Congress MP Pradyut Bordoloi on Monday alleged that India has recorded the world’s highest number of internet shutdowns in the last four years under the NDA government and sought to know whether any legislation is being framed to regulate the suspensions.
Suspending internet services cannot be justified as a solution to law and order challenges and border regions like Jammu and Kashmir and North Eastern states have been particularly susceptible to such blackouts, he said in a letter to Union Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
The Nagaon MP claimed that out of 182 internet shutdowns globally in 2021, India alone accounted for 106 and sought to know from Vaishnaw whether the government has taken cognisance of the rise and its ramifications, particularly in terms of economic costs.
A five-day suspension of mobile phone services is currently in force in Manipur, he said. He said as per an independent study by Access Now, a non-profit organisation founded in 2009 with the mission to defend and extend the digital civil rights of people around the world, India recorded the world’s highest number of internet shutdowns for the fourth consecutive year in 2021.
Quoting a study by Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), the Lok Sabha member from Assam said India had reported six internet shutdowns in 2014, which rose to over the 100 mark each year after 2018.
SFLC is a donor supported legal services organisation working in matters related to civil liberties, technology laws and intellectual property rights laws. The Congress MP said that the Centre has failed to provide data on internet shutdowns, which has led elected representatives, civil society and others to monitor and document these blackouts. Some are likely to go unreported.
“Internet shutdown cannot be justified as a solution to law and order challenges – it is a disproportionate, collective punishment that violates human rights and is unacceptable in any democratic society and particularly in an age of digital economy,” Bordoloi said.
He asked if any legislation is being framed by the government to regulate internet shutdowns and whether the government intends to create and maintain a centralised repository of data on internet blackouts in the country.
(With PTI inputs)