Sunday, Nov 27, 2022

Demand For High-Speed Internet Grows In Kashmir Amid Coronavirus Scare

Amnesty India also called for the restoration of 4G Internet services, saying people should have full access to health and safety-related information.

A volunteer sprays disinfectant as a precautionary measure against coronavirus in Srinagar. PTI Photo

After Jammu and Kashmir reported a fresh case of Coronavirus on Wednesday, the chorus for the restoration of high-speed 4G internet services has grown.

The administration has restricted the mobile Internet speed to 2G services, citing security reasons.

Several people, including Lok Sabha Member Farooq Abdullah, Srinagar Mayor Junaid Mattu and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti's daughter Iltija Mufti, have called for the restoration of the services to help raise awareness about the virus.

Abdullah wrote to PM Modi, requesting the restoration of 4G Internet services to enable people of JK to work from home.

"World's battling coronavirus but J&K admin still unrelenting & refuses to lift inhuman ban on 4G. In times of COVID pandemic, access to Internet & info is a necessity not a privilege. Are Kashmiri lives so cheap? (sic)," Iltija wrote on her mother's Twitter handle.

She has been using the former chief minister's Twitter account since Mehbooba was detained on August 4 last year.

Amnesty India on Thursday also called for the restoration of 4G Internet services, saying that people in the region should have full access to health and safety-related information.

“There is growing anxiety around the pandemic and unwarranted restrictions on content and dissemination of information only stands to add to the panic. Complete shutdowns or restricting of internet speed or access makes it difficult for people to navigate their way through a difficult time further undermining their trust in the authorities. The Government of India needs to adopt a rights-respecting approach to protect public health and restore access to 4G speed internet,” said Avinash Kumar, Executive Director, Amnesty International India.

The government in a recent order said the low-speed internet will continue in the union territory till 26 March "in the interest of sovereignty and integrity" of the country.

Mattu on Wednesday said the Kashmir Valley recorded its first positive case for novel coronavirus in Srinagar.

The Srinagar mayor has written a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah requesting that 4G Internet services be restored in J&K.

Mattu said the move would help minimize the impact of the spread of the virus.

People in the valley said the high-speed internet was not a luxury anymore, but a necessity in view of the virus outbreak across the world and have demanded its immediate restoration.

"The administration in J-K must realise how important high-speed Internet can be at this time. People need to know the information in real-time so that they prepare and pre-empt their actions against the spread of this virus," Shuja-ul-Haq, president of Kashmir Press Club, said.

The residents in the valley said the world was looking up, on Internet, for information to curb the spread of the virus, so it was high time for the authorities to restore the high-speed data services on mobile phones.

"With the growing fear of coronavirus in Kashmir, the world advances towards the virtual world to curb misinformation and increase awareness among people. Isn't it high time to restore 4G in Kashmir?” Wani Shahid, a resident asked.

"It is high time now that the authorities take a decision on restoration of 4G internet in the valley," another resident, Sardar Nasir Ali khan said.

Many Twitter users criticised the authorities for posting the awareness videos on social media, saying the low-data speeds do not help their cause.

"Authorities in #Kashmir are posting videos on Twitter about preventive measures during the pandemic. But on the other hand, they put restrictions on the internet those who run this system are a combination of arrogant and ignorant that makes them lethal #Restore4GinKashmir,” a user Aanis Bhat wrote.

Another user, Shazia Bakshi, said the only tool for communication in times of social distancing was being denied to the people of J-K.

"Internet is perceived to be a bigger threat to #Kashmiris than #Coronavirus !! At a time when #SocialDistancing is a way to survive this apocalypse, the ONLY tool for communication, knowledge, connectivity, information, work et al is being denied to us! Shame! #Restore4GinKashmir (sic)," she wrote on Twitter.

Internet services were suspended in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 last year – hours before the Centre announced the abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

While the 2G services on postpaid mobile phones and broadband and lease-line services were restored months later, the 4G services continued to remain suspended.

(With PTI Inputs)