An approximate 4 crore mobile phone users in the country are likely to have no handsets due to faults and breakdowns by the end of May if restrictions on the selling of handsets and spare parts persist.
Currently, the India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) reported that more than 2.5 crore mobile customers are estimated to be with non-functional devices because of the non-availability of supply chain components and the restriction on the selling of new handsets due to the lockdown to prevent coronavirus infection.
Throughout the lockdown that went into the fifth week now, the government permitted sales of only essential goods and services. Telecom, internet, broadcast and IT services operations are allowed, but not for mobile devices which are key to accessing such services.
The ICEA, whose members include leading handset manufacturers such as Apple, Foxconn, and Xiaomi, said on average around 2.5 crore new cell phones are sold each month and the active mobile phone population is currently 85 crores.
ICEA said a very significant proportion of such purchases are replacements. Moreover, even with much-improved phone and mobile device efficiency, there is a monthly breakdown of approx. 0.25 percent. With the current mobile base at almost 85 crores, it is clear that nearly 2.5 crore people suffer as a result of the non-availability of new devices or the repair of their existing devices.
Several times, the industry body has addressed government officials including the Prime Minister to include mobile phones in the list of essential goods as life-threatening situations will occur for many without the devices.
Chairman of ICEA, Pankaj Mohindroo said they had written to the government that these numbers would grow to almost 4 crores before the end of May. It is critical that online and staggering retail sales of mobile devices, as well as service centres with home delivery and pick-up facilities, should be listed as “essential services” in addition to grocery and medicines.
Some district administrations have made Aarogya Setu the government’s coronavirus case tracking application compulsory for those who venture out of their homes, making it difficult for those who don’t have smartphones.
ICEA stated that it had jointly represented the Home Minister, Home Secretary, Trade & Industry Minister, Secretary DPIIT and Secretary MeitY (also currently Chair of the Empowered Technology and Data Management Group) with the traders’ body CAIT in order to enable mobile devices to be sold under the category “essential services.”
The Ministry of Electronics and IT has proposed that the Home Ministry include mobile devices in the list of essential goods including laptops, but the MHA has yet to approve them.
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