• Jammu: 50 days of mobile internet shutdown brings life to edge

    Newsclick Report

    September 24, 2019

    Photo: Rising Kashmir

    Even though mobile networks and landlines are working in Jammu, the continued internet shutdown has brought the lives of the residents to a standstill. Students aspiring to get admitted to colleges, businessmen, hoteliers, employees and traders are finding it difficult to complete their day-to-day task due to the lack of internet availability. Residents can be seen queuing outside BSNL office and Jio showrooms to get a broadband or fibre connection, but the sudden increase in the workload has led to delays in the restoration/ or installation process making residents furious.

    When this reporter met with some people who were queuing outside the BSNL office, they lamented that they have been waiting for weeks to get their landline fixed to avail broadband connection. A 75-year-old man said, “We do business, half of our payments are made by card which is dependent on internet. We can’t take big payments by cash. Our business has dwindled. I have made almost 100 rounds to the BSNL office since the last 15 days because the landline is registered on my name. To get a broadband connection, I have to restore my landline first after which the connection will be given. Leave internet connection, even the landline connection has not been fixed yet.”

    The desperation of the resident is clearly visible at telephone exchanges where angry customers get into arguments with BSNL employees. Another customer, Ashok Kumar complained that he was assured 10 days ago that his landline will be restored but there has been no headway. Kumar’s son is preparing for MBA examination and is grappling to fill the forms. “There is just one month to MBA examination and my son is finding it difficult to submit the forms because of internet shutdown. I could move my son to Delhi but it will distract him from his studies. Different forms have different dates, its hectic. I have been pleading at the BSNL offices but all they do is keep giving assurances, one after another.”

    The employees at BSNL offices told NewsClick that there is a lot of congestion because of which there are delays in restoration. Besides, the sudden increase in workload and constant pressure is hampering the process. The story is same for the Jio office. A customer, on condition of anonymity said, “I got my name, address and number registered eight days ago. I was told I will receive a confirmation call within 24 hours. It has been eight days now. I have visited their office thrice since then, and all they say is that they are under tremendous pressure and they are working on it.”

    The total communication shutdown in Kashmir has also led to the rise of apprehensions among the residents of Jammu. Many residents said that they were worried that communication may be snapped even in Jammu, hence they are restoring their landlines as a precaution. “Situation ka kya pata chalta hai, kal kuch ho jaye isliye phele se hii landline theek karva rahey hai. 2012 mein landline bandh karva diye humne. Mobile phone ke zamane mein landline kaun istemal karta hai. (Who can trust the situation? You never, tomorrow what can happen, so as a precaution I am getting my landline fixed. In 2012, I had uninstalled my landline. In the times of mobile and internet, who uses landlines?),” said another customer, waiting for his turn in front of the BSNL office.

    Meanwhile, it has been 50 days since communication channels have been blocked in Kashmir. Although, landlines have been restored across the valley but the inability of BSNL to restore all landlines has created problems for the residents. As per reports, residents have been making rounds at telephone exchanges to get their landlines fixed but without much success. The failure of BSNL to restore internet and landlines in Jammu as well Kashmir has made customers furious who can be seen perpetually arguing with the employees.

    Indian paramilitary troopers patrol during a curfew in Srinagar.
    Photo: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP

    Weak Internet Connection – Digital India dream of Narendra Modi government
    The inability of BSNL to tackle the customer grievances is largely attributed to the increase in the customer base. If one goes by the figure given by TRAI, there are 13.84 million phone subscribers in Jammu and Kashmir, far surpassing the number of people living in the entire region. For residents, their lives are dependent on mobile phones and internet in terms of payment, submitting bills, filling forms – the very dream that the Modi government had of Digital India. However, this dream has now shattered the lives of these people.

    The internet shutdown has caught BSNL on the wrong foot since August 5. Many residents of Jammu who have broadband internet connection have complained that the connection is very weak which in turn, hampers their work. Owner of a consultancy in Gandhi Nagar said, “I have to keeping switching the modem on and off at least 10 times a day, as the speed is so slow. And even after that, the Google page is not properly loaded.”

    Traders are bearing losses because of internet shutdown. NewsClick had earlier reported that the internet shutdown in Jammu and communication blockade in Kashmir has affected the intra-trade between Jammu and Kashmir.


    First published in Newsclick.

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