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Tight curbs on Internet in J&K offices

No connection: Newspaper offices and other media houses still function without Internet in Kashmir.

No connection: Newspaper offices and other media houses still function without Internet in Kashmir.   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

There will be no access to social networking platforms, or permission to generate proxies

Top J&K bureaucrats have been directed to sign unprecedented undertakings to ensure that the leased line-based Internet is restored at the earliest for their office work, as the security agencies said that there will be “online mobilisation and anti-government protests” against the the Centre’s move to strip the State of its special status on August 5.

Going by a signed official undertaking by a senior bureaucrat, accessed by The Hindu, the security agencies have sought “complete access to all its contents and infrastructure whenever required.”

The undertakings, signed by the Head of the Departments of the government departments, are further vetted by the security apparatus. Once approved, there is a clear direction that there will be no access to social networking platforms, or permission to generate proxies, VPNs and Wi-Fi connections.

“No encrypted file containing videos or photos should be uploaded. Internet will be restricted to registered devices through single PC. All USB ports will be disabled,” the undertaking reads. It makes it clear that annexation will follow “for any kind of breach and misuse.”

Watch | Tight curbs on Internet in J&K offices

Tourist spots

Authorities have decided to provide government offices with Internet that has remained blocked for 108 days. Sources said there were departments that completely rely on Internet and access has been restored to allow them to function normally.

“Limited Internet access has been provided to the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Health Department, Hospitals, Forest Department, Planning Department and office of the Deputy Commissioners at district levels etc.,” a senior government official told The Hindu on the condition of anonymity.

Four Internet points have also been established at tourist places like Gulmarg and Pahalgam, he added.

However, the government has so far denied the service to local newspapers and media houses, including the Kashmir Press Club. A government-run media felicitation centre continues to remain single window for hundreds of scribes to file their daily reports.

No timeline

The majority of hospitals and varsities, including Kashmir University and the Islamic University of Science and Technology, continue to function without Internet services. However, a few FM ratio stations have been allowed to have controlled access.

A police official said the government may restore Internet in phases and with certain restrictions “to disallow any online protest or mobilisation by militants and local leaders against the Centre’s move.”

Sources said there is no timeline for restoring the service to 65 lakh mobile users. Restoration of around 26,000 fixed line Internet connections may take time too.

“We are completely dependent on the Internet to complete formalities for competitive examinations. Lack of access will affect our career,” said Ejad Ahmed, a student who participated in a street protest in Jammu against the Internet ban on Sunday.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 11:23:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/jk-bureaucrats-told-to-sign-undertaking-for-internet/article30009557.ece

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