The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Tuesday announced the restoration of short messaging service (SMS) on all post-paid connections and the starting of Internet facility in all government-run hospitals in the Kashmir Valley from midnight of December 31, coinciding with the New Year festivities.
The announcement was made by J&K principal secretary and official spokesman Rohit Kansal in Jammu. “The SMS service and Internet in hospitals will be up by midnight on December 31,” said Mr. Kansal.
On restoration of Internet, he said it was a continuous effort of the government to restore things.
Also read | 145 days of internet shutdown in Kashmir, no word on service restoration
The absence of Internet had affected patient care in hospitals and halted the ‘Save Heart Kashmir’ service, where the cases of heart attacks were attended to through a network of 200 doctors on WhatsApp groups.
It’s after 149 days that the government is allowing SMS on post-paid connection service, which was restored on October 14. The mobile, Internet and landline services were stopped on August 5. However, calling as well as SMS continue to remain barred for around 30 lakh pre-paid connections.
Mr. Kansal avoided a direct reply to the release of top political prisoners, saying, “Such decisions will be taken at the local level after the local assessment.” Senior leaders, including the National Conference (NC) president Dr. Farooq Abdullah, NC vice president Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti remain detained since August 5.
Mr. Kansal also announced the abolishment of the Lakhanpur toll plaza, “as part of one tax and one country goal”. J&K is likely to lose ₹1500 crore by the move.
The Kashmir Press Club termed the non-restoration of Internet to scribes and newspaper offices as “deliberate muzzling of the press”. Its spokesman said, “It has now become untenable for journalists and media organisations to operate out of the makeshift media facilitation centre, which is inadequate to accommodate reporters, editors, photojournalists and video journalists of over 200 publications and scores of bureaus.”
The KPC is planning a series of events in protest against the continuing Internet gag.
‘No’ to Congress leaders’ visit
Meanwhile, senior Congress leaders, including its J&K chief Gulam Ahmed Mir, former Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and Raman Bhalla, were disallowed to visit Kashmir.
“It was a two-day tour and we were planning to visit Anantnag and Srinagar to meet our workers there. There was no rally scheduled as such. We have no idea why the administration barred us from undertaking the tour,” said Mr. Mir.