High speed 4G internet services were restored across Jammu and Kashmir on Friday in view of the “overall security scenario”, nearly one-and-a-half years after they were snapped in view of concerns arising out of nullification of Article 370.
Services, which were completely shut in the Union Territory on August 5, 2019, were subsequently restored at 2G speed. 4G services resumed in two districts—Ganderbal and Udhampur—last August on a trial basis, while the other 18 districts continued to work with 2G with the now-fortnightly orders extending the 4G ban citing security concerns.
Coming a day after the US state department’s statement —issued against the backdrop of farmers’ protests—emphasising the importance of “unhindered access…to the internet”, a linkage was quickly drawn in some quarters with the restoration order. However, government sources dismissed the suggestion. They drew attention to the J&K home department’s order, which cited the “advice of the special committee (constituted on advice of the Supreme Court)” and “a careful review of the overall security scenario” to “revoke the restrictions on mobile data services and fixed line internet connectivity... except to the extent that pre-paid SIM card holders shall be provided access to internet connectivity only after verification as per norms applicable for post-paid connections.”
The order was issued after the special committee took note of inputs and apprehensions of security agencies as also the assessment of opening of high speed mobile internet connectivity in Ganderbal and Udhampur. LG Manoj Sinha, who since taking over in the UT in August last year had ensured consistent review of the ban by the special committee, put his stamp of approval to restore 4G services.
The SC in Anuradha Bhasin case had recognised access to internet as a fundamental right and said citizens could not be deprived of it indefinitely. Later, an SC bench had asked the government to set up a committee to review the need for continuing the ban on a fortnightly basis.
A senior official of the security establishment said that the lifting of 4G ban across the entire UT had completed the restoration of normalcy post-abrogation of Article 370. “The situation has been peaceful for some time with no popular protests or shutdowns, all political detainees have been released, terrorism levels are down and the J&K economy is on its way to revival. The last remnant of curbs imposed since August 5, 2019, was the 4G ban. With the lifting of this, the journey of J&K to full normalcy shall be complete,” the officer said.
Officials said the return of 4G internet would bring cheer to the people of J&K who had been complaining of 2G speeds adversely impacting their access to online education, necessitated by the pandemic. Businesses too have borne the brunt of slow internet, particularly IT companies, start-ups and call centres. With the return of high-speed internet, they can resume normal operations.