Hurdle for going cashless? Since 2014, 250 days without Internet

The government has been aggressively pushing a cashless — or less-cash — economy. But for cashless technologies to work, a strong, uninterrupted Internet is essential.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | Updated: December 8, 2016 11:36 am
demonetisation, demonetisation crisis, demonetisation policy, demonetisation fallout, chandigarh, chandigarh demonetisation, demonetisation effects, card swiping machine, card swipe chandigarh, india news, chandigarh news A commuter making a payment through Paytm at Dappar Toll Plaza on Monday. Jaipal Singh

THE government is gradually shifting the demonetisation narrative from black money and corruption to an Internet-driven cashless economy. In his recent Mann ki Baat address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch for a cashless economy, and urged people to learn how digital transactions work.

“Learn how this digital economy works,” he said. “Learn the different ways in which you can use your bank accounts and Internet banking. Learn how to effectively use the apps of various banks on your phones. Learn how to run your business without cash. Learn about card payments and other electronic modes of payment. Look at the malls and see how they function.

“A cashless economy is secure, it is clean,” the Prime Minister said. “You have a leadership role to play in taking India towards an increasingly digital economy.”

But the journey towards such a shift will not be easy. Besides the obvious hurdles of low literacy levels in India, the unfamiliarity with new technologies, low Internet penetration (less than 30%) and even lower smartphone penetration (17%), the government itself has disrupted Internet connectivity for varying lengths of time for various reasons — from maintaining law and order to ensuring that candidates do not cheat in exams.

This is important — because the Internet is crucial for all cashless technologies to work. And unexpected disruptions can throw a range of vital transactions out of gear.

As of now, mobile wallets like Paytm, MobiKwik and Freecharge all need the Internet to work properly. On Wednesday, however, Paytm announced a new feature that lets users pay even if they don’t have mobile Internet — and it is likely that other players will follow suit.

Since 2014, the government has suspended the Internet for over 250 days at different places across the country. There have been over 200 days of disruption in mobile Internet connectivity this year. Last year saw about 30 days of Internet suspensions across the country.

Over 60% of all network disruptions in 2016 happened in Jammu and Kashmir. During the unrest following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani, mobile Internet was suspended in Kashmir for 133 straight days. Internet access on prepaid mobile connections continues to remain suspended. Jammu suffered more than a fortnight of Internet disruption during this period.

Earlier this year, during the Jat quota agitation in February-March, the Haryana government suspended the Internet for nearly 10 days in several districts, including Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonipat, Jind and Hisar. In the months that followed, whenever Jats threatened fresh protests, the government suspended the Internet intermittently.

“Messages and images that are spread through social media platforms during communal tension and ethnic conflicts can lead to such situations spiralling out of control. This is what happened in Haryana and we have witnessed it often in Kashmir. There is no option but to suspend the Internet in such a situation. It helps curb violence,” said a Home Ministry official.

Communal violence, or its anticipation, has been one of the most common reasons for suspending the Internet. Following communal tension in Saran, Bihar, in August, the Internet was suspended in various districts for several days to stop rumours and inflammatory propaganda from spreading.

In Gujarat, apart from communal violence, the Internet has often been suspended during competitive examinations to check cheating. The decision was taken at least twice this year. The state also saw several days of Internet disruption during the agitation led by Patidar leader Hardik Patel.

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3 Yrs, 12 States, 39 Internet Blackouts: How Hurdle To Govt’s Cashless Push is Govt Itself

JAMMU & KASHMIR

2014: Twice
Feb 9-11 Mobile Internet and Internet through plugged-in services suspended across most of Valley in anticipation of protests on first anniversary of Afzal Guru’s hanging

Mar 17-18 Across Valley, to stop separatists from addressing a UNHRC sideline event in Geneva via video link

2015: 5 times
Jun 5 Internet services blocked in entire Jammu after Sikhs clashed with police

Aug 15 It has become a recent ritual to block Internet in Kashmir until noon on Independence Day and Republic Day

Sep 25-26 Internet blocked across the state in anticipation of trouble during Eid celebrations

Oct 8 Mobile Internet blocked in Jammu as unrest spread over MLA Engineer Rashid’s beef party, and with the carcass of a cow found in Udhampur

