20 Million Poor Men’s Mobile Crucified in the Name of Security? [IMEI Saga]

Kamlesh a carpenter in Delhi scratches his living out of the dry wood. He complained this morning that his cell phone was not functioning properly for last few days and was unable to reach most of his clients. Normally people like Kamlesh would get work through referrals on his mobile phone. Besides he is also a proud owner of a flashy-cool-looking touch screen based multifunctional Chinese handset bought at a dirt cheap price (Can someone confirm the actual cost of manufacturing a piece of hardware called mobile; is there any one here from China?).

And I thought to myself: Does this man even know what an IMEI number is? And that he has been considered a threat to the National Security lately?

Before drawing conclusions, I did a brief search on what an IMEI number is and how it relates to Security Related issues, if any, for a country of our means. To start it off, the concept of IMEI is least related to National Security per se.

According to wikipedia the pure purpose of International MobileĀ  Equipment Identity i.e. IMEI is to empower the actual owner of a mobile handset to call up the service provider and request disablement of a stolen or lost handset permanently. Not the Government.

…IMEI number is used by the GSM network to identify valid devices and therefore can be used to stop a stolen phone from accessing the network. For example, if a mobile phone is stolen, the owner can call his or her network provider and instruct them to “ban” the phone using its IMEI number. This renders the phone useless, whether or not the phone’s SIM is changed.” In effect the incentive of stealing a mobile phone is nullified.

Further, as per definitions an “IMEI is used only to identify the device, and has no permanent or semi-permanent relation to the subscriber. The subscriber is identified by transmission of an IMSI number, which is stored on a SIM card that can (in theory) be transferred to any handset.” In other words people using any mobile device (with or without valid IMEI number) can actually be traced and tracked thoroughly.

IMEI Game Over -The Nation is secure now

So does not the recent decision to block all non-IMEI valid phones exactly defeat the purpose of making a safer environment for citizens of all strata? Where stealing an IMEI valid mobile phone would not be an incentive?

And if it was about National Security, how come culling 20 million phones of poor-men guarantee a terrorist-proof environment for all of us? After a long time poor Indians were enjoying the features of great looking, multi feature Chinese handsets which only the rich had an access to. And all that has been destroyed in one stroke of half-baked self-denying measure in the name of security?

It wouldn’t be out of place (rather terrible) to mention that we spent some 31 crores of taxpayers money on security of Ajmal Kasab until 1st anniversary of 26/11 while screwing the other 20 million poor who got a chance to access technology as it should be.

So why not lower the import duty to bring down the mobile prices, so that the valid ones are affordable? Or come up with plain adoption of cheaper non-IMEI devices altogether based on economics of our country and not of a western one?

What’s your take on such decisions by our presumably pro-poor Government?