4G is Back

AFTER eighteen months of suspension, the government has finally restored high speed mobile internet services in Jammu and Kashmir. This was announced by the principal secretary to J&K Government Rohit Kansal on February 5. Though people are happy that the 4G is back, nothing can detract from a deep sense of grievance that it took the administration 550 days to restore it. This is why that much more than the celebration, it was the latter sentiment that found vent on social media. And that too not only in Kashmir but also outside the region with many celebrities noting this fact in their tweets.

All these months, the government kept denying the high speed internet on the specious ground that doing so was a security risk. This despite the fact that the ground situation in the Valley has remained calm over the past one and a half year. So, no matter what the government said, its security argument to keep 4G internet suspended didn’t hold water. Truth was the Valley did not witness a protest or a stone-throwing incident in a long time.

The restoration followed weeks after Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking restoration of high speed mobile Internet. The Association had pleaded that the children of J&K have already lost two academic years as it was “impossible to conduct online classes using video-conferencing tools such as Zoom or WebEx at 2G mobile Internet speed”. The Association had also highlighted the prolonged closures of schools after August 5, 2019 and then on account of COVID-19 pandemic.

This is true, the students of J&K were the worst victims of the lack of 4G. For almost two academic sessions they were unable to study and largely because of the ban on high speed mobile internet. The poor students suffered the most as unlike the children from well-off households, they couldn’t afford fixed line internet. This, in a sense, created a ‘haves and have nots’ divide in education, perpetrated by the government itself. Thousands of poor students have thus been left behind. They couldn’t adequately participate in the online teaching by their schools. Their ability to compete with the students who could attend online tutorials by virtue of having fixed line internet has thus become moot. It should take the poor students some time to catch up.

However, as Omar Abdullah has said, the restoration of 4G internet is better late than never. A high speed mobile internet will be a bone for not only the education but also for the businesses as whole.

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