More than 2.5 cr users without functional devices right now: ICEA pushes to make phones essentials
Difference in opinion between handset makers and retailers has lead to ICEA requesting that mobile phones and spare parts sale be allowed
The India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) said yesterday that an estimated four crore mobile phone users in India will be without handsets by May-end if the restrictions on sale of handsets and spare parts continue. Add to this around 2.5 crore people who are without functional devices right now.
The industry body mentioned faults and breakdowns as reasons due to which customers would be stuck with non-functional devices with no option to replace them or get them fixed amid the lockdown.
With only essential goods and services being allowed to be sold and function, mobile users will find themselves in trouble if their phones stop working for any reason. Operations of telecom, internet, broadcast and IT services have been permitted but mobile phones have not been included on the list as essentials though one would need a phone to access these services.
ICEA mentioned that on an average around 2.5 crore mobile phones are sold every month and the active population of mobile phones is 85 crore currently in India. ICEA members include handset makers like Foxconn, Apple and Xiaomi, and the industry body had written to the IT secretary requesting the Centre to lift the restriction on the sale of mobile phones.
"Senior citizens and those with underlying health conditions are most susceptible to Covid-19. In such cases, the fatality rate is upwards of 10 per cent. The disease is such that all times, the patients need to fend for themselves from the time they communicate with municipal authorities regarding symptoms to testing and treatment," ICEA Chairman Pankaj Mohindroo said in a letter to IT Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney.
"A very large proportion of these purchases are replacements. In addition, even with a much-improved quality of phones and mobile devices, there is an approx 0.25% break down on a monthly basis. With the current mobile base at nearly 85 crore,it is clear that nearly 2.5 crore individuals are suffering due to non-availability of new devices or repair of their existing devices," ICEA said.
"We have written to the government that these numbers will expand to nearly 4 crores before the end of May. It is critical that mobile device sales via online, and in a phased manner via retail, as well as service centres with facilities for home delivery and pickup must be declared as "essential services", in addition to grocery and medicines," Mohindroo said.
Amid all this, some district administrations have also made the government's coronavirus case tracking app Aarogya Setu mandatory for those who step out of their homes. You cannot download Aarogya Setu if you do not have a smartphone.
Differences between handset makers and retailers
ICEA had made a joint representation with CAIT (Confederation of All India Traders) to the Home Minister, Home Secretary, Commerce & Industry Minister, Secretary DPIIT and Secretary MeitY for allowing sales of mobile devices under the "essential services" category. However, CAIT ditched ICEA and backed AIMRA's (All India Mobile Retailers Association) views that offline handset shops should be opened during the lockdown.
"Any hasty decision of lifting the lockdown may result in further worst period for the country and therefore the government should take a decision by deeply analysing all pros & cons of lifting or continuing the lock down," CAIT secretary general Praveen Khandelwal said.
AIMRA National President Arvinder Khurana wrote to Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on April 23 asking him to not make mobile phones as essential items. "Human life is more precious than mobile phones getting converted into essential items," the letter's subject line said.
Khurana added that AIMRA didn't want to expose mobile retailers and customers at risk of contracting Covid, "but we are ready to serve the customers by doorstep delivery". AIMRA has asked for a bumper stimulus package from the government to rescue 30,000 sellers from bankruptcy.
The Ministry of Electronics and IT has recommended to the Home Ministry to include mobile devices including laptops in the list of essential goods but the MHA is yet to accept it.