Nov 7 Mobile Internet blocked in Kashmir; PM Narendra Modi’s visit

2016: 6 times
Apr 14 Mobile Internet blocked in North Kashmir, Srinagar, and South Kashmir’s Pulwama district after 4 people shot by security forces

Jun 15-18 Mobile Internet blocked across the state after alleged desecration of temple in Jammu

Jun 22 Mobile Internet suspended in Jammu after communal tension over wrestling match venue

Jun 23 Mobile Internet snapped in Poonch over “certain security concerns”

Jul 9-Nov 18 Internet blocked throughout Kashmir and parts of Jammu. For a fortnight after July 9, shutdown across state. Pre-paid mobile Internet still blocked in Kashmir. Steps taken following unrest in the wake Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s killing

Sep 12-17 All Internet services, including broadband, suspended in Kashmir ahead of Eid

HARYANA

2016: Thrice
Feb 19-Mar 1 Mobile Internet blocked in Rohtak, Jhajjar, Panipat, Sonipat, Hisar, Jind and Bhiwani over Jat quota agitation

Mar 18 Mobile Internet blocked in Rohtak and Jhajjar over possibility of fresh Jat agitation

Jun 4-5 Mobile Internet blocked in Rohtak, Jhajjar and Sonipat over second phase of Jat agitation

UTTAR PRADESH

2016: Twice
May 17-18 Mobile Internet blocked in Azamgarh after communal violence

Sep 18-19 Mobile Internet suspended in Bijnor after communal clash

BIHAR

2016: Several times in a few weeks
Aug 7-Oct 30 Following communal tension that began in Saran district, mobile Internet was suspended on and off for 3-4 days at various times in various districts — Saran, Madhubani, Kishanganj, Motihari, Chhapra, Bhojpur, Madhepura

ARUNACHAL PRADESH

2016: Once
Aug 10-11 Mobile Internet suspended in Itanagar after death of former Chief Minister Kalikho Pul

GUJARAT

2014: Once
Sep 27-30 Mobile Internet suspended in Vadodara following riots after morphed picture of a Muslim shrine was posted on the Internet

2015: 5 times
Aug 25-Sep 2 Mobile Internet suspended across the state during Hardik Patel’s quota agitation. In Ahmedabad and Surat, the ban continued for longer

Sep 12-13 Mobile Internet blocked in Navsari over Hardik Patel’s agitation

Sep 19 Mobile Internet blocked in Surat over Hardik Patel’s agitation

Sep 28 Mobile Internet blocked in Godhra after provocative messages against Islam spread on WhatsApp on Ganesh Chaturthi

Oct 17-18 Mobile Internet blocked in Rajkot over Hardik Patel’s agitation

2016: Thrice
Feb 28 Mobile Internet was blocked for a few hours across the state to prevent cheating in Revenue Accountants Recruitment Exam

Apr 17 Mobile Internet blocked in Ahmedabad, Mehsana, Surat and Rajkot over Hardik Patel’s agitation

Oct 16 Mobile Internet blocked for a few hours across the state to prevent cheating in clerks’ competitive exam

RAJASTHAN

2015: Twice

Oct 24 Mobile Internet blocked in Bhilwara after communal tension over killing of Muslim youth

Dec 19 onward in parts of the state. After a few cases of caste and communal tension, police got power to ban Internet on case-to-case basis

2016: Thrice

Feb 22-23 Mobile Internet blocked after Jat quota agitation in Bharatpur

Jun 30-Jul 1 Mobile Internet suspended in Barmer and Jaisalmer after bandh call over killing of man in police firing

Sep 16 Mobile Internet blocked in Bhilwara after VHP activist stabbed

NAGALAND

2015: Once
Mar 7-8 After video of mob dragging rape accused out of jail and lynching him went viral, Internet was suspended across the state

MANIPUR

2015: Once
Sep 1-8 Internet blocked across the state after violence in Churchandpur to prevent ‘provocative posts’ from spreading

MEGHALAYA

2015: Once
Oct 11 Internet services suspended across Garo Hills on eve of Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) elections

JHARKHAND

2016: Once
Apr 14 Mobile Internet suspended in Bokaro after communal clash on Ram Navami

MAHARASHTRA

2016: Once
Oct 10-16 Mobile Internet blocked in Nashik after rape of 5-year-old girl

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