Concerned over the possibility of pre-activated mobile SIM cards reaching militants, the Army has filed FIRs against a private mobile service provider and a distributor in Manipur for allegedly selling such connections without the mandatory customer verification. The FIRs were lodged in Bishnupur police station yesterday, one against the distributor and the other against the mobile service provider for not adhering to the TRAI regulations and the concerns of the security forces have been shared with the police as well, an Army statement from Imphal said. Last week, an Army column had found that the distributor was handing out free, pre-activated SIM cards to the villagers at Khoupum Valley of Manipur without any paperwork. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has laid down guidelines for all telecom companies under which the verification of all customers with respect to their identity as well as proof of residence is mandatory. “This process has been subverted as they are distributing SIM cards in the villages of Khoupum Valley without getting any forms filled. This practice will ultimately lead to the SIM cards reaching the wrong hands and enabling insurgent groups to use these SIM cards for extortion and violence related activities in the region,” an Army official said. He said the insurgent groups are trying to pressurise the villagers in such remote areas by forcing them to pay illegal taxes. “Getting access to unauthorised SIM cards will allow them to threaten village chiefs as well as villagers who do not cooperate with them and they will also be able to get advance information of any move of security forces through their informers,” the official said. The Army has asked telecom companies to realise the security implications of such malpractices and take all effective measures to ensure that SIM cards are only issued to bona fide persons who have valid identity and address proofs. The Army has also intimated the senior officials of the private mobile service provider about the incident. Officials said a tribal students union of Manipur has also been found to be giving such mobile SIM cards numbering about 2,000.
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