Diverse groups of students, entrepreneurs, small businesses and even the government functionaries suffer due to the often-invoked ban on the internet, which seems to be an act of collective punishment for entire Kashmir against the ‘misdeeds’ of few.
Sitting at her home in south Kashmir’s Islamabad (Anantnag) district, Nazia Rashid, 27, an aspiring professional, laments the day she was born in Kashmir. She says she couldn’t do well in the graduate level examination conducted by Jammu Kashmir Service Selection Board because the Internet services were snapped during the Srinagar bypoll and after the Pulwama college incident. Nazia had prepared reading material after extensively researching the web and bookmarking different websites but she didn’t get time to revise in the last week of her preparation as the internet services remained banned, taking a toll on her future.
“It is sickening to live in this part of the world where a single incident leads government to ban the internet services without giving much thought to what its possible repercussions will be on the people especially the students and aspirants of different state level and national level examinations?”, asked Nazia Rashid. “I see it as a well planned conspiracy against the Kashmiri aspirants vis-a-vis Jammu aspirants who certainly would have performed well in JKSSB examination as the internet services were never snapped there,” Nazia claims.
The ways of dealing with the prevailing circumstances in Kashmir seems ludicrous, especially when it comes to the internet ban in Kashmir. It has become the talk of the town not only in India but in other western countries. The tour and travel agencies are the worst hit from the ban as they can’t run without the internet. “It’s a nightmare for us when we hear the news that the internet has again been banned. Our business usually shuts and we always pay a heavy price,” Bilal Ahmad, who runs a tour and travel agency in Srinagar and Anantnag, said.
He said the tourists from other states and even the foreigners have stopped visiting Kashmir because of frequent internet ban. “Many among them are businessmen or employees on leave and they need to remain in contact with their business establishments or offices for one or the other reasons while on the tour in Kashmir. They first ask us whether internet is affected or otherwise they cancel their visiting plans,” Bilal lamented.
The IT industry is in the pits in Kashmir due to frequent internet ban. Many IT companies opt to shift to other states of India when the internet services are affected. The IT industry could have come as a succour to deal with the problem of unemployment in the state but the situation is not conducive for the industry to work here. The internet ban is taking a heavy toll on its overall growth.
“We had to shift to Bengaluru office from Srinagar because we suffered heavy losses during the previous summer agitation when the internet services were totally scrapped by the authorities due to security reasons”, said an IT consultant on the condition of anonymity working with one of the top IT companies based in Srinagar. “When we thought of shifting again to Srinagar office, the threat again loomed large due to frequent internet ban after Srinagar bypoll and student agitation. How can we recruit IT consultants when the situation is deteriorating time and again,” he asks.
Not only the mobile internet, even the broadband services are now being scrapped in Kashmir under the ruse of preventing deterioration of law and order. Khidmat Centers, a J&K Bank initiative, have been started to provide internet services at the doorsteps. These centres provide different services to the people like, form filling for different job advertisements, downloading and printing of admit cards for different examinations, call letters for interviews, online bill payments, checking of online results etc.
“We can’t think without internet because we are the only e-service providers even in those areas where mobile internet is still not working. We are also running in losses because of the frequent internet ban,” said Shafqat Ahmad of Anantnag who is running a Khidmat centre, “If it goes like this, we may be left with a single option to shut these centres.”
Even the government offices can’t function without internet. The e-governance project of Jammu and Kashmir has become a mockery. Updating data from different government offices consumes time due to frequent internet ban. The recruitment agencies like JKSSB and JKPSC are the worst hit as they can’t publish the job advertisements and results of screening tests on time.
“The beneficiaries of different public services, the email related tasks, the scholarships of students, etc. are altogether stopped and what is loathsome in this is that we are abused and taunted by people for taking time to deliver the public services”, an official of Social Welfare Department told Kashmir Scan.
Internet is simply the lifeline of modern society and Kashmir is no exception to it. The government should introspect and find alternatives other than banning the internet so as not to send people of this part of the world back to the dark ages of the past.