11 August 2013

Songbirds on new German Stamps..




Date of Issue : 8 August 2013

German post in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance traditionally introduces stamps with a sign of charity. Five dotes forming a plus next to the motto “Help doing good with stamps!” can now be found on a newly launched stamps series “For the Youth” dedicated to German songbirds. The stamps are additionally charged in favor of German charity organizations helping young people in trouble.


The issued stamps feature a Goldfinch, a Bullfinch and a Blue Tit. Usually you can hear them even before you notice them. They chirp in particular early in the morning or late in the evening. Their warbles are heart from the three tops, hedges and nearest under growths. Their motto is: Who sings louder, owns the area. Songbirds are little colorful blobs making  nature diverse and more exciting. They are perfect objects of observation, especially for children and adolescents.

From our Readers….

The agony of sending the last telegram

I like many friends went to the telegraph office in Visakhapatnam on 10 July to send 6 telegrams. Though 3 telegrams reached the destination, the other three sent to Bangalore were not received.I went to the telegraph office after two days and complained that they were not received. The answer was a prompt 'probably no one at home'. I after confirmation intimated them that there were always two people at the recipients home.'Answer we will verify and let you know' and took my number.

The recipient my daughter in Bangalore  tried to get it by ringing up various telegraph offices with answers we do not know contact the Main Telegraph office.When she persistently rang up the Central Telegraph Office the answer was you have to come here to verify the receipt.Since it was 26 kms from her home she did not go.

Next day again I went to the Visakhapatnam Telegraph office and requested them to at least to give me the Certified copies of the telegrams. They did it after a wait of nearly one hour by charging Rs.20 extra for each

- Cdr. G Sri Ramarao,I.N,(Retd.) - Visakhapatnam

email : sriramarao@gmail.com

The Indian Telegraph System - The End of an Era


The telegraph continued to thrive, in India and around the world, even after Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876. For more than half a century, telegrams were sent over cable lines, but in 1902 (capitalizing on the work of Italian inventor Marconi) the Indian system went wireless.


The history of Indian telecom can be started with the introduction of telegraph. The Indian postal and telecom sectors are one of the world’s oldest. In 1850, the first experimental electric telegraph line was started between Calcutta and Diamond Harbour. In 1851, it was opened for the use of the British East India Company. The Posts and Telegraphs department occupied a small corner of the Public Works

Department, at that time. Subsequently, the construction of 6,400 km of telegraph lines connecting Kolkata and Peshawar in the north along with Agra, Mumbai through Sendhwa Ghats, and Chennai  in the south, as well as Ootacamund and Bangalore was started in November 1853.


William O’Shaughnessy, who pioneered the telegraph and telephone in India, belonged to the Public Works Department, and worked towards the development of telecom throughout this period. A separate department was opened in 1854 when telegraph facilities were opened to the public.

In 1890, two telephone companies namely The Oriental Telephone Company Ltd. and The Anglo-Indian Telephone Company Ltd. approached the Government of India to establish telephone exchanges in India. The permission was refused on the grounds that the establishment of telephones was a Government monopoly and that the Government itself would undertake the work. In 1891, the Government later reversed its earlier decision and a licence was granted to the Oriental Telephone Company Limited of England for opening telephone exchanges at Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Ahmedabad and the first formal telephone service was established in the country. On 28 January 1882, Major E. Baring, Member of the Governor General of India’s Council declared open the Telephone Exchanges in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The exchange in Calcutta named the “Central Exchange” had a total of 93 subscribers in its early stage. Later that year, Bombay also witnessed the opening of a telephone exchange.

William O’Shaughnessy

clip_image010In 1856 the British completed a 4000-mile Indian telegraph system. It connected Calcutta, Agra, Bombay, Peshawar, and Madras. The telegraph was the brainchild of a visionary inventor named William O’Shaughnessy, and it secured England’s grip on India.

O’Shaughnessy had gone to India in 1833 as a 24-year-old assistant surgeon with the East India Company. There he began experimenting with electricity. He invented an electric motor and a silver chloride battery. Then, in 1839, he set up a 13½-mile-long demonstration telegraph system near Calcutta.

That was only two years after Samuel F.B. Morse built his famous demonstration system in the United States. But O’Shaughnessy was unaware of Morse’s work. His telegraph used a different code and, at first, he transmitted the message by imposing a series of tiny electric shocks on the operator’s finger. He also came up with another unique invention. He used a 2½-mile stretch of the Hooghly River, in place of wire, to complete the circuit. O’Shaughnessy published a pamphlet about the system, but he failed to ignite any interest in telegraphy. Finally, in 1847, Lord Dalhousie took over as Governor General of India. Dalhousie showed real vision in developing public works. He initiated roads, canals, steamship service to England, the Indian railway, and a postal system. Of course it was Dalhousie who saw the potential of O’Shaunessy’s telegraph. He authorized O’Shaughnessy to build a 27-mile line near Calcutta. That was running so successfully by 1851 that Dalhousie authorized him to build a full trans-India telegraph. O’Shaughnessy finished it three years later.

