Aizawl: Though introduced only in 2003, cell phones have become a craze in the small hill state of Mizoram, with more than half the population using the device.
Middle-aged ladies carrying baskets-full of firewood and packets of vegetables talking animatedly into the device or daily wage-earners sending text messages between shifts are a common sight on the winding hilly roads.
The latest economic survey reveals that out of a population of around 10 lakh, 5, 61, 917 people carry mobile phones -- a fact which, officials think, is remarkable since the economy is heavily dependent on the service sector for sustenance.
Agriculture and industry contribute less than 40 per cent to the economy, the survey states. The deputy general manager (Telecom) of BSNL's Aizawl division, Lalhmachhuana, told reporters that the revenue earned from cell phone services is more than Rs two crore a month and not less than Rs 30 crore annually.
Lalhmachhuana attributes the phenomenal growth of the use of cell phones to tribals' craze for anything western, with the high literacy rate, second only to Kerala, also playing a role.
Although people are enjoying the 'wonder tool' to the hilt, they also complain of discrimination, since a pre-paid connection used in the state cannot be used in the rest of the country and vice versa.
The lone Rajya Sabha member from the state Lalhming Liana said that he had conveyed the people's grievance to the Centre, but nothing had been done as yet. "Mizoram is the most peaceful state in the country and yet we are denied national roaming facilities for pre-paid services as in the mainland on the plea that insurgents would take advantage," he said.
"If this is so then the same treatment should be given to Naxal-infested states like West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Bihar too," he said.