Srinagar: The frequent internet blockades in the Kashmir valley are causing huge losses to a wide cross-section of people including traders, businessmen, entrepreneurs and students.
Speaking on behalf of the Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), its president, Muhammad Yasin Khan, said that valley traders have so far suffered a huge loss of Rs 20 to 25 crore a day.
“The business community is being crushed on account of law and order. We (businessmen) are suffering huge losses due to the internet blockades. Almost everything happens through the internet; on an average we lose 20 to 25 crores a day when the authorities block it in the valley as we cannot make payments, we cannot make orders. Every business person has to make payments in a particular time, but unfortunately the authorities snap the internet at any time.”
Internet shutdowns have hit trade, travel and tourism, handicrafts and other sectors, compounding the problems of the economy which is already suffering due to domestic and external pressures.
Among those facing problems due to the frequent internet blockades in the valley are students who have opted to pursue online courses. “There are many online courses available like Master’s, BG, or certificate courses,” said one such student, Saba Jan. “I am doing a certificate course in finance management from one of the online sites. These courses wholly depend on the internet and are limited in time. Due to the internet problem in the valley, I miss many classes and then I am not able to cope up as I have to study topic of my present class as well as my missed class. And I have to learn missed lessons frequently as it will disappear from the site.”
Apart from students pursuing distance education, there are also huge numbers applying for jobs or scholarships online. The ban is also affecting businesses, especiall those run over social media or any online application.
“Whenever there’s an internet ban, my sales go down by 50 percent as our customers can’t order food via our online app,” says Younis Ahmad who runs an online food delivery service. “Our application has tied up with many restaurants and fast food joints in Srinagar as a home delivery solution. We receive almost 30 to 35 orders a day, but during internet ban, we sometimes receive hardly three to five, that too via phone calls. Because of these frequent bans, I have not been able to expand and employ more delivery boys. My business is wholly and solely dependant on the internet,” he says.
Another online enterprise, Kashur Wardan, is run through Instgram. Its owner, Mehak, says her entire business revolves around uninterrupted internet connectivity. “From product display to product query to payment and delivery details, all of that happens online through social media sites like Instagram,” she says. “Smooth internet connection is very essential for my online business work.
“Per day, I receive almost 150 orders; during the internet shutdown, I did not receive even one. It affected my business a lot. I was thinking to install broadband, but in Kashmir you don’t know what might happen next, the authority can snap the internet anytime,” she added.
With the state government routinely snapping the valley’s internet facility to maintain law and order, the central government came up with rules in September 2017 to legislate the authority required and the procedures to be followed to “temporarily suspend telecom services” in case of “public emergency or public safety”. Issued by the Ministry of Communications under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, these rules were codified as the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017. These rules confer the status of competent authority to order internet shutdown on the Union Home Secretary when the order is issued by the Government of India.