An estimated 4 crore mobile phone users in the country are expected to be without handsets due to faults and breakdowns by May-end if restrictions on the sale of handsets and spare parts continue, an industry body said on Friday.
At present, more than 2.5 crore mobile customers are estimated to be with non-functional devices due to non-availability of components in the supply chain and the restriction on sales of new handsets due to the lockdown to contain coronavirus infection, the India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) claimed.
The government has allowed sales of only essential goods and services during the lockdown which has entered into the fifth week. Operations of telecom, internet, broadcast and IT services are permitted but not for mobile devices that are pivotal for accessing these services.
The ICEA, whose members include leading handset makers like Apple, Foxconn, and Xiaomi, said on an average, approximately 2.5 crore new mobile phones are sold every month and the active population of mobile phones is 85 crore currently.
"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 per cent 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.
The industry body has approached government authorities several times including the Prime Minister for including mobile phones in the list of essential goods as there can be life threatening situations for many without the devices.
"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," ICEA Chairman Pankaj Mohindroo said.
Some district administrations have made the government's coronavirus case tracking app Aarogya Setu mandatory for those who venture out of their homes, making it challenging for those who do not have smartphones.
ICEA said that it has made a joint representation with the traders' body CAIT to the Home Minister, Home Secretary, Commerce & Industry Minister, Secretary DPIIT and Secretary MeitY (also currently the chair of the Empowered Group on Technology and Data Management) for allowing sales of mobile devices under the "essential services" category.
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.