While oppoing the restoration of 4G internet servicces in the valley, the Jammu and Kashmir administration 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 said that these restrictions are there only to protect the sovereignty, integrity and security of the country.
However, 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 work of doctors, journalists, students and others during 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 grounds that high speed internet allows the miscreants to misuse 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. As such, there are very low chances of such problems.
Instead, the masses should have full access to accurate information through 4G internet in order to tackle the spread of COVID-19, and the restoration of 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 important activities at homes, thus avoiding the need for people to gather at public places to prevent 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 about the fact that all these activities can be carried out at 2G speed as well. 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 the union territory. There has been a greater control on the spread of rumors and false information through the social media by the efforts of cyber crime wing of police department for the past eight months.
Instead of blocking 4G internet service on the whole, it is better to pinpoint the black sheeps and rumour-mongers who spread false information and rumours on social media, and put them behind the bars to spare the masses from the sufferings of 4G internet service restrictions.
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 the common people at 2G internet speed.
As the administration has already ordered for the closure of all the educational institutions because of the coronavirus pandemic, the authorities ordered for the online conduction of classes. But, it seems to be a daydream because of low speed of the 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 the restoration of 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, it has become essential in the present pandemic situation. It is one of the important sources which can help us to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and can help us minimise the losses in education and the economic sector.
The people of Jammu and Kashmir 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 4G internet service in the Union Territory for major relief to the masses, in general, and student community, in particular. The administration should find some other ways to deal with the miscreants and should restore 4G internet service as soon as possible.