It was an amazing triumph over technical and bureaucratic problems. By then O’Shaughnessy knew about the new English and American telegraph systems, but that was more hindrance than help. It simply meant he had to invent his own equipment to avoid patent disputes. He also had to work with local materials, environments, and methods of construction.

He had to invent his own signal transmitter and create his own means for stringing lines. While the system was still under construction, it helped the British in the Crimean War. Three years later, the full system so networked British rule that it was decisive in putting down the Sepoy Uprising.

One captured rebel, being led to the gallows, pointed to a telegraph line and bravely cried, “There is the accursed string that strangles us.”

Developments and Milestones

The telegraph continued to thrive, in India and around the world, even after Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876. For more than half a century, telegrams were sent over cable lines, but in 1902 (capitalizing on the work of Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi) the Indian system went wireless.



· 1902 – First wireless telegraph station established between Sagar Island and Sandhead.

· 1907 – First Central Battery of telephones introduced in Kanpur.

· 1913 – 1914 – First Automatic Exchange installed in Shimla.

· 1927 – Radio-telegraph system between the UK and India, with Imperial Wireless Chain beam stations  at Khadki and Daund. Inaugurated by Lord Irwin on 23 July by exchanging greetings with KingGeorge V.

· 1933 – Radiotelephone system inaugurated between the UK and India.

· 1953 – 12 channel carrier system introduced.

· 1960 – First subscriber trunk dialling route commissioned between Lucknow and Kanpur.

· 1975 – First PCM system commissioned between Mumbai City and Andheri telephone exchanges.

· 1976 – First digital microwave junction.

· 1979 – First optical fibre system for local junctioncommissioned at Pune.

· 1980 – First satellite earth station for domestic communications established at Sikandarabad, U.P..

· 1983 – First analogue Stored Programme Control exchange fortrunk lines commissioned at Mumbai.

· 1984 – C-DOT established for indigenous development andproduction of digital exchanges

· 1985 – The Department of Telecom (DoT) was separated from Indian Post & Telecommunication Department. DoT was responsible for telecom services in entire country until 1986 when Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) and Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) werecarved out of DoT to run the telecom services of metro cities (Delhiand Mumbai) and international long distance operations respectively.

· 1995 – First mobile telephone service started on non-commercial basis on 15 August 1995 in Delhi.

· 1995 – Internet Introduced in India starting with Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai and Pune on 15 August 1995.

The End of an Era

At their peak in 1985, 60 million telegrams were being sent and received a year in India from 45,000 offices. Today, only 75 offices exist, though they are located in each of India’s 671 districts through franchises. And an industry that once employed 12,500 people today has only 998 workers. Now the technology that spurred the Indian telecommunications boom has become a victim of that boom’s success, as India has announced it will be shutting down all telegraph services as of July 15.

Though the telegram may seem like a comically obsolete technology in the age of smart phones, SMS (texting) and email, some critics of the shut-down in India point out that in many rural, poorer areas of the country it has remained a vital form of communication.

In the 1990s, Indian telecommunications company Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) took over the country’s telegraph system from the Indian postal service. But the increasing dominance of email and SMS continued to take its toll on the newly privatized telegraph. Two years ago, faced with declining revenues, BSNL instituted the first telegram price hike in some 60 years. From three or four rupees (U.S. $0.05 to $0.07) for 50 words, the price of Taar shot up to 27 rupees (U.S. $0.47) for 50 words. Last March, in a last-ditch effort to cut costs, the company ceased international telegraph service. Despite these efforts to make the telegraph business financially viable, BSNL still posted losses of some 17 million rupees (U.S. $290,000) during the last two years.

“We were incurring losses of over $23 million a year because SMS and smart phones have rendered this service redundant,” Shamim Akhtar, general manager of BSNL’s telegraph services.

When BSNL then asked the Indian government to support the telegraph again, the company was told to evaluate whether the system was still necessary. As a result, in consultation with the Department of Post,

The BSNL board, after dilly-dallying for two years, decided to shut down the service as it was no longer commercially viable decided to cease all services beginning July 15.

The basic idea of a Taar was to send a message fast. Now SMS, fax and emails do that job. With smart phones, people send and receive emails on the move. So when we sought government support to keep the telegram alive, we were asked to decide its fate on a commercial basis and hence will now be discontinuing the service.” The company plans to shift telegraph staff members to work with its modern-day successors, including mobile services, land line telephony and broadband.

In the age of smart phones, India is only the latest country to bid goodbye to the telegram. Western Union, the dominant telegraph company in the United States since its founding in 1856, was reorganized as the Western Union Corporation in 1988 and refocused on handling money transfers and related services. In 2006, the company shut down its telegraph services for good. On the other hand, correspondents in Sweden and the United Kingdom still use telegrams for nostalgia purposes, and a dwindling number of countries - including Russia, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Mexico, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Bahrain - continue to offer full telegraph services.

- Vijay Navlakha : email : vijay@navlakha.com


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