Going frenzy to catch fish in the ponds is not an unusual picture in rural Bangladesh. But scrabbling about in the pond for SIM cards! Well, that sounds not only unrealistic but hilarious as well.
However bizarre it may sound, the people of a Joypurhat village actually did that and found a few thousand abandoned SIM cards in a pond.
The people of Ziapur village in Khetlal upazila say they found around 5,000 SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards of different local operators, including Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink, Airtel and Teletalk, from the roadside pond yesterday.
A sack full of papers, believed to be SIM card documents, was also recovered from the pond. However, the papers were so badly damaged that nothing could be recovered from those.
Both police and locals believe that criminals or extremist groups might have dumped the SIM cards in the pond to avoid phone tracking. Locals said a seven-year-old boy named Rizvi first spotted some SIM cards on the banks of the pond when he went there looking for leafy vegetables around 7:30am.
As he returned home with around 60 SIMs, other got to know of this and a few other children started scuttling the pond in search of more SIM cards.
As the news spread, several hundred villagers joined the frenzy.
People were found checking the SIM cards inserting them in their cell phones.
Masud Rana of the village said that many people got at least 20 to 30 SIM cards and most of the SIM cards were active and carried balances between Tk 100 to Tk 300.
The SIMs were even sold at prices between Tk 10 and Tk 15, said the villagers.
After a massive search, the villagers left the area around 11:00am and police reached the spot around half an hour later.
Police seized 243 SIM cards from some villagers, said Iqbal Anwarul Haque, officer-in-charge of Khetlal Police Station.
However, all these SIMs were damaged and their numbers could not be known, the OC told The Daily Star.
"We have started looking into the incident and trying to identify the SIM owners," he said.
Hamidul Alam, superintendent of Joypurhat police, said the SIMs might have been dumped by some criminal or militant gang.
When contacted, the local customer care officials of the telecom operators said they suspected that the SIM cards might have been used for criminal purposes.
Sarwar Alam, director media and IT of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, said the regulator and different government agencies are clamping down on illegal VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) operators recently. So, they might have thrown away the SIM cards to avert possible legal complications.