Slowing of the internet speed by the telcos on the orders of the state government following the killing of militant commander Zakir Musa has left the users in Kashmir fuming with the business community complaining of incurring losses.
The state government ordered the telecom companies operating in Kashmir to reduce the internet speed from 4G to 2G in the wake of killing of Zakir Musa.
“It is like living in hell without 4G internet service here in Srinagar Kashmir on 5th continuous day,” Adnan Yousuf, a student wrote on micro-blogging website Twitter.
According to Marouf Khan, a lawyer limiting web access is tantamount to “curtailing” the right of the people to communication.
“It is not just the social networking, the media and the communications, even the judiciary are affected by the throttling of high internet speed,” Khan said.
Interestingly, a recent global study has revealed that Kashmir is the region with highest number of internet shutdowns in the world. According to the Standford study ‘Of Blackouts and Bandhs: The Strategy and Structure of Disconnected Protest in India”, India has witnessed 134 network shutdowns in 2018 with more than 100 such shutdowns seen in 2016-17.
The study has highlighted that “Kashmir is most prone to internet shutdowns as its economy witnessed Rs 2000 crore losses due to net shutdowns in 2016-2017.”
Rajan Matthews, Director General of Cellular Operators Association of India, an amalgamation of telecom players told Greater Kashmir over phone that the association has written to the department of Telecommunications several times in this regard.
“Just two months back we wrote to the DoT and they communicated to several chief secretaries that internet shutdown should not be the first line of action to control law and order situation. But despite several communication, there seems to be no end to web access being snapped for common people,” Matthews said.
Frequent suspension of Internet services in the Valley by the authorities during last several years has dealt a blow to Kashmir’s economy resulting in losses worth almost Rs 4000 crore between 2012 to 2017, says a recent study conducted by Delhi-based think-tank International Council for Research on International Economic Relations ( ICRIER).
The study “The anatomy of an Internet blackout: Measuring the economic impact of internet shutdowns in India” has also stated that out of a total 63 internet shutdowns in six years, 34 internet shutdowns in the Valley last year caused losses worth Rs 1776 crore.”
Meanwhile, the students and civil services aspirants preparing for exams flayed the state government for imposing curbs on internet.
“What can government achieve by reducing internet speed?” asked Suhail Ahmad, a civil service aspirant. “By doing this, they are only denying us a chance to prepare as 50 percent of the study material is assessed through internet.”
BUSINESS COMMUNITY AGHAST
The business community is also aghast over snapping or throttling internet speed.
FarhanKitab, chief spokesperson, Kashmir Traders’ and Manufacturers’ Federation who also runs a showroom at Regal Chowk said the sales are badly affected as cards and PoS machines don’t work.
“We receive about 60 -70 customers per day. About 60 percent of these clients use cards to make payment. Average value of sales through PoS machines is Rs 30,000 – 60,000 per month which takes a hit due to net gag,” Kitab said.
In April last year and later in September, Department of Telecommunications ( DoT) had sent advisories to several states, including Jammu and Kashmir that internet shutdowns should be avoided as much as possible.