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Last Updated: Monday, 23 June, 2003, 19:02 GMT 20:02 UK
Phone wait over for Dhaka man

By Alistair Lawson
BBC Dhaka correspondent

There were tears of joy in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, on Monday when a former bank employee celebrated the installation of his landline telephone after 27 years waiting.

Mohammed Ismail, 60, applied to the state-run Bangladesh telephone company to install the line in May 1976.

Mohammed Ismail after his telephone was installed
Now I am connected I feel that honesty has prevailed

But like thousands of other customers he was left hanging on for a long time.

"I'm not sure why it has taken me so long to get my telephone connection. I suppose its because I'm an ordinary customer who didn't pay any bribes," Mr Ismail said.

"My application was not deemed to be that important."

His story has generated so much controversy that the company's now announced an inquiry into the delay.

Begging and pleading

The pictures on the front pages of the Bangladeshi newspapers say it all.

They show a youthful looking black-and-white photograph of Mohammed Ismail 27 years ago - around the time he applied for the telephone to be installed in his residence.

Next to it, pictures of him today, crying tears of happiness after learning that his wait of nearly three decades is finally over.

Mohammed Ismail in 1976
Mr Ismail pictured before his long wait

During that time Mr Ismail begged, pleaded and remonstrated with the state-run telecom company to install his line.

But because he refused to pay a large enough bribe, he was told his application was being dealt with and in the meantime, please hold.

On two occasions in 1998 and in 1991 he had to pay bills of around $90 if his application wasn't to be cancelled.

The delay was excessive, even by the somewhat slothful standards of the telephone board.

Most people applying for a landline have to wait several years if they don't pay a bribe, but it's rarely longer than a decade.

The board has now launched an inquiry into why Mr Ismail was left hanging on for so long.

Permanently engaged

"Not only have they launched an enquiry... but they have also given me a free telephone in recognition of the delay that I have experienced," he said.

Mr Ismail is so delighted finally to be connected that for much of the last 24 hours his telephone has been engaged while he rang friends to tell them the good news.

He told reporters that with six children all living at home the much awaited telephone line is likely to remain busy for some time to come.

"Now I am retired so I'm not sure the telephone will be used so much by me," he said.

"But it will be used by my family, including my six children, so competition for the line after all these years is likely to be intense."


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