Other States

J&K students hamstrung by communication blockade

People waiting to access the Internet at the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Shopian, south Kashmir.

People waiting to access the Internet at the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Shopian, south Kashmir.   | Photo Credit: Vijaita Singh

Mobile, Internet services have remained snapped since Aug. 5

At an ‘Internet kiosk’ in South Kashmir, 24-year-old Mohammad Ubair has been trying to download admit card for the past 30 minutes. Mr. Ubair, a postgraduate in zoology had applied for an online test conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) for a government job. He travelled 10 km from his village to the deputy commissioner’s office in Shopian to download the admit card.

“It is frustrating, as the server is slow. It takes almost an hour to fill one form. I missed the CBI exam as there was no Internet for more than a month anywhere in the vicinity and I could not apply on time,” said Mr. Ubair clutching a plastic folder containing the requisite documents.

He said he was shortlisted for the post of security assistant in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) but couldn’t appear for the tests as he didn’t have access to the Internet.

‘Malicious’ posts

The Kashmir Valley has been put under unprecedented communication blockade since August 5 when Home Minister Amit Shah moved two Bills to revoke J&K’s special status under Article 370 and bifurcate and the downgrade the State into two Union Territories.

Mobile phone connectivity and Internet services have remained snapped for more than 50 days now amid fears that Pakistan might fuel unrest in the region through “malicious” posts on social media and other messaging platforms.

To help students, the administration has set up Internet kiosks in the offices of deputy commissioner in all the ten districts of Kashmir division. Mobile Internet has been snapped in Jammu region also, but broadband Internet services are available. An official claimed that at least 45 Internet-enabled computers were active in Srinagar and around 200 in the rest of the Valley.

Most Internet kiosks have access to only government approved websites. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) in Jammu approves the list of websites that can be accessed on the computers installed at the DC office.

Safety precautions

At a kiosk in Shopian, search engine Google could be accessed only on three computers run by government officials and that was not available to the general public. “The Jammu office monitors all the websites and tracks the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that are being accessed from computers here. Firewalls are in place and adequate precautions are taken so that Internet is not used for any nefarious purposes,” an official explained.

Principal Secretary Planning (J&K) Rohit Kansal said resources have been dedicated for use by the public. “A large number of students are using these [kiosks] for educational activities like downloading admit cards, accessing scholarship portals and filling forms, among other things,” he told The Hindu.

Shabbir Mushtaq (24), a B.Tech from National Institute of Technology (NIT), Srinagar, has visited the DC office twice in the past two days. “The first day I came to check if Internet was working, I applied online for an exam. Since there is no mobile connectivity here, I could not get the One-Time Password on my phone. I had to call a friend in Delhi and share his number in the form to pay the fee. It takes almost an hour to load a website, speed is extremely slow,” said Mr. Mushtaq, who had come from Herman village, 14 km away.

A senior J&K government official said in the wake of physical limitations, the available resources have to be distributed among a large number of people.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 10:55:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/jk-students-hamstrung-by-communication-blockade/article29533511.ece

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