Almost a year ago, the landline phone that Amish Gupta (name changed) had installed at home in 2005 stopped working. It was a recurring problem, and Gupta chose to ignore it – he used his cell phone to make calls anyway.

In May, however, when the broadband Internet connected to his landline began fluctuating, Gupta decided to complain to his telecom service provider – the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited or MTNL. A subsidiary of the central government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, MTNL provides telecom services in Mumbai and Delhi.

“I called to register my complaint at least 10 or 15 times, but no one came to service my connection,” said Gupta, a 64-year-old travel consultant from central Mumbai. He then went to the local MTNL office in Wadala, only to find most of it empty. “They don’t have staff to do the work, and I just got pushed around from one desk to another.”

Working from home in the middle of a pandemic was not possible without a stable Internet connection, and in July, a frustrated Gupta finally decided to surrender his MTNL connection altogether.

“The surrender process itself has been going on for more than two months,” he said. “I usually like to favour public companies like...

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