints, if any, should be addressed, shall be conspicuously and prominently displayed at two places which are at a distance of 500 metres ahead of the user fee booths as well as at the user fee booths in Hindi and in English with proper hoardings. The height of the display boards and size of letters should be such that it is easy for drivers to read the display boards.

That the toll tax aimed at reducing the number of trucks passing through Delhi is not having the desired effect is one part of the story. That it is also being used to increase dependency on private transport is yet another part. But the real part is about how the whole thing has become a game to generate money on a regular basis, which would make the Commonwealth Games scam look like a child's piggy bank, and I will cover this in the next and concluding part.

The tender, referred to earlier, states that "the average monthly traffic of specified commercial vehicles was 22,57,568" for 2010, or about 75,000 or so per day, and therefore the potential for the forthcoming three years is almost the same. That's using a total of 121 entry points. According to other estimates, including that by some entities that may bid for the contract, anywhere between 2.5 lakh and 3 lakh commercial vehicles enter Delhi daily. Some friends in the police put the number between 1.75 lakh and 2.25 lakh a day.
The wide difference is, obviously, because a lot of the toll collected is never declared. Drive through, especially at night, and see the bunch of young men wielding lathis, enforcing their own version of the law, often not issuing the regulation receipt while snatching money from hapless drivers. Then, what else is new?

What's new is the MCD, in its brilliance, gets a fixed sum per month, regardless of the toll tax collected. And that's, by most estimates, between about a quarter and a third of what's actually collected. The tender, interestingly, does not mention the requirements on the part of the toll tax contractor to ensure that the staff perform their duty as per specific minimum standards of adherence to existing labour laws; nor does it have any information about any redressal mechanism for issues that a consumer may have. The grapevine has it that the actual collections are further sub-contracted downwards, often on a daily basis.
The collection of toll on roads and highways all over the country is big business now, and growing to a point where it is attracting heavy international attention, with people smelling good and easy money for the taking. It is also a major pain, with toll booths resembling bombed out shelters, and collection usually taking more than a few minutes per vehicle. On the upside, hopefully, we get better roads and facilities on highways-mostly.

But this particular MCD toll tax has nothing to do with any additional facility or new roads-it's simply about making commercial vehicles cough up, literally. And on the strength of a Supreme Court order, apparently, hitting that segment where it hurts most-the person riding a bus to and from Delhi and its satellite cities in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. And most of the money collected does not even reach government coffers.

Is this corruption or simple daylight robbery?



Saurabh Jain

6 years ago

I wanted to know whether a car has passed from toll booths from Kanpur to Agra NH2 route on 10th and 11th April 2010. How to get the toll receipt and details from them.


7 years ago

I have heard that Mulund Toll Naka is illegal and is no longer allowed to collect Toll. Can you/anyone tell me how to confirm.



In Reply to Prakash 7 years ago

May I suggest you first fill up the query form on the NHAI website, and seek an answer? Failing which, please file an RTI? Good luck.

(Is the toll collected by the Centre or the State, please?)


7 years ago

Right, everything aside, you truly need to fact check your article.
Delhi is a union territory? Is this 1985?



In Reply to samit 7 years ago

Delhi is not a Union Territory. Delhi does not have a Constitutional post of Governor either. No, this is not 1985.

However, the terms used is "NCT of Delhi".


7 years ago

Thank God someone finally took notice of this.
There was a time, I think for a few months, when the Supreme court order was enforced after having just been passed. The entry points had become a breeze then and the drive after 9 PM on Delhi roads was a pleasure again. And the ominous cloud of haze and black smoke that used to hang over Delhi was actually gone.
However, like all good things in India, that too did not last.
I have watched with dismay for the last many years as the court orders have openly been flouted even as a sign just before the entry to Delhi on the Panipat side displays the Honorable Supreme Court's order. And every time I have wondered who are the biggest gainers from this order. I can only imagine how much money must Delhi Police make from this one judgment.
I think the Indian System has perfected the art of making rules so that they can be broken and money made out of it.



In Reply to Ani 7 years ago

In the concluding part to this article, I shall spell out the beneficiaries who have twisted the interpretation of this judgement, and yes - DP/DTP is one of them.

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