Elusive 4G

CENTRE has once again defended the internet restrictions in Kashmir arguing such curbs are in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India. At the same time, the union government has said that the throttled speeds are enough for digital education and public health services. Speaking in parliament, the minister of state for home GK Reddy said that the high-speed internet was already available in Kashmir on fixed line. He also informed the parliament about lifting of social media restrictions from March onwards.

If anything this shows that the government is in no mood to restore the high speed mobile internet anytime soon. And it doesn’t think that the 2G speed hampers the access to online classes. According to Reddy, “E-learning apps and education and e-learning websites of the government are accessible over 2G internet for downloading e-books and other study material”. Similarly for the minister “the 2G mobile internet speed is not an impediment in Covid control measures including dissemination of information to general public as well as health workers”.

But ask the teachers and pupils in J&K, they would hardly agree with the union government on this. Truth is, it is certainly not feasible to study online with 2G speed. For one, it is challenging to attend the video classes which are a critical component of online education. Such classes enable a direct interaction of the students with their teachers and allows them to ask questions and seek clarifications. On 2G speed, the schools can send only a textual study material to students through mail. And that is as good as studying text books at home.

It is thus important that the government restores the high speed mobile internet. It is the best solution to lack of physical schooling. Use of communication technology would thus obviate the need for a hurried reopening of schools. But while the government is refusing to restore the high-speed internet, it is taking steps to reopen schools, a fraught decision under the circumstances.

As for the public health, the need for a high-speed mobile internet cannot be overemphasised. In this day and age, when people get most of their information on internet, government could have used 4G to deepen awareness about COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. Information about the disease and its real-time dissemination among people is critical to fighting it. It empowers the people to take precautions and preventive measures on their own. But the government, it seems, doesn’t want it. Its approach, as always, remains security centric when the need of the hour is prioritize healthcare and facilitate the online education of our children.

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