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Chos In Valley About Internet Restoration

Amidst the 21 day national lockdown due to COVID-19, it is claimed that High speed internet will be restored in the Kashmir valley. According to Global News Service, The Ministry of home affairs, government of India has ordered the restoration of 3G and 4G services in the state of Jammu and Kashmir after much appeal by ministers and citizens of the valley (BySrini). 
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However, minister of state for home, Mr G Kishan Reddy has retracted his statement regarding the restoration. Thereafter, it is still a question looming over the valley whether such an action would be enforced by the state. While some sources such as ANI, IANS and Times of India claim that the news is fake, other sources such as GNS and local news believe that internet will be restored based on Mr. G Kishan’s statement. The question however remains, whether 4G will be restored by midnight of 25th March or not. 

Long overdue, it is imperative for 4G services to be restored in the state amidst the lockdown, now more than ever. This would be an appropriate time for the centre to consider restoring high speed internet due to the sensitivity of the situation with schools and workplaces shut down and strict impositions on social gatherings. Stayathome and Socialdistancing can be practised but without high speed internet, it is a demanding task. While privileged citizens of other states can resort to watching Netflix, browsing through social media, listening to high quality music online, playing video games and enjoying their favorite movies on HD over dinner, this privilege does not extend to everyone in the country, including those in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Only limited content can be accessed without interruptions through 2G services. This makes it strenuous for students and professionals to study or work from home respectively. 

The centre has so far restricted internet speed in the state to 2G services since 25th January, citing security reasons. Security has always been a sensitive issue in the Kashmir valley and of utmost priority to the government of India. High speed communication facilities have been suspended since August 5th, 2019 when Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional autonomy was scrapped and article 370 was revoked which lead to the bifurcation of the state into two separate union territories. Telephone and 2G services were restored gradually over time but high speed communication has been lacking in the state since the revocation. The restoration would not only help the population indoors stay entertained but would also help professionals work from home. Additionally, students can utilize this time for online learning using high speed internet. 

"The administration in J-K must realize 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.

Several members such as  Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Junaid Matty and Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti have repeatedly appealed for restoration of 3G and 4G services in the valley. Member of parliament, Farooq Abdullah also wrote a letter dated 19/3/2020 to Prime minister Modi on seeking immediate restoration of high speed internet which would help the people of J&K work from home. 

"The people are being advised to work/study from home, but this is impossible with 2G internet speed and limited fixed line internet penetration. I would, therefore, request you to restore 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir at the earliest to ease the suffering of the people," he said in the letter.
Amnesty international echoed the plea and called for the restoration, citing the importance of access to health related information to raise awareness about COVID-19. 

“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,” Avinash Kumar, Executive Director, Amnesty International India, had said.

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