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Indian Telegraph Service


We lovers of telegraph convey our heartfelt condolence on the sad demise of telegraph service in India on 14th July 2013.

We pray that the soul of telegraphy may rest in eternal peace and give courage to general public to sustain the irreparable loss.

The first telegraph line was opened in October 1851 in India between Calcutta and Diamond Harbour, a distance of 30 miles (48 kms.). But official inauguration of this line took place on 1st November 1851. By 1854, Calcutta was linked with Agra, Bombay and Madras by telegraph network.

Tall iron rods supported by bamboo posts, linked by copper wires, dotted the country side. That telegraph line was eyed with suspicion, as an emblem of Imperial rule.

Till 1912, telegraph was administered by independent department. From 1st April 1914, the telegraph was amalgamated with postal department. From 1st January 1985, the telegraph was separated from postal department. Then in 2000, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) took over the telegraph service.

By 1985, the use of telegram was at its peak, but from 1990, the decline started due to the introduction of internet and mobile phones. Today BSNL is posting loss of 9 million rupees per year. Therefore, BSNL decided to discontinue the telegraph service from 15th July 2013 vide letter no. 111-23/92/T-II/(Pt.IV) dated 11th June, 2013. Thus 162 years old telegram is going to rest in peace for ever. Long Live Telegrams in the hearts of Indian.

Contributed by Ashok Kumar Bayanwala, Ahmedabad.

Indian Telegraph - End of an era

For most people telegrams are merely a memory or something they saw in an old movie. We now have far more efficient ways of sending messages such as emails and texts - but nothing quite as elegant and dramatic as the vintage telegram.

Telegraphy word was coined from Greek words ‘tele’ means ‘at a distance’ and ‘graphein’ (γράφω) means ‘to write’.

Facts & figures:

  • 1794: The non-electric telegraph was invented by Claude Chappe.
  • 1809: The first electrical telegraph was invented in Bavaria by Samuel Soemmering.
  • 1825: British inventor William Sturgeon revealed an invention of the electromagnet.
  • 1828: The first telegraph in the USA was invented by Harrison Dyar who sent electrical sparks through chemically treated paper tape to burn dots and dashes.
  • 1830: Joseph Henry demonstrated the potential of William Sturgeon's electromagnet for long distance communication by sending an electronic current over one mile of wire to activate an electromagnet which caused a bell to strike.
  • 1837: Samuel F. B. Morse and his assistant Alfred Vail successfully exploited the electromagnet and bettered Joseph Henry's invention and created the Morse Code which sent signals in Morse to produce written codes on a strip of paper which was known as Morse Code and that were translated into alphabetic letters.
  • 1900: Fredick G. Creed, devised a machine that could punch holes in a paper telegraph tape direct from a typewriter-style keyboard.
  • 1932: UK was the first country to set up a service Telex Service.

Telegraph Service in India:

  • 1850: The first experimental electric telegraph line was started between Calcutta and Diamond Harbour.
  • 1851: It was opened for the use of the British East India Company
  • 1854: A separate department was opened for telegraph facilities.
  • 1885: The Indian Telegraph Act was introduced in India
  • 1902: India drastically changed from cable telegraph to wireless telegraph.
  • 1914: On 1st April, 1914 Post Office and Telegraph departments were merged and Indian Posts and Telegraph Department was formed.
  • 1949: India introduced Hindi script telegrams.
  • 1985: From 1st January 1985 Post Offices were separated from Telegraph and department was bifurcated in to Department of Posts and Department of Telecommunications.
  • 2000: Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) was established by the Government of India, which provides a wide range of telecommunication services including Telegrams.
  • 2010: In order to keep pace with technological developments BSNL introduced Web Based Telegraph Messaging System in India by 31st March 2010. The WTMS changed the way of sending telegrams through computers.
  • 2010: Realizing the declining usage of Telegraph Services, the Establishment branch of BSNL Corporate Office defined Telegraph Services as diminishing services vide the circular No. 19-1/2009/TE-II dated 19-02-2010.
  • 2011: The international telegraph service was terminated by BSNL on April 30, 2011.
  • 2013: BSNL decided to discontinue the Telegram Service and issued circular on 11.06.2013. It was also requested to all telegraph offices to take photograph of booking of five telegrams message with sender of telegrams and all the staff working on WMTS on 14.07.2103 i.e. last working day of telegrams and to keep record of such photographs in album and to send one set of such photographs to Sr. GM. Office.
  • 2013: With effect from July 13, 2013, 162 years old telegraph service discontinued in India.

Closure of telegraph service in various countries:

  • 1982: In UK telegram service was taken out of use on 30th September 1982.
  • 1999: New Zealand closed its telegram service in 1999. It later reinstated the service in 2003 for use only by business customers.
  • 2002: Ireland discontinued telegram service on 30th July 2002.
  • 2006: Pakistan withdrew telegram and telex service in the first week of January 2006. • 2006: United States closed its telegram service on 27th January 2006.
  • 2007: Lithuania closed it on 15th October 2007.
  • 2009: Nepal closed the service on 1st January 2009.
  • 2011: Australia closed its telegram service on 7th March, 2011.
  • 2012: Malaysia ceased its telegram service effective 1st July 2012.

