Hullo, Mr Bond!

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

Yes, this is a call to the Director of Telecommunications, in other words the Director of the old Electricity and Telephone Department. Electricity, as you know, is the concern of Mr Bott. With the splitting up of the Department, we have now the Central Electricity Board and Telecommunications. And Mr Bond is at the head of the newest of new departments.

We should like to have a word or two with Mr Bond about his department. May we hope that Mr Bond will not bear us a grudge for making use of his column for calling him instead of putting a call through his means of communication?

First of all we want to emphasize the point we made last week in a note about the installation of automatic telephone for the Rose Hill Exchange: Government should not show any favouritism to any particular firm but let interested parties compete. To allay public fears, we put our first question once more in the hope of eliciting a reply form official quarters. “Is it a fact that Government intends placing with a local firm an order for a very costly automatic telephone exchange for Rose Hill, and also intends entrusting to that firm its installation?”

We find Mr Bond hinting at automatic telephone for Rose Hill in his report of 1954, which was published not very long ago. Says Mr Bond: “The number of potential subscribers on the waiting list for the Rose Hill area (including Beau Bassin and Quatre Bornes) far exceeds the accommodation available. Alternative means of providing additional facilities to meet the demand are being studied. The tendency of the inhabitants of this locality to become more “telephone-minded” creates a problem. From the technical point of view the conversion of the present Exchange into automatic working should be proceeded with almost immediately…”

If the time for automatic telephone for Rose Hill has come, will you see to it,  Mr Bond, that your department remains above suspicion?

*  *  *

The second point is about “telephone-mindedness” which seems to be creating problems for the Department.

In other parts of the world people are getting television-minded and rocket-to-the-moon minded. And here we are getting telephone-minded and the Telecommunications Dept is getting a headache. Instead of welcoming new customers, the department is shaking its head in a helpless manner.

It is sad and pitiful and at the same time revolting to find the department unable to meet the demand of the public. Waiting list is the order of the day. And it has been so for the past few years! We know people who have been on the waiting list in Port Louis for the past five years.

Mr Bond reviews the position in his report as follows: “At the end of the year 1950 there were 594 potential subscribers on the waiting list. In spite of the fact that 1,225 new subscribers have been connected to the telephone system during the period 1951-54, the waiting list had 1,121 potential subscribers at the 31st December, 1954. Every endeavour is made to connect as many new subscribers as possible, but the demand continues to increase. There is no indication at this stage that the maximum development of the service for any particular area may be reached in the near future.”

What a gloomy picture and what a pessimistic note! And the colony pays Rs 21,600 per annum as basic salary to Mr Bond to spread that gloom and that pessimism!

They say there are waiting lists for potential subscribers. Queuing is indeed very democratic but provided everybody stays in the queue at the proper place and provided also the one who heads the queue is attended to. There is a feeling abroad that there is queue jumping and the Telecommunications Dept does not care very much whether those who are waiting are served.

*  *  *

Last Saturday Le Cernéen published the following under its heading ‘Points d’interrogation’: “On sait que le service du Telephone se moque souvent du public. Les abonnés de la Savanne, lésés par toutes sortes de négligences, ont jugé que la mesure avait trop largement dépassée et ont adressé une lettre de protestation, fortement motivée, au Secrétaire Colonial. Le Gouvernement se décidera-t-il enfin à réagir contre un laisser-aller qui prend les formes les plus désobligeantes?”

Such is the state of things in the domain of Mr Bond. Exasperated people are writing to the Colonial Secretary to get satisfaction. Cannot Mr Bond’s department be made to serve the public fairly and equitably?

All this prompts us to put a few questions. Has the Director the necessary qualifications to run the Department smoothly? Speaking about his qualifications, the Ramage Report says: “The professional qualifications for the posts of Director and Assistant Director should be either Associate Membership of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, or Membership of the Institution of Post Office Electrical Engineers, together with considerable practical electrical experience.” All we know is that the Director came to this colony some thirty five years ago as Wireless Operator.

Cannot the girls at the switchboard be made to perform their duties efficiently and civilly? Who hasn’t complained about our telephonists? Apparently only those who have no telephones. In civilized countries a telephonist is trained to say HULLO! in such a way as to mean: “Thank you, I’m so glad you called.” But here the “Number please” usually comes in such a languid and cold way that you feel sorry for having made use of the phone.

And that formula “c’est engagé” is no less overbearing. What the telephonist says and how she says it is very often more than one can stand, but her silence is no less eloquent and oppressive.

And those telephone bills! Who has not wondered when footing the bills how they are made up?

The Telecommunications department has unfortunately no Liaison Officer behind whom Mr Bond can shield himself. It has also no Advisory Board to share or shoulder the blame. It’s really hard luck for the Director.

With a wish and a hope that things may soon change for the better, we say: Good-bye, Mr Bond!


* Published in print edition on 22 June 2018

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