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Thursday, February 25, 2021

18 months after split, downgrade, 4G mobile Internet back in J&K

The decision comes as the government faces increasing criticism at home and internationally for imposing curbs on the Internet, widely seen as a core human right.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary , Arun Sharma , Naveed Iqbal | Jammu, New Delhi |
Updated: February 6, 2021 1:30:28 pm
jammu and kashmir, jammu and kashmir 4g internet restored, kashmir internet 4g, kashmir internet speed, j&k internet restored, kashmir 4g internet restored, 4g internet jammu kashmir, kashmir news, indian express news The 4G internet services were shut down in the UT after the Centre abrogated the erstwhile state's special status under Article 370 on August 5, 2019. (Express photo/File)

One-and-A-half years after curtailing Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir, the government on Friday ordered the restoration of 4G mobile Internet in all of the Union Territory.

“4G mobile internet services being restored in entire J&K,” J&K administration spokesperson Rohit Kansal posted on Twitter on Friday evening. Sources in the government said 4G mobile Internet might return by midnight.

The decision comes as the government faces increasing criticism at home and internationally for imposing curbs on the Internet, widely seen as a core human right.

The official order issued by Principal Secretary to the J&K government Shaleen Kabra said the restrictions were being revoked “except to the extent that the pre-paid SIM card holders shall be provided access to the Internet connectivity only after verification as per the norms applicable for post-paid connections”.

The order asked the authorised officers to “ensure compliance…by the service providers forthwith”. The officers “shall also closely monitor the impact of lifting of restrictions”, it said.

Mobile Internet services were suspended in Jammu and Kashmir on August 4, 2019, the day before the Centre announced the decision to strip the erstwhile state of its special status and bifurcate it into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Internet services had been suspended on ground of anticipated law and order situations as a result of the decisions, and intelligence inputs about possible attacks by terrorists infiltrating from across the border.

4G Internet services on mobile were restored in two of the 20 districts – Udhampur in Jammu and Ganderbal in Kashmir – on August 16 last year on a “trial basis”. Elsewhere in the UT, people had only 2G Internet services on mobile.

Sources said a high-level committee headed by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla recently took the decision to restore services based on reports by security agencies that restoration of 4G mobile Internet services were not likely to cause any major security problem in the Union Territory.

“A meeting was held this morning by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, where the go-ahead was given for restoration of 4G services based on the recommendation of the local administration and security agencies,” a government official said.

 

Welcoming the development, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted: “4G Mubarak! For the first time since Aug 2019 all of J&K will have 4G mobile data. Better late than never.”

Sources said the decision to restore services has taken into account the experience in Ganderbal and Udhampur.

“No major incident of terror or law and order has taken place in the five months since the restoration of the Internet in these districts. The whole idea of the trial run was this,” another government official said.

L-G Sinha had last month promised “good news” about the restoration of high-speed Internet in the UT. “I know 4G is working in just two districts of J&K. A committee is examining the issue. There will be good news soon in the coming days,” Sinha had told reporters in Jammu.

Sources said that while the LG had been pushing for the restoration of high-speed Internet services since his appointment, “the Centre wanted to wait until after completion of the DDC elections and, subsequently, the peaceful passage of Republic Day”.

However, the sources said, “with Pakistan observing Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5, it was decided to wait till after this date”. Kashmir Solidarity Day is observed by Pakistan every year to express support to the people of Kashmir.

On Tuesday, the government told Parliament that terrorist attacks in the Valley had more than halved in 2020 compared to 2019. The number of terrorists killed by security forces in Kashmir went up by 41% in this period.

Responding to a question on the security situation in Kashmir, Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy told Lok Sabha there were 244 terror incidents in Jammu and Kashmir in 2020, with 37 civilian and 62 security-personnel casualties. In 2019, there were 592 terror incidents, and 37 civilian and 80 security-personnel casualties. In 2018, these figures were 614, 39, and 91 respectively.

“Even though there have been reports of locals joining militancy, both terror incidents and casualty of security personnel is consistently dwindling. It is a good time to restore the Internet and give the people a sense of normalcy,” the official said.

A security establishment officer from Jammu and Kashmir said the local administration had been pushing for restoration of mobile Internet services for months, but things had not moved because of reservations in Delhi.

“The security agencies have been saying since last year that the situation is under control and mobile Internet can be restored across the Union Territory, but the Ministry of Home Affairs did not give the go-ahead. It is good that it has relented now. Restoration of services will make life easier for the people, and will also be a good confidence-building step,” the officer said.

(With ENS, Srinagar)

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