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Department of Telecom DOT IndiaThe Department of Telecom has imposed a penalty on mobile operators, including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Idea Cellular for not verifying the details of all their mobile subscribers.

The move comes after the DoT’s vigilance cell found subscribers on the operator’s network without proper documents for example, in the case of Bharti Airtel, the vigilance officers found 2,373 subscribers, out of a sample of 22,668 users in Gujarat, with missing photo identity and address (PIA) proof and invalid customer acquisition forms (CAF).

In the case of Vodafone Essar, 4,913 connections out of a sample of 43,771 were found to be without proper documents. Reliance Communications had 3,798 cases of unverified subscribers out of a sample of 19,445, according to the DoT report.

The report is for October 2008-March 2009. The DoT has imposed a fine of Rs 1,000 per unverified subscribers. Operators have been ordered to pay up the fine within 21 days.While the Government had notified the verification norms more than a year ago, this is the first time that it has imposed a penalty for non-compliance.

The operators have been seeking more time to complete the verification of all the 400 million subscribers. However, with security agencies expressing concern over the availability of SIM cards to unverified subscribers, Security agencies have pointed out that the fine amount was too low to act as deterrent on the operators against giving connections to anyone without proper documents.

The DoT has also asked the operators to shut down dealers not verifying the subscriber before giving out a connection. However, industry observers pointed out that since the operators are under pressure to sustain the growth in subscription, the verification system may not be fool-proof.The telecom industry claims that every measure is being taken to adhere to the verification norms. An industry body monitors the issue regularly.At the same time, operators have cautioned that strict verification laws could impact the mobile growth rate since more than 80 per cent of the user base is on the pre-paid platform.

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