Abid Hussain Rather
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 maintained that these restrictions are only to protect the sovereignty, integrity and security of the country. Looking at the present situation everyone of us is well aware about the necessity and importance of restoration of 4G services in the Union Territory. The slow internet speed is hampering the works of doctors, journalists, students and others in the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. When the people of the Jammu and Kashmir 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 other propaganda material which may result in law and order problem in the UT but the same administration has already ordered for the complete lockdown in the UT 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, the 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 least social interaction. The administration is of the opinion that the miscreants are using internet to support fallacious proxy wars by raising money, recruiting and spreading false ideologies, but perhaps they are unaware about 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 large scale in the union territory. There has been a great control on the spread of rumours and false information through the social media by the efforts of cyber crime wing of police department from past eight months. Instead of blocking 4G internet service on the whole it is better to pin point the blacksheep and rumour 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 Jammu and Kashmir are unable to access important information and guidelines for combating the virus and practices recommended by WHO. They are unable to guide the common masses through internet media 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 classes but it seems to be a day dream because of low speed of internet as the 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 media 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 the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. 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 as essential service under 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 but it has become a basic and essential necessity in the present pandemic 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. 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 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 miscreants and should restore 4G internet service as soon as possible as the 4G internet service has become a basic necessity in the modern times specially in the present pandemic
Abid Hussain Rather