Without Even 2G Now

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It is now a week since ordinary Kashmiris are once again without mobile internet. And this time the service has been denied in the midst of a pandemic without any thought about the havoc it could wreak on the efforts to counter the spread of Coronavirus. The fresh communication gag was imposed on May 6 when the Hizbul Mujahideen operational chief Riyaz Naikoo was killed. It momentarily disrupted the entire effort to control the Covid-19 that starts with tracing the virus suspects, quarantining them at a government facility and ends with testing them for the infection. And once the test of any quarantined person turns positive, he is moved to an isolation ward at a hospital where he is also asked about the people he might have come into contact in recent past. Thereafter the process begins anew.

Much of this exercise depends on contacting people on phone. For the three days after Naikoo’s killing it was not possible to do so. Even though the phones have since been restored, the government seems in no mood to budge. The snapping of mobile internet, the administration has explained is “a precautionary measure” and will remain in force till the situation shows a visible improvement. Later Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Vijay Kumar also told media that the restrictions on the communication was important to maintain law and order. But at the same time, he added, that the protests and stone pelting over Naikoo’s killing was “a localised affair” as it was limited to the areas around the site of encounter. Situation since has only gotten better by the day. In fact, it is now largely peaceful. This should have persuaded the government to restore the internet but this doesn’t appear to be the case.

It is ironical that just when the people were looking forward to restoration of 4G, the administration has even denied them 2G. Sadly enough, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to restore 4G internet in Kashmir and instead directed the centre to form a special committee to examine the petitioners’ demands. The special committee will comprise of the secretaries from the ministry of home affairs and the ministry of communications as well as the chief secretary of J&K. The court said it has to ensure that the national security and the human rights are balanced. “We do recognise that the union territory has plunged into crisis. At the same time the court is cognizant to the concerns relating to pandemic and hardships”, the court said. It is now effectively up to the government to decide when to restore 4G. And considering the way the government has gone about it over the past nine months, it is unlikely that the 4G will be restored in near future. Least that the government can do, however, is to open up 2G service.

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