In era of digitalization, J&K Govt drags people to medieval period

*Officers give conflicting statements; BJP Ministers unaware of order

 

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Sept 25: In an era of digitalization, the PDP-BJP Coalition Government has dragged the people of whole of Jammu and Kashmir to the medieval period by imposing blanket ban on all sorts of internet services despite being aware of the fact that these services play vital role in day-to-day activities. Though such a ban was imposed in Kashmir valley on a number of times during turbulent situation, it was for the first time that the same was extended to Jammu region also.

Though this ‘unwarranted’ act on the part of the Government created numerous difficulties for the people, pilgrims, tourists and students, majority of the top officers preferred to give conflicting statements on the blanket ban on internet services instead of giving true picture to the people of the State.

Moreover, majority of the BJP Ministers, who are part and parcel of the Coalition Government and presently camping in Jammu, were unaware of the ban although they are party to the decision, which badly affected the functioning of private organizations in every nook and corner of the State.

The snapping of all sorts of internet services came as a shock to the people in the length and breadth of the State when they woke up this morning as there was no official announcement in this regard from the State Government. Angered over snapping of services, people started making phone calls to the cellular service providers including Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited but much to their surprise none of the service providers gave any satisfactory reply.

The situation was worst in respect of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited as its top officers kept their cell phones switched off instead of attending to the calls from the people. Dr Labh Singh, Chief General Manager of BSNL J&K Circle, who was supposed to provide satisfactory reply to the subscribers from his subordinate officers, himself kept his cell phone off and the non-cooperative attitude of the BSNL J&K Circle was brought to the notice of Union Telecommunication Minister.

According to the sources, the J&K Government late last night approached the MHA with the request for snapping internet services so that social media is not put to misuse by anti-national elements to create communal disturbances on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha especially in the aftermath of beef ban controversy.

Due to snapping of internet services, functioning of all the private organizations including media houses came to the grinding halt. Tourists and pilgrims, who were on visit to J&K were the worst sufferers as they could not get information about their air and train tickets due to non-availability of internet services. Even the online shopping and bookings on the festival of Eid suffered immensely. The services of premier news agencies of the country too suffered badly and when their representatives approached the senior officers of the State Government and the offices of the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and Director General of Police for some special line or facility so as to circulate news, no satisfactory reply was given.

The snapping of internet services was notwithstanding the fact that Director General of Police, K Rajendra told EXCELSIOR that situation was peaceful in all parts of the State till late in the afternoon. Though DGP stated that situation would be reviewed in the evening and thereafter decision would be taken about resumption of internet services, no official statement from the Government came about its stand.

Even Secretary in the Union Telecommunication Ministry, Rakesh Garg was not initially conveyed any latest stand of the J&K Government when he discussed the matter with top officials of State,  following hue and cry by the media houses and other organizations. However, in the evening, the Chief Secretary contacted the Secretary in Union Telecommunication Ministry and conveyed that J&K Government has not taken any decision to lift the ban, sources told EXCELSIOR.

EXCELSIOR office received thousands of calls from the people, who expressed serious concern over unwarranted act on the part of the Government and said, “there was no justification in imposing ban on internet services in whole of the State”, adding “by imposing ban the Government has expressed inability to handle the anti-national or anti-social elements”.

When BJP Ministers presently camping in Jammu in view of vacations in Civil Secretariat at Srinagar, were contacted to ascertain the continuity of the ban on internet services, they fanned complete ignorance about such order thereby indicating that they were not consulted by the coalition partner-PDP before taking such a harsh decision.

When approached, the Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Dr Pawan Kotwal said, “J&K is not the only State where such a ban has been imposed. There are certain other States also”, adding “the services have been snapped from Bangalore and not from J&K”.

Questioning justification behind such a blanket ban, sources said, “by this unwarranted act the Government has dragged the people of Jammu and Kashmir to medieval period in the present era of digitalization”, adding “though such a ban was imposed in Kashmir valley a number of times during the turbulent situation, it was for the first time that the same was extended to Jammu region also”.

Our Srinagar Correspondent adds:

With the authorities blocking internet services, people faced difficulties in reaching out to their near ones for greetings and wishes on the occasion of Eid-ul Adha.

“I am facing a lot of difficulties in greeting my friends outside the state and the country. I would use internet to call people outside the country to greet them on Eid and use services like WhatsApp and Skype to connect with them but today I could not do that,” a youth, Aaishan Ahmed said here.

He said the problem was accentuated in the wake of the tragedy in Mina yesterday in which over 700 people were killed in a stampede.

“Our relatives and friends are there and we are worried after the stampede yesterday. We also needed to get in touch with them on the occasion of Eid and we would normally talk to them using different applications on the internet. The ban has made it difficult,” he said.

The termination of the internet services has caused difficulties specially for journalists and other professionals and their work has been affected.

“I needed to send photographs of Eid celebration and the clashes that took place in Kashmir. How do I send them in the absence of any internet services here,” a photojournalist, working with a national newspaper, said.

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