Enough of restrictions, restore 4G now
BY: Abid Hussain Rather
The Jammu and Kashmir administration is opposed to of 4G internet services in the Union territory. It has been maintaining that restrictions on internet speed are “only to protect the sovereignty, integrity and security” of the country.
Everyone is aware about the necessity and importance of restoration of 4G internet services in the Union territory. The slow internet speed is hampering the work of doctors, journalists, students and others in the current coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. Ironically, while the people are in dire need of 4G internet services, the administration is opposing its restoration on the ground that the high speed internet allows the miscreants to misuse of data services.
The administration is of the view that 4G internet services will increase the use of social media and circulation of propaganda materials over it may result in law and order problems. But the same administration has already ordered complete lockdown in the UT and people are restricted to their homes. As such there are least chances of law and order problems. Instead if the people have access to accurate information through 4G internet, this will make it easy for them tackle the spread of Covid-19. Similarly access to accurate information in real-time basis is the best remedy and cure to false propaganda which has wrong or exaggerated information at its core. The restoration of the 4G internet should therefore have been the priority.
As the people are locked in their houses, the fast internet services can help them keep busy while staying indoors. This will discourage and dissuade them from coming out and gathering at the public places.
The administration keeps saying that the miscreants are using internet to support fallacious proxy wars by raising money, recruiting and spreading false ideologies. But it must know 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 large scale in the Union territory. There has been a great control on the spread of rumors and false information through the social media by the efforts of cyber crime wing of the Police department from past eight months. Instead of blocking 4G internet service on the whole, it is better to pin point the blacksheep and rumor-mongers who spread false information and rumors on social media and put them behind the bars.
In the face of continued internet restrictions here, people of all hues are facing immense problems. For instance, the doctors are unable to access important information they may need to educate themselves about the measures about combating the virus and the practices recommended by WHO, or important medical research institutes. They are unable to guide the common masses through internet as it is impossible for them to deliver online video messages at 2G internet speed.
With educational institutions shut, the authorities have ordered for the online classes. But it is only a day-dream because of low internet speed. Teachers are unable to upload the videos on 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 this lockdown. The economy 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 in minimizing these losses.
In view of the present critical situation, the people of Jammu and Kashmir are demanding restoration of the 4G internet service. In fact the 4G internet should be declared as essential service under Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). But the administration is deliberately turning a deaf ear to these demands. Though access to 4G internet is not a fundamental right but it has become a basic and essential necessity in the present situation. It is one of the important sources which can help us to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and which can help us to minimize the losses in education and economic sectors.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir have already suffered a lot during past eight months due to abnormal political conditions and restrictions on internet services. The students have suffered irreparable losses and their careers are at stake. It is high time to restore the 4G internet service in the Union territory 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 visible and invisible miscreants it keeps referring to every now and then.
(The author teaches Geography at GDC Kulgam. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)