Kashmir fumes as crawling 2G internet hits businesses, academics; stricter norms in place to verify pre-paid customers

  • The low-speed internet has both affected the businesses and the academic activities in Kashmir.

  • The broadband internet services were allowed in government offices earlier but the 2G mobile internet was restored across Kashmir after the Supreme Court on 10 January asked the government to review the internet shutdown.

  • In institutions like the Kashmir University, the faculty have been asked to give an undertaking that they will not use the social networking sites or the virtual private networks.

Srinagar: Authorities in Kashmir have announced fresh regulations asking telecom companies to verify their pre-paid customer base and have restricted access to only government-approved websites fueling concerns in the Valley that the businesses and academic activities would continue to remain hit after these measures.

A fresh set of regulations which have been issued here by the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir’s home department has asked the telecom service providers to verify the “credentials” of pre-paid subscribers as per the “norms applicable for the post-paid connections.”

 Kashmir fumes as crawling 2G internet hits businesses, academics; stricter norms in place to verify pre-paid customers

Representational image. ANI

A top official of the home department said that telecom service providers have been asked to “ensure that the security agencies should be able to locate the subscribers” and the “know your customer (KYC) details are properly ascertained” in the case of existing and new users.

An official of a private telecom company said that while the documents that are required to be submitted for getting the pre-paid SIM cards were same as that for the post-paid in the latter case additionally “address verification was done to check credentials.”

He said that the government’s insistence “on physical verification could spiral up the pre-paid mobile costs which are mostly used by the poor people.”

In the same order in which the home department has asked for verifying the pre-paid customers, it has also directed that general public will have limited access to only 301 government-approved whitelisted websites which have been cleared by it. Among the several news websites, access to which has been blocked on mobile internet include
the Firstpost.

The list was released by the home department after it was submitted by the police to it, a senior home department official said. He added that this would be reviewed.

The government order listing the whitelisted sites issued by principal secretary, home department, Shaleen Kabra, has also restricted the use of internet on fixed-line connections at government offices to only limited websites.

In institutions like the Kashmir University, the faculty have been asked to give an undertaking that they won’t use the social networking sites or the virtual private networks.

The low-speed internet has both affected the businesses and the academic activities in Kashmir.

Director, Research Development, Central University of Kashmir, Abdul Gani said that the turnaround time of the research has been drastically affected due to the internet shutdown. He said that the 2G internet has not made much difference as the “basic services like accessing the similarity index” to check for the “plagiarism” of the “dissertations” couldn’t be still accessed.

“We are already lagging behind in research activities. The submission of some 12-15 research dissertations has been delayed by two to three months due to internet shutdown,” Gani said.

At Kashmir University, officials said that they have been asked by the security agencies to maintain the list of those employees who are accessing the internet facility at the campus and to ensure that “it was restricted to the basic academic activities only.”

An official said that his internet service was suspended but he was not informed about the reasons.

Senior officials of the KU said that the police have asked them to “maintain a log of the activities of the staff and the scholars” and any “social networking sites” shouldn’t be allowed.

In the 24 January order on the internet curbs, Kabra said, “The internet service providers shall be responsible for ensuring that the access is allowed to whitelisted sites only. All those who are provided access to the internet shall be responsible to prevent any misuse for which they shall take all necessary precautions including change of accessibility credentials and maintain records.”

Businesses in Kashmir like the hotel bookings and e-commerce which was hit after the authorities here imposed the longest ever communications blackout by snapping the internet and phone service after the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August last year continue to remain hit due to the low-speed internet services.

The broadband internet services were allowed in government offices earlier but the 2G mobile internet was restored across Kashmir after the Supreme Court on 10 January asked the government to review the internet shutdown.

Businessmen here said that ban on WhatsApp and low-speed internet has affected their operations. “It is a joke. It was better that the authorities should not have resumed the internet,” said Manzoor Ahmad Bhat, who runs a kitchenware retail dealership in Kashmir.

He said that he can’t contact the dealers in Delhi on Whataapp or “email to receive orders” and can’t receive any “photos of the samples” at the low-speed internet.

“Due to internet shutdown, I couldn’t file the goods and service tax (GST) returns and had to pay fine. I can’t still do this at this internet speed,” Bhat said.

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Updated Date: Jan 28, 2020 10:24:44 IST