Open letter for restoration of 4G internet in Jammu and Kashmir in wake of COVID-19
SFLC.in wrote an open letter to the Principle Secretary of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Home Minister Amit Shah on March 31 requesting them to restore 4G internet speed in Jammu and Kashmir.
Kashmir has been facing an internet blackout since August 4, 2019 and it is only recently that citizens have gained access to the internet at 2G speed. The current order issued by the Centre following the top court's ruling states that the speed of the internet will be restricted to 2G till April 3, 2020 after which the order will be pending a review.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented pandemic which has resulted in public health chaos. As of March 31, 2020, the number of cases of COVID-19 in Jammu and Kashmir has reached 55. To fight this global pandemic, timely information is needed which isn't possible without reasonably high speed internet access. Restricted internet has led to citizens of the UT, not being able to download informative videos as well as resource material for dissemination of necessary and accurate information, when a lot of rumours and misinformation are doing the rounds. Timely information both to the general public, medical professionals and media is needed to fight the pandemic.
In order to contain the spread of infection and monitor patients, telemedicine is important along with access to high speed internet for doctors to be able to access material online and to do video consultations with other healthcare practitioners as well as patients.
There is a severe lack of information among the citizens in Jammu and Kashmir owning to the fact that information cannot be accessed without proper internet. Multimedia content including that issued by the Health Ministry and WHO cannot be accessed as well. There are a number of students, working professionals and other citizens who have been asked to work from home due to the lock down in view of the corona virus, and this is possible only if unrestricted internet access to internet is allowed.
Sub- clause (d) of Clause 4 o the Annexure to order no. 40-3/2020 dated 24-03-2020 issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs states that telecommunications, internet services, broadcasting and cable services, IT and IT enabled services are exceptions to lock-down for essential services. Functional high speed internet is a pre-requisite to contain the pandemic as well as to mitigate the damage both in terms of health of the citizens and economy.
In our letter, we have requested the government to consider the prevailing extraordinary circumstances and restore 4G internet in Jammu and Kashmir on an urgent basis.
SFLC.IN is a donor-supported legal services organisation that brings together lawyers, policy analysts, technologists, and students to protect freedom in the digital world. SFLC.in promotes innovation and open access to knowledge by helping developers make great Free and Open Source Software, protect privacy and civil liberties for citizens in the digital world by educating and providing free legal advice and help policy makers make informed and just decisions with the use and adoption of technology.
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Voluntary Legal Director, SFLC.IN