Abid Hussain Rather writes about the necessity of restoring 4G internet services during pandemic
The Jammu and Kashmir administration while opposing the restoration of 4G internet services said that right to internet access is not a fundamental right and the administration can curtail the freedom of speech and the right to trade through the internet.
The administration told that these restrictions are only to protect the sovereignty, integrity and security of the country.
Looking at the present situation, every one of us is well aware of the necessity and importance of restoration of 4G services in J&K.
The slow internet speed is hampering the works of doctors, journalists, students and others in the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
When the people of J&K are in dire need of 4G internet services, the administration is opposing its restoration on the ground that the high-speed internet allows miscreants to misuse data services.
The administration is of the view that 4G internet services will increase the use of social media and the circulation of other propaganda material which may result in law and order problem in J&K but the same administration has already ordered for complete lockdown in J&K and people are restricted to their homes and as such there are least chances of such problems.
Instead, the common masses should have full access to accurate information through 4G internet in order to tackle the spread of COVID-19 and the restoration of the 4G should have been the priority. As the people are locked in their houses, fast internet service can play an important role in carrying out the important activities at houses thus avoiding people to gather at public places which in turn results in the least social interaction.
The administration is of the opinion that the miscreants are using the internet to support fallacious proxy wars by raising money, recruiting and spreading false ideologies, but perhaps they are unaware of the fact that all these activities can be carried out at 2G speed also.
When we look at the past five months since the restoration of 2G services, no such activities have been observed on a large scale in J&K.
There has been a great control over the spread of rumours and false information through the social media by the efforts of cybercrime wing of the Police department from the past eight months. Instead of blocking 4G internet services, on the whole, it is better to pinpoint the black sheep and rumours mongers who spread the false information and rumours on social media and put them behind the bars and spare common masses from the sufferings of 4G internet service restrictions.
The doctors in J&K are unable to access important information and guidelines for combating the virus and practices recommended by the WHO.
They are unable to guide the common masses through the internet as it is impossible for them to deliver online video messages to common people at 2G internet speed.
As the administration has already ordered for the closure of all the educational institutions because of coronavirus pandemic, the authorities ordered for the online conduct of classes but it seems to be a daydream because of the low speed of internet as the teachers are unable to upload the videos on the internet and students find it impossible to watch the videos at 2G speed.
Access to high-speed internet is also important for human rights activists, defenders and journalists for carrying out their work and delivering essential information to the common people. Restoration of 4G internet service is also essential for trade and commerce amid lockdown in J&K.
The economic sector of the UT has already suffered a great loss in the past eight months due to political unrest and now due to lockdown.
Restoration of 4G internet can help to a great extent in minimizing and recouping this loss.
Keeping in view the present critical situation, the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the stakeholders from different fields are demanding for the restoration of the 4G internet service and it was urged that 4G internet should be declared an essential service under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) but the administration is turning a deaf ear to their demands.
Though access to 4G internet is not a fundamental right it has become a basic and essential necessity in the present pandemic situation.
It is one of the important sources which can help us combat the COVID-19 pandemic and which can help us minimize the losses in education and economic sectors.
The people of J&K have already suffered a lot during the past eight months due to abnormal political conditions and restrictions on internet services.
They have got mentally frustrated and psychologically depressed. The students have suffered irreparable losses and their careers are at stake. It is high time to restore the 4G internet service in J&K for the major relief of common masses in general and student community in particular.
The administration should find some other ways and means to deal with the miscreants and restore 4G internet service as soon as possible as the service has become a basic necessity in modern times especially in the present pandemic situation.
(The author teaches Geography at Government Degree College, Kulgam. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)