Philatelic Tribute to telegraph service:

Souvenir Sheet showing five obsolete telegraph stamps and two commemorative stamps were issued to commemorate Telegraph Centenary on 1st November 1953.

Stamp issued to commemorate Centenary of Indo-European Telegraph Service issued on 9.11.1967.

Farewell to telegraph service:

Indian citizens paid tribute to 162 year old telegram service of India in different ways. Several people sent the last telegraphic message of era during last few days before closure of telegraphic service in India.

BSNL Staff booking last telegrams of an era.

Number of philatelists also sent telegrams with different messages related to telegram service before its closure.

Telegram with message 'RIP INDIA'S TELEGRAM SERVICE 1851-2013'
Few more examples of telegram messages used by philatelists.

In Vadodara students of two schools viz. Urmi School and Gujarat Public School, attempted to create history before one of the world’s oldest communication services – the telegram – itself becomes history in India, by sending more than 5,000 telegrams in last 3-4 days. In doing this the students, while paying homage to the telegram in its last days, were also trying to create a Guinness World Record. In my opinion in the last one week from 8th July to 14th July huge number of telegrams must have been booked in India which was not booked in last one year.

Telegram receipt of telegram booked last day i.e. 14th July 2013.
Telegram message stating 'Telegraph Service Closed in India 14/07/2013', booked the last day i.e. 14th July 2013.
(Delivered on 26/07/2013)
Last telegram of the Era is being delivered by telegram messenger of BSNL.

In Chennai, activists of Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (TPDK) gathered near the Harbour Telegraph Office and placed flower bouquets in front of the office to mark the demise of telegram service.

So dear friends we are the last generation to send and receive the telegram, please preserve it with care if you have already received one.

Contributed by Prashant Pandya, Vadodara

Good Bye Telegram

Letters were the medium
Which took enough time
Few days to few weeks
One, Three or even Nine

Then came the new system
The telegram came with thrust
With fast and speedy service
Won people’s heart and trust

So short and sweet was it
No lengthy propositions
Messages sent so nicely
No doubt , no inhibition

It served everyone
Irrespective of creed and cast
It served so good, so well
So speedily and so fast

It was so new, so unique
No messenger, no postman
Short message  given reached
Destination, in short time span

Brought messages of all types
Some good and also some bad
It changed the social life so fast
That every Indian was so glad

It lived a life of 162 years
Became everyone’s life’s part
A necessity as it became
Never thought that it will depart

Internet, e-mail and mobile phone
Have now become our life’s part
But will miss the aged telegram
Will remain forever in our heart

Let’s give this friend of ours
A lovely and warm farewell
With messages it sent throughout
Now became stories to tell…

Now became stories to tell….

वोह तो हुई है शहीद

चलो मान ले टेलीग्राम
अब मर गई है सदा के लिए
पर कभी ना भूलें हम जो 
उपकार उसने हम पे किये

माना की हम सबकी तार 
अब तार तार हो गई
बेतार तार वालोँ के सामने 
वोह लाचार हो गई

१६२ बरस की ज़िन्दगी में उसकी 
इमानदारी थी, गति और जोश था
हर खबर उसकी सच्ची थी
ना उसमे कोई दोष था

एक सच्चे साथी की तरह 
निरंतर काम किया उसने
अच्छा या बुरा हर तरह का
हर पैगाम दिया उसने

ना रुकी, ना थकी वोह
बस चलती रही वोह
इस कोने से उस कोने
बस मचलती रही वोह

मैं अपने सब साथियों को 
देना चाहता हूँ ताकीद
मत कहो के वोह मर गयी
वोह तो हुयी है शहीद

अपने  इस पुराने साथी को
क्या दे हम श्रधांजली
फिलाटेली का एक नया फील्ड बनाये
नाम रखें उसका तारांजलि 

चलो कुछ ऐसा करें 
के इसका चर्चा हो हर गली
तारांजलि उसका नाम हो
या फिर हो टेलिफ़िलाटेलि

बंद डिब्बों को खोल के हम 
हर टेलिग्राम बहार लायें 
इस तरह से हम सब मिलकर 
इसका एक विशाल फील्ड बनाये

इस तरह से हम सब मिलकर 
इसका एक विशाल फील्ड बनाये ।

Contributed by Naresh Agrawal, Bilaspur

Last Scene at Telegraph Office in Vadodara - 14th July 2013.

Read full story Vadodara bids adieu to telegram service >> Times of India

A Post Card Conveying message about sad demise of Indian Telegram Service.
An innovative way of paying tribute to telegraph service.

Contributed by Shri H. C. Mehta, Nadiad

Private Special Cover mailed on 15th July describing last day of telegram service.
RIP India's Telegram Service.

Very nice telegram message sent by a philatelist to Telegram Service.

Note: Seems some words have been mistyped in this telegram.

Contributed by Imtiyaz Chauhan, Karjan


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