A year later, two J&K districts get 4G internet
More than a year after internet services were suspended in J&K, 4G speed returned to two districts — Ganderbal and Udhampur — on a trial basis from Sunday, days after the Centre submitted in Supreme Court that it was toying with such an idea. Shaleen Kabra, Principal Secretary of Home Ministry, said that rest of J&K will continue availing 2G services.
When Article 370 was abrogated by the BJP-led Centre last year in August, internet services across the volatile erstwhile northernmost state were suspended, to curtail a violent fallout of the historic move. Months of blackout later, internet services were eventually restored in January, 2020, but the speed remained restricted to 2G. Further, users could only access websites that were "white-listed."
In the last one year, dozens of pleas were filed in SC, seeking directions for Centre to restore 4G services. During one such hearing in January, the top court remarked that services can't remain suspended indefinitely. Months later, on May 11, the current regime was ordered by SC to form a special committee to look into the matter. But the stakeholders weren't satisfied.
In July, NGO Foundation for Media Professionals approached SC, seeking contempt proceedings against Centre and J&K administration for not following the court's directives. Appearing for the Centre, Attorney General KK Venugopal argued that all allegations of contempt were invalid since a committee had already been constituted. He also informed the apex court that the threat of violence still remains.
Seeking restoration of 4G services, the NGO said a slow internet speed disrupted the UT's fight against COVID-19 and also affected online classes, etc. In deep contrast, Centre said a high-speed internet could encourage terrorism, stone-pelters and other anti-national activities. The Centre also said it was fine with lifting the curbs on a trial basis, that too only in non-border areas.
Now, the order making 4G internet available in Ganderbal and Udhampur (the former in Kashmir and latter in Jammu) came into effect from 9 pm on Sunday and will continue till September 8, 2020. "While postpaid SIM cardholders shall be provided access, these services shall not be made available on prepaid SIM cards unless verified under post-paid norms," Kabra's statement read.
Meanwhile, an official told IE last month that there had been a proposal to restore all 4G services in October last month, but it did not work out. While terrorist activities dwindled in winter every year, there was a threat of terrorist groups being empowered with the 4G network, and the issue of stone pelters planning their activities on WhatsApp, said